U.S. States Widen Eligibility; Europe Fights Surge: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) -- Kansas, Minnesota and South Carolina, will open vaccinations to all adults next week, the latest among about 40 states to say they would do so by President Joe Biden’s May 1 goal. New Jersey will expand vaccination access, including to people 55 and over, on April 5.
The U.S. will have received 240 million doses of vaccine by the end of this month, enough to fully inoculate 130 million people, a senior White House aide said. Face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes can qualify as medical expenses for tax deductions, the Internal Revenue Service announced.
- Global Tracker: Cases pass 125.8 million; deaths exceed 2.7 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 505 million shots given worldwide
- Germany, France struggle to get a grip on latest virus surge
- Vaccine rollout leaves behind the blind, paralyzed, autistic
- ‘Preparing for another wave’: Covid exhausts low-paid caretakers
- Where are we in hunting for the coronavirus’s origin?: QuickTake
Wyoming’s Extra Deaths Mostly Covid (4:09 p.m. NY)
Wyoming reported total deaths rose by 862 in 2020 from a year earlier, with 582 of the cases related to Covid-19. “Our data has shown steady, small increases in deaths for several years largely due to our state’s aging population,” said Guy Beaudoin, the state’s deputy registrar of vital statistics. “But before the Covid-19 pandemic hit we never would have predicted the large jump we saw in 2020.” He added: “It’s not nearly as clear what caused the other ‘excess deaths’ but possibilities include Covid-19 related deaths that were missed or the avoidance of either routine or emergency medical care during the pandemic.”
Biden Asked to Ease Taiwan Travel (3:48 p.m. NY)
A group of nine lawmakers asked the Biden administration to establish a facility to expedite travel to the U.S. from Taiwan’s main international airport, a show of support for the island amid fears it could be targeted by an increasingly aggressive China.
The group of seven Republicans and two Democrats said in a letter dated March 25 that a pre-clearance facility at Taoyuan International Airport “would improve the ease of travel between the United States and Taiwan and reinforce the importance of our relationship with Taiwan.”
U.K. May Test Frontline Workers (3:27 p.m. NY)
The U.K. will provide supermarkets with millions of rapid home tests for “frontline” store workers as it ramps up efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19, according to three people with knowledge of the situation.
The government is close to announcing a testing program through which supermarket employees would complete the assessments at home before turning up for their shifts, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is confidential. The proposal could come as soon as this weekend.
Czechs Extend Emergency (3:22 p.m. NY)
The lower house of Czech parliament prolonged the state of emergency until April 11 to allow the government keep the pandemic lockdown in place, though for a shorter period than the cabinet requested.
The minority government had asked for a 30-day extension after the current regime ends on March 28. The state of emergency is needed to impose nationwide restrictions, which include an evening curfew, closed non-essential shops and limits on internal travel.
States Open Vaccines to All Adults (2:45 p.m. NY)
Kansas, Minnesota and South Carolina became the latest states to say they will open up vaccinations to all adults before President Joe Biden’s goal of May 1. About 40 states have either announced dates or are already administering vaccinations to all adults.
Kansas will begin Monday, Minnesota on Tuesday and South Carolina on Wednesday, their governors announced on Twitter. Eligibility for all three states is 16 years and older.
Sao Paulo Extends Emergency (2:10 p.m. NY)
Brazil’s Sao Paulo state will extend coronavirus restrictions to April 11 from March 30 as the region continues to suffer from the pandemic, Deputy Governor Rodrigo Garcia said in a news conference. Essential services only will remain open.
Intensive care unit occupancy rates are at 91.6%, and people age 68 and older will be eligible for vaccinations on April 5.
WHO Concerned About Vaccine Crimes (2 p.m. NY)
The World Health Organization expressed concern over criminal groups exploiting unmet demand for vaccines amid reports about suspicious offers to supply shots. The WHO is also aware of vaccines being diverted and then reintroduced into the supply chain, without the guarantee that the cold chain has been maintained. Other reports include falsified products sold online, especially on the dark web, as well as the reuse of empty vials.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to secure the disposal or destruction of vials to avoid any being reused by criminal groups.
N.Y. Launches Digital Covid Pass (1:41 p.m. NY)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of a digital pass with proof of a resident’s vaccination or negative Covid-19 test. Cuomo said the pass could be used for entry into stadiums and arenas, wedding receptions and other large events.
So-called “vaccine passports” have been advocated by several nations and the ailing travel industry as a way to speed up reopening. They are also contentious, raising questions about fairness among rich countries with higher vaccination rates and poor ones. With many people declining vaccines, the passes have also begun to enter the U.S. political debate: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said his state would never use them.
Italy’s Population Plunges (12:57 p.m. NY)
Deaths outnumbered births in Italy last year by the most since 1918, the last year of World War I, according to Istat, the national statistics agency. The birth gap was 342,000, swollen by the impact of Covid-19 in the country that was Europe’s first epicenter of the disease.
Italy’s population shrank by 0.6% to some 59.3 million, with the north particularly decimated, Istat reported. Marriages fell by 47.5% in 2020. Almost 107,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Italy, which has Europe’s second-highest toll after the U.K.
Florida Governor Pushes for Cruises (12:45 p.m. NY)
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called on the U.S. government to let cruises sail again, calling the sector a key employer in the Sunshine State. DeSantis is adding his voice to the cruise lines’ lobbying push, which went into overdrive this week.
“We’re looking at making sure all these ships can sail in the summer, it’s really, really important,” DeSantis said Friday from Port Canaveral.
Facebook to Start Reopening Offices (12:30 p.m. NY)
Facebook Inc. will start to reopen its Silicon Valley offices beginning in May, a signal the technology industry may return -- at least in part -- to the office after more than a year of working from home during the global pandemic.
Facebook will begin by opening Bay Area offices at just 10% capacity, and expects that its largest offices, including its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, won’t reach 50% capacity until early September.
Shot Production Hitting U.S. Goals (12:10 p.m. NY)
The U.S. will have received 240 million doses of vaccine by the end of this month, enough to fully inoculate 130 million people, with Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson all on pace to hit quarterly production targets, a senior White House aide said.
The administration expects at least 11 million doses from J&J next week, putting them on track to hit their mark of 20 million doses by the end of March, Jeff Zients, Covid-19 response coordinator for President Joe Biden, said Friday in a briefing. J&J’s vaccine is the most recently authorized of the three in the U.S. and its production is still scaling up.
N.J. to Expand Vaccine Eligibility (12:04 p.m. NY)
New Jersey will expand vaccination access to people 55 and over, those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and higher-education workers on April 5, Governor Phil Murphy announced.
The state also will be among three opening a Federal Emergency Management Agency mass vaccination center. The New Jersey site, opening in Newark on March 29, will operate for at least eight weeks, with capacity of 6,000 doses per day. It will target under-served communities in the state’s largest city, whose population is 50% Black and 36% Hispanic.
Masks, Sanitizer Now Tax Write-offs (11:48 a.m. NY)
Face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes can qualify as medical expenses for tax deductions or can be paid for with money from tax-advantaged health accounts, the Internal Revenue Service announced Friday.
“The purchase of personal protective equipment, such as masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of coronavirus are deductible medical expenses,” agency said in a statement.
Virus Came From Lab: Ex-CDC Chief (11:41 a.m. NY)
A former top U.S. health official says he thinks the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, and began spreading as early as September 2019.
Robert Redfield, who led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, told CNN in a clip aired Friday that he thinks that scenario is more likely than any alternative, including that the virus erupted after transferring from animals to humans or in a live-animal market.
The most likely origin “was from a laboratory -- you know, escaped,” said Redfield, who served during former President Donald Trump’s administration. The World Health Organization is due to release a report on its origins this month, informed by a team of 17 international scientists.
Germany Raises Warning on France (11:10 a.m. NY)
Germany raised its warning on France after a rapid increase in cases there as the European Union’s two biggest countries try to deal with a resurgent pandemic that’s compounding political damage from chaotic vaccination rollouts.
France is now rated a high-incidence virus area, Germany’s health authority RKI said in an update on travel recommendations. The move means that travelers from France require a negative Covid test before entering.
Meanwhile, France extended a lockdown to three additional regions.
South Africa to Tighten Curbs (9:53 a.m. NY)
South Africa is likely to extend a curfew and tighten restrictions on public gatherings over the upcoming Easter holiday period in a bid to curb a third wave of coronavirus infections, according to two people familiar with the matter.
A panel overseeing the response to the pandemic met Thursday to discuss options to contain its spread, balancing the health risks against the economic fallout, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the plans are still private.
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