U.S. Exceeds 500,000 Deaths; NYC Movie Theaters: Virus Update
A nurse wearing personal protective equipment speaks to a patient at a coronavirus testing site at the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego, California, U.S. (Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg)

U.S. Exceeds 500,000 Deaths; NYC Movie Theaters: Virus Update

A half-million Americans are now dead as a result of the novel coronavirus that first hit U.S. shores just a little more than a year ago, a sad milestone that’s left families mourning nationwide.

The U.S. said drugmakers won’t have to perform giant efficacy trials for new vaccines or booster shots developed to combat new variants. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Covid spread among dozens of students and teachers in a Georgia school district.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared the end of the pandemic is “in sight” for England, as he set out his aim to ease lockdown rules in a series of stages over the next four months.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 111.6 million; deaths pass 2.4 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 206 million shots given worldwide
  • U.S. Spotlight: Testing average drops 35% from January peak
  • How the vaccines will change our lives: Podcast
  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces transmission by 89%, study shows
  • Can a vaccinated person still spread the Coronavirus?: QuickTake

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on cases and deaths.

Moderna Gets Positive Feedback on Dose Shift (3:50 p.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. has received positive feedback from U.S. regulators on a proposal to expand the number of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in each vial, the company said, a move that could help expand supplies.

In prepared testimony for a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, Moderna said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could allow it to put as many as 15 doses of its Covid-19 shot into each vial. Currently, its vials hold 10 doses.

NYC Movie Theaters to Reopen at 25% (3:10 p.m. NY)

Movie theaters in New York City will be allowed to open starting on March 15, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Theaters can open at 25% capacity, with no more than 50 people per screening, he said during a virus briefing. Masks must be worn, and assigned seating will be required, Cuomo said. The theaters must be properly ventilated as outlined in state health regulations, he said.

Cinemas have been allowed to operate at limited capacity in other parts of the state.

Connecticut Lowering Vaccine Age to 55 (2:50 p.m. NY)

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said the state will expand vaccine eligibility to people between the ages of 55 to 64 on March 1. Eligibility will expand by age tiers in the following weeks: ages 45 to 54 would be eligible March 22, age 35 to 44 on April 12 and 16 to 34 on May 3.

FDA Outlines Faster Path for Variant Shots (1:20 p.m. NY)

Drugmakers won’t have to perform giant efficacy trials for new vaccines or booster shots developed to combat new variants of the coronavirus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

In documents released by the agency Monday, it said a determination of effectiveness for new vaccines against variants should be based on so-called immunogenicity studies, in which researchers give vaccines to people and then conduct lab tests to measure the immune response the vaccine produces in their blood. These tests, similar to what is done for annual flu shots, are far simpler to conduct than the massive efficacy studies needed for clearance of the initial vaccines.

Cuomo Tours Vaccine Megasite in Brooklyn (12:05 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo touted the state’s largest community-based coronavirus vaccination site at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, which will serve one of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic.

The site will open on Wednesday, and appointments during the first week of operations will be reserved for those living in areas with low vaccination rates, Cuomo said. It’s part of an effort to fight vaccine hesitancy and bring the shots to communities underserved by traditional health-care institutions. The site will administer 3,000 vaccines a day, for a total of 21,000 a week, he said.

A second site will also open at York College in Queens on Wednesday, he said. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will pilot bus services making additional stops at the Brooklyn site and York College. Community members can sign up in person at the site instead of making an online appointment, according to the governor’s office. The state is also partnering with faith leaders to encourage people to sign up for appointments.

Puerto Rico Allows Some Schools to Reopen (11:30 a.m. NY)

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi signed an executive order Monday allowing schools that meet certain criteria to resume in-person classes starting March 1. In a press conference, Pierluisi said schools would have to be certified by the Health Department, guarantee social distancing and operate at no more than 50% capacity in order to reopen. The Education Secretary will announce which of the island’s schools are eligible to reopen Thursday.

CDC Study Finds Covid Spread in Schools (11 a.m. NY)

Covid-19 spread among dozens of students and teachers in a Georgia school district in December and January, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Students sat less than 3 feet (1 meter) apart in classrooms with plastic dividers where greater physical distancing wasn’t possible. Several clusters may have occurred during small group instruction where teachers were close to students. The district required students to wear masks but “specific instances involving lack of or inadequate mask use by students likely contributed to spread,” according to the report.

In some clusters, teachers likely spread the virus to each other and then to students as well, the CDC said, highlighting the need for better messaging to reduce in-person interaction among teachers.

The report comes as the Biden administration pushes to reopen schools that in some cases have been closed to limited in-person learning for almost a year. While the CDC study said vaccinating teachers isn’t a requirement for reopening schools, along with other mitigation measures it “is a critical component of preventing in-school transmission,” according to the report.

Johnson Sets Plan for June U.K. Reopening (10:40 a.m. NY)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to reopen England’s stores and outdoor hospitality from mid-April, as he set out his aim to fully restart the economy from June 21.

In a statement to Parliament, Johnson set out four steps to carefully reopen the country after its lockdown, warning there would need to be at least five weeks between each to judge the impact on infections and deaths.

U.S. Exceeds 500,000 Deaths; NYC Movie Theaters: Virus Update

Johnson is already facing pressure to move faster, after the economy endured its worst recession in more than 300 years. Government guidance asking people to work from home where possible will remain in place for another four months, and the request will be examined as part of a review of social-distancing measures.

Vaccines Show Positive Results After 1 Dose (10:35 a.m. NY)

New findings in the U.K., the first country in the western world to roll out Covid-19 vaccines, show the shots provide a high level of protection against infection and illness after a single dose.

Initial data in medical workers show one dose of the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE vaccine reduces the risk of infection by more than 70% -- or 85% after the second dose -- according to Public Health England. The findings suggest the shot helps interrupt transmission, yet it’s unclear how much, officials said.

The report, along with separate findings in Scotland, highlight the significant impact the inoculations are already having in countries with the most advanced campaigns to protect their populations. The Pfizer vaccine also appeared to stop the vast majority of recipients in Israel from becoming infected, according to a draft publication confirmed by a person familiar with the work.

NYC Lost a Week of Vaccinations From Storms (10:30 a.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city lost a full week in its vaccination effort due to snowstorms and bad weather around the country, which affected vaccine delivery. He said the city has surpassed 1.5 million doses administered and that he still hoped to achieve his goal of 5 million vaccinations by June. But right now, New York City only has 23,000 doses as it awaits more supply from the federal government.

WHO Hopeful But Cautious (9:40 a.m. NY)

The last six weeks have seen a “positive decline” in the spread of the virus worldwide, the WHO’s Emergencies Program head Mike Ryan told Ireland’s RTE Radio. Still, he cautioned against reopening after lockdowns too soon. Vaccines appear to protect against severe illness in almost all cases, including from variants, he added, even if it’s not yet clear that they halt transmission.

France’s Nice Braces for Lockdown (9:15 a.m. NY)

Authorities ordered a lockdown on the next two weekends along the coastline of the Alpes-Maritimes region of southeastern France, including the city of Nice, to stem rising infections.

“The epidemic situation in the Alpes-Maritimes region has significantly worsened,” the region’s Prefect Bernard Gonzalez said, adding that it had the worst rate of cases in France at 600 per 100,000 people.

Germany Weighs Spending Boost (7:45 a.m. NY)

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is weighing as much as 50 billion euros ($61 billion) in additional debt spending to fight the impact of the virus. The funding -- equivalent to about 1.5% of German gross domestic product -- reflects an initial estimate, and it’s still unclear if the money will be needed in the end, according to a people familiar with the discussions.

Merkel aims to develop a plan that will pave the way for a cautious reopening, even as infection rates tick up. Under pressure from a pandemic-weary German public, the Chancellor told the leadership of her Christian Democratic party on Monday that the next steps will have to be done “smartly” and with more testing, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

She identified three areas for easing: private gatherings, restaurants and leisure facilities, and schools -- which started a tentative reopening on Monday in many states. Reopening stores weren’t mentioned.

Italy Extends Travel Ban (7:30 a.m. NY)

Italy extended a ban on movement between the country’s 20 regions to March 27, Ansa newswire reported. Mario Draghi’s new government is trying to step up a vaccination campaign to counter the pandemic, while maintaining a system of restrictions based on regional spread of the virus.

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