U.S. Deaths Fall; AstraZeneca Says Vaccine Is Safe: Virus Update

The weekly U.S. Covid-19 death toll fell to a four-month low and new infections declined further. Reluctance to get vaccinated, particularly among Republican men, is one of the biggest risks to virus control efforts, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said.

AstraZeneca Plc said a “careful” review of data from more than 17 million people vaccinated shows no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or blood clotting. Ireland’s health minister recommended temporarily suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as a growing number of countries halt shots over safety fears.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blamed Governor Andrew Cuomo for the city’s shortage of vaccines, saying people from “the suburbs, surrounding states” are permitted to get inoculated there. He said it was another reason the embattled governor should resign.

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U.S. Deaths Fall; AstraZeneca Says Vaccine Is Safe: Virus Update

NYC to Hold Virtual Memorial (5:03 p.m. NY)

New York City, the U.S.’s early epicenter for Covid-19, is holding a virtual memorial Sunday night a year after the city announced its first fatality.

The city set up a web portal for people to join in the ceremony, in which names and photographs of the victims will be streamed. The first death was an 82-year-old woman who suffered from emphysema. More than 30,000 have died in the city since then.

Brazil Health Minister May Resign (3:58 p.m. NY)

Brazil may be getting a new health minister just as the coronavirus outbreak reaches a new peak in the country.

President Jair Bolsonaro is being pressured to replace Eduardo Pazuello and find solutions to the explosion of the pandemic and the slow vaccination campaign, the sources said. Pazuello has asked to step down due to personal health issues, O Globo newspaper reported.

In the six months he’s been in charge, the pandemic has unrelentingly worsened in Latin America’s largest economy. His exit would come less than a week after Brazil surpassed the milestone of 2,000 Covid-19 deaths in a single day.

Gottlieb Says NYC Trends ‘Concerning’ (2:29 p.m. NY)

There’s reason to be “concerned” about the virus trends in New York City, more so than many other parts of the country, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.

The New York variant, along with the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the U.K., is pushing cases back up in one of the original Covid-19 epicenters in the U.S., Gottlieb said on CBS.

On a positive note, Europe -- where infections are rising once more in several countries -- is no longer a bellwether of Covid spread in the U.S., he said, because of the level of prior infections in the US “and the fact that we’re vaccinating aggressively.”

“We’re in a different situation than Europe because of the vaccine induced immunity that we’re getting into the population,” he said.

AstraZeneca Says Vaccine Is Safe (2:19 p.m. NY)

AstraZeneca Plc said a “careful” review of all available data of the more than 17 million people in the European Union and the U.K. it has vaccinated against so far against Covid-19 shows no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia.

The company says it is continually monitoring the safety of its vaccine.

Ireland PM Says Too Early to Guess About U.S. Travel (2:14 p.m. NY)

Ireland’s top official says it’s “too early to say” if the U.S. ban on most travel from Europe will be lifted this summer. Europe has a “significant journey still to go” on its coronavirus vaccines and on tamping down the more transmissible U.K. variant, Prime Minister Michael Martin said on CBS.

“As the vaccination program rolls out, I believe opportunities will arise, but it’s just far too early to say yet,” he said.

France Won’t Halt Astra Shots (2:10 p.m. NY)

France won’t halt AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccines’ use, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Twitch, Amazon’s social media, saying health authorities don’t have evidence of the drugs potential risks. Austria, Denmark, Italy and Norway suspended the use of the vaccines amid concerns of side effect while The World Health Organization called for immunizations with it.

Dutch Protest Virus Restrictions (12:26 p.m. NY)

About 2,000 people protested against the Netherlands’ virus restrictions as the nation heads into general elections, the Associated Press reported. Police encircled a park in The Hague where the large demonstration gathered. One protester carried a set of stocks with Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s head inside with a sign saying: “If you love the Netherlands, vote them out.”

Protesters have gathered in recent weeks in Amsterdam as patience wears thin with the restrictions, which have shuttered bars, restaurants and other businesses since October.

Czech Leader’s Support Erodes (12:22 p.m. NY)

Support for the Czech Republic’s billionaire prime minister plunged to a record low as his minority government struggles to contain one of the world’s worst coronavirus crisis before October elections.

Andrej Babis’s ANO party would get 20.5% if the ballot was held now, finishing second behind the opposition Pirate Party with 22%, according to an opinion poll conducted by Kantar CZ for the public television and released Sunday.

Eurowings Expands Mallorca Flights (11:51 a.m. NY)

German budget airlines Eurowings is planning 300 additional flights to Mallorca around the Easter holidays, according to a press release, after Germany’s Robert Koch Institute removed the island from its list of high-risk regions.

With travelers able to return home without mandatory quarantines and testing, Eurowings said it saw a “sudden onslaught of customers” and decided to make additional flights available starting March 18 at airports across the country.

NYC Mayor Blames Cuomo for Vaccine Shortfall (11:43 a.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blamed Governor Andrew Cuomo for the city’s shortage of vaccines, saying people from “the suburbs, surrounding states” are permitted to get inoculated there.

The mayor said the city and New York’s other municipalities need more local control over vaccine distribution, another reason he said Cuomo should resign. De Blasio, long an adversary of the governor, has already called for Cuomo to step down over allegations of sexual misconduct and covering up the number of people who died in nursing homes.

“He should resign right now,” the mayor said on “Face the Nation.”

Italy Region Suspends Astra Batch After a Death (11:41 a.m. NY)

A teacher in the Piedmont region of Italy died after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, causing the region to halt giving further doses as a precaution. The region resumed Astra inoculations after isolating the batch given to the teacher. Italy is among roughly a dozen countries that have curbed the use of the vaccine over concerns about possible side effects.

EU Predicts Enough Vaccine Supply (9:45 a.m. NY)

Europe’s vaccine production will meet targets as increased supplies from Pfizer offset any shortages in AstraZeneca shots, EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Europe 1 radio. Details on a proposed vaccine certificate will be presented on March 17, he said.

French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said the plan has to “homogeneous” across the bloc and members must agree on the purpose of the document. France is preparing to move about 100 ICU patients from Paris to other less-hit regions, as authorities seek to avoid emergency units from being overrun.

Fauci Says Vaccine Hesitancy a Big Risk (9:21 a.m. NY)

Reluctance among certain parts of the U.S. population to receiving a vaccine is one of the biggest risks to coronavirus control efforts, said Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser. His comments came when he was asked about polling showing many Republicans, especially men, don’t want a vaccine.

He continued to warn against becoming complacent in the U.S. even as cases and hospitalizations drop sharply and the pace of vaccinations accelerates

Duke University Locks Down (8:18 a.m. NY)

Duke University put its undergraduates on a one-week lockdown early Sunday after the worst outbreak “by far” since the start of the pandemic. It said that 180 students at the university in Durham, North Carolina, tested positive and another 200 were in quarantine.

The university said the spread was driven largely by “recruitment parties” by fraternities and sororities. All classes for the school’s more than 6,000 undergraduates will be remote. Students living on campus will not be allowed to leave their residences except for essential activities, and off-campus students will largely be barred from university grounds.

U.S. Deaths Reach Four-Month Low (8:15 a.m. NY)

New U.S. Covid-19 cases declined by almost 100,000 last week to the fewest since early October, while an average of 1,326 people died of the disease each day, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg show. The week’s death toll of 9,284 was the lowest since mid-November.

U.S. immunization has expanded amid a growing supply of vaccines and a drive by President Joe Biden’s administration to help roll them out. The U.S. vaccination rate over the last week was about 2.5 million doses per day, enough to cover 75% of the population with a two-dose shot in an estimated five months, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Poland’s Deputy PM Contracts Virus (6:15 p.m. HK)

Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said Sunday he contracted the virus. The country registered 38,308 new cases over the weekend, with the death toll rising by 453 to 47,178. The nation this week expanded restrictions to two more regions, including the capital. The curbs, starting on March 15, include limiting operations of shopping malls, hotels and cinemas.

Irish Authorities Recommend Astra Halt (5:20 p.m. HK)

Irish authorities recommended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine be halted temporarily, amid reports of “serious blood clotting events” from the Norwegian Medicines Agency, though there’s no conclusion of a link between the vaccine and the cases. The suspension has not been formally implemented yet, but the government has always followed its advisors’ recommendations up to now.

Germany Infections Remain High (5:15 p.m. HK)

Germany reported 10,568 new virus cases, down from about 12,700 a day earlier. State health ministers spoke out against delivery shortages of the AstraZeneca vaccine over the weekend amid concerns that it will further delay the country’s vaccination campaign.

EU to Roll Out J&J Shot in April (4:30 p.m. HK)

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine will start being distributed in Europe from late April, with 200 million doses reaching the EU by the end of summer, Scientific Director Paul Stoffels told Le Journal du Dimanche. The company is teaming with other laboratories to produce its vaccine, including Sanofi Pasteur in France, he said.

Some 5.1 million people have received at least one vaccine dose so far in France, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Saturday, and the government targets 10 million by mid-April. Covid-19 deaths reached 90,315 as of Saturday, up by 174 from the previous day.

Hungary ICU Patients Exceed 1,000 (3:41 p.m. HK)

The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care reached a record high 1,005 people, data released Sunday show. It’s impossible to say when Hungary will be able to ease lockdown measures and may need another pandemic plan if a new virus strain appears, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an interview on state radio station Kossuth.

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