34% of Americans hesitant to get vaccinated would get Johnson & Johnson; AstraZeneca releases updated information: Live COVID-19 updates

America’s long stretch of dwindling coronavirus cases has stalled, and rapid increases in some states could count for more than ongoing declines in others. U.S. health officials expressed concern Wednesday about the plateau and refused to say the nation has turned the corner on the coronavirus pandemic.

“I continue to be worried about the latest data and the apparent stall we’re seeing in the trajectory of the pandemic,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

The U.S. is reporting a seven-day average of about 55,000 new cases per day, up 3% from the previous week. The country is also reporting about 4,600 new hospitalizations and nearly 1,000 deaths per day, Walensky said. And the U.S. surpassed 30 million coronavirus cases Wednesday afternoon, once again reaching a dubious milestone much faster than any other country.

“When you’re at that level, I don’t think you can declare victory,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during the briefing. “We are at the corner. Whether or not we’re going to be turning that corner remains to be seen.”

On one hand, about 2.5 million Americans are being vaccinated each day, according to Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response. And data on frontline healthcare workers in Texas, California and Israel suggest COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing coronavirus infections in real-world settings, according to three new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday.

But spring breakers are shirking COVID restrictions and states are lifting masking restrictions. Utah’s mask mandate will end April 10 after Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill that lays out a new timeline for lifting some of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Also in the news:

►AstraZeneca released updated information on its COVID-19 clinical trial Wednesday evening, showing an effectiveness rate of 76% instead of the 79% rate it claimed earlier in the week.

►Moncef Slaoui, former scientific head of Operation Warp Speed, the government’s COVID-19 vaccine development effort, has been fired by GlaxoSmithKline after an internal investigation found he sexually harassed a fellow employee several years ago.

►Kansas says it will be receiving only a fraction of the 100,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine for COVID-19 that it had expected next week, due to production issues.

►A hospital on Maui had to throw out nearly 1,400 vaccine doses after a refrigerator thawing the vials did not properly seal.

►Louisiana will end its limits Monday on which adults can receive the coronavirus vaccine, giving access to anyone 16 and older who wants to schedule an appointment. Idaho Gov. Brad Little also announced Wednesday that COVID-19 vaccine eligibility will be open to all state residents 16 and up starting April 5.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 30 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 545,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 124.6 million cases and 2.74 million deaths. More than 169.2 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 130 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: A growing share of Americans would feel safe resuming activities like dining out or flying within a few weeks of their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but 25% to 30% would wait until the nation reaches herd immunity, according to a Harris Poll survey for USA TODAY. Read the full story.

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

34% of people hesitant to get vaccinated willing to get Johnson & Johnson shot

34.1% of adults in the U.S. report having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and those who aren’t vaccinated and would get the shot say they are relatively brand agnostic, according to a new survey by Survey Monkey on vaccine hesitancy.

66% of people willing to get the shot would be up for the Moderna vaccine, while 70% are willing to get the Pfizer vaccine and 67% are willing to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But just 51% of people still unvaccinated say they would get it if offered to them.

However, 34% of “people who are hesitant to get vaccinated are willing to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine than the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines,” the company said in their weekly newsletter.

Reports: Andrew Cuomo’s family got priority to COVID tests early in pandemic

In the early months of the pandemic, when COVID-19 tests were scarce, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to make the testing available to those most in need.

Turns out that included his family members and other well-connected people close to his administration, according to reports Wednesday night.

Both The Washington Post and the Times Union in Albany reported that Cuomo’s office arranged coronavirus testing for his family, including his CNN anchor brother, Chris Cuomo, and other influential people with close Cuomo ties.

The testing was conducted at times at people’s homes and in part by Dr. Eleanor Adams, an epidemiologist who was a special advisor to the state Health Department, the reports said, citing unnamed sources.

The Times Union, which first reported the details, said Adams’ trips including going to the Long Island home of Chris Cuomo, who announced in late March 2020 that he was positive for COVID and detailed his battle with the virus nightly on his show — on which the governor often appeared last year.

Cuomo’s office did not deny the reports, but said the state was trying to test as many people as possible to develop a contact tracing program, citing the door-to-door efforts to test residents in New Rochelle, the Westchester County community that was the first COVID hot spot in the nation.

— Joseph Spector, New York State Team

Facebook and Twitter must crackdown on COVID-19 vaccine hoaxes and lies, 12 state attorneys general say

A dozen state attorneys general on Wednesday called on Facebook and Twitter to take more aggressive action against conspiracy theories, hoaxes and lies that are undermining public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines.

“The people and groups spreading falsehoods and misleading Americans about the safety of coronavirus vaccines are threatening the health of our communities, slowing progress in getting our residents protected from the virus, and undermining economic recovery in our states,” the letter from Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and 11 other Democratic state attorneys general said. “We call on you to take immediate steps to fully enforce your companies’ guidelines against vaccine misinformation.”

The letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey also cited research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch showing that a small number of anti-vaccine accounts are responsible for falsehoods about the safety of the vaccines that have reached more than 59 million on Facebook, Instagram, Google’s YouTube and Twitter.

— Jessica Guynn

Data from three new studies show real-world vaccine effectiveness

Data on frontline healthcare workers in Texas, California and Israel suggest COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing coronavirus infections in real-world settings, according to three new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday.

“For those who were fully vaccinated, the infection rate was extremely low,” Fauci said during a briefing Wednesday, calling the studies “a real proof positive of the importance of vaccination.”

  • At the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, only four of more than 8,000 fully vaccinated employees tested positive for COVID-19 as of late January, according to health system officials. “The effect of vaccination on the preservation of our workforce has been dramatic,” hospital officials wrote. “Real-world experience with SARS-CoV-2 vaccination at UTSW has shown a marked reduction in the incidence of infections among employees.”
  • Among healthcare workers at the University of California-San Diego and the University of California-Los Angeles, the risk of testing positive for COVID-19 after vaccination was about 1%, according to health system officials. “The rarity of positive test results 14 days after administration of the second dose of vaccine is encouraging and suggests that the efficacy of these vaccines is maintained outside the trial setting.”
  • At Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem, officials found vaccinations among healthcare workers “resulted in a major reduction of new cases of COVID-19 among those who received two doses of the vaccine, even when a surge of the B.1.1.7 variant was noted in up to 80% of cases.” The officials said the findings “suggest that widespread and effective vaccination among health care workers provides a safe environment, even in the presence of a high rate of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the community.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

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