How March Madness is being pulled off during a pandemic; new CDC guidelines for students: Live COVID-19 updates

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and discuss ongoing efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The president promised to unveil a new vaccination target next week during a White House briefing Thursday, as the U.S. is on pace to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines to cover the entire adult population just 10 weeks from now.

While vaccine supply continues to increase, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a White House briefing Friday the pandemic has plateaued to an average of about 50,000 cases per day and is not showing any signs of slowing down.

Florida may be on track to becoming the third state to report its two millionth COVID-19 case, after California and Texas. As of Friday, the state reported nearly 900 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the U.K., according to CDC data.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said in the Friday briefing the variant likely accounts for 20 to 30% of infections in the U.S., “and that number is growing.”

Also in the news:

► Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’s opening COVID-19 vaccines to people age 50 and older on Monday. The governor says the next step will be opening vaccines to anyone, likely before May 1.

► The Idaho Legislature voted Friday to shut down for several weeks after at least five of the 70 House members tested positive for the illness in the last week. Lawmakers in the House and Senate made the move to recess until April 6 with significant unfinished business, including setting budgets and pushing through a huge income tax cut.

► The World Health Organization’s expert committee on coronavirus vaccines said in a Friday statement its review of the AstraZeneca vaccine indicates it has “tremendous potential to prevent infections and reduce deaths” and “the available data do not suggest any overall increase in clotting conditions”

► Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee are poised to make it official that most fans from abroad will be prohibited from attending the postponed Olympics because of the coronavirus. The announcement is expected to come after this weekend.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 541,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 122.2 million cases and 2.7 million deaths. More than 154 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 118.3 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

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.

New CDC guidelines say students can social distance at 3 feet apart, instead of 6 feet

Students no longer need to maintain a distance of 6 feet in school according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines announced Friday which shortened social distancing recommendations to 3 feet.

The agency said elementary school students can distance at 3 feet apart in classrooms while wearing masks regardless of whether community transmission is low, moderate, substantial or high.

Middle and high school students may also follow these recommendations if community transmission is low, moderate or substantial. However, they should remain distancing at 6 feet apart in communities where transmission is high.

“Safe in-person instruction gives our kids access to critical social and mental health services that prepare them for the future, in addition to the education they need to succeed,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “These updated recommendations provide the evidence-based roadmap to help schools reopen safely, and remain open, for in-person instruction.”

Read the full story.

How March Madness is being pulled off amid COVID pandemic

One year into the coronavirus pandemic, Indianapolis and NCAA officials are attempting to instill some normalcy into this year’s tournament, which opened Thursday.

Beginning March 1, per changes in local ordinances, bars could open at 50% and restaurants at 75% capacity, though eateries are still facing seating limitations based on social-distancing protocols. The six arenas hosting tournament games are allowed up to 25% capacity, though the final decision on attendance has been left up to the venue.

Teams have largely been sequestered inside downtown hotels, attending online class, busing to practice and remaining inside rooms and sanitized meeting areas since most arrived earlier this week.

“I think we feel comfortable and confident where we are with planning for fans,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball. “Many of these venues have hosted some levels of fans recently… We’re confident they’ve had some experience welcoming guests and have those plans in place to keep everybody healthy and safe.”

Read the full story.

– Paul Myerberg

FEMA to reimburse up to $7K for COVID funeral costs starting in April

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Friday they’ll allocate $2 billion – $7,000 per family – for COVID-related funeral costs incurred after Jan. 20, 2020, starting in April.

The reimbursements are part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, both signed into law earlier this month.

Caskets, urns, burial plots, headstones and other required costs are eligible for assistance. Costs relating to obituaries, flowers, printed materials, catering, transporting guests to funeral services and gratuities are ineligible for assistance.

– Minnah Arshad, Detroit Free Press

Contributing: Associated Press

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