India variant more contagious, WHO says; Massachusetts reports zero new coronavirus deaths: Live COVID-19 updates

As a federal advisory committee meets Wednesday to sign off on allowing one vaccine to go into adolescent arms, the White House reportedly said on a call that states won’t receive any doses for another next week.

A new supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which have faced production problems, wasn’t immediately available for ordering Tuesday, according to Politico. The vaccine output has been limited since its authorization in late February — and in April, federal health officials paused its use for 11 days after a rare blood-clotting disorder was associated with the shot.

It all comes as the vaccination rush has slowed around the nation.

President Joe Biden wants 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by the Fourth of July. That’s about what some experts say is needed to get the pandemic under control. Right now less than half of Americans have received at least one shot.

But the Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted emergency use authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12-15, and a few cities offered shots less than 24 hours later, but most are waiting for a federal advisory committee that meets Wednesday to sign off on the move.

Also in the news:

►The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported zero new deaths in the entire state Tuesday as three million residents are now fully vaccinated.

►Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says almost 50% of eligible adults in the country have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

►Just 11% of American adults who remain unvaccinated for COVID-19 say they definitely will get the shot, while 34% say they definitely won’t, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Another 27% say they probably will and 27% say they probably won’t.

►More than 70 dead bodies have been found floating down the Ganges River in eastern India as the country battles the world’s most severe coronavirus crisis. Indian health care and funeral facilities have been overwhelmed in recent weeks as hospitals run out of oxygen and crematoriums operate 24 hours a day.

►There isn’t data available yet on how the pandemic has affected the nation’s overall dropout rate, and many school officials say it’s too early to know how many students who stopped logging on for distance learning don’t plan to return. But soaring numbers of students who are failing classes or are chronically absent have experts fearing the worst.

►Vaccination rates for retirement-age Americans have been lowest in states in the South, according to a new government study.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 582.8 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 159.3 million cases and 3.31 million deaths. More than 334 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and more than 263.1 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 116.5 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 35.1% of the population.

📘 What we’re reading: Here are answers to some of your top questions on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in younger teens.

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.

WHO warns ‘variant of concern’ from India may be more contagious

Though the number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths globally slightly decreased this week, the World Health Organization is warning there may be trouble on the horizon.

In a weekly report published Tuesday, the WHO warned that a variant first discovered in India may be more contagious than most versions of the coronavirus. Though impacts from vaccines on the triple-mutant virus are unclear, there is some evidence it may able to evade some of the protections provided by vaccines.

The report also said that there were probably several other contributing factors, in addition to the new variant, that contributed to the crushing surge sweeping over India in recent weeks.

Outside of India, the United Kingdom has reported the most cases of the B.1.617.1 variant, but the virus has already been detected in at least 44 countries, including the U.S.

These 9 states will end participation in unemployment assistance programs. Their reasons vary.

At least nine states have announced that they will be ending participation in unemployment assistance programs directed at alleviating problems produced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee informed the U.S. Department of Labor Tuesday, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and South Carolina in ending state participation in federal unemployment programs.

“Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes,” Lee said in a statement. The assistance program will end in June.

Many state governors echoed the importance of small businesses in their statements. But others pointed to worker shortages and labor issues threaten to restrain the pace of economic growth.

Many Republican experts blame it on these unemployment benefits.

Taking vaccines to the people: Governors share success stories with Biden

As the federal government reaches out to the tens of millions of Americans who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine, even offering free transportation to get the shots, Biden listened to a handful of governors Tuesday about what has worked in their states.

One common theme: Convenience matters.

To that effect, Biden announced a deal with ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft to take people to and from vaccination sites for free from May 24-July 4.

Biden, who suggested the CDC would soon issue new guidance on what vaccinated people can do, is aiming for 70% of the nation’s adults to have gotten at least one dose by Independence Day.

During his call with the Republican governors of Ohio, Utah and Massachusetts, along with the Democratic governors of Maine, Minnesota and New Mexico, Biden was told meeting people where they are goes a long way toward persuading them to get vaccinated. The state leaders emphasized the importance of mobile units, pop-ups, and walk-ins to make the jabs more easily available.

“It’s going out, it’s trying to be innovative, trying to figure out how do we take it directly to people,’’ said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, adding that there’s been a lot of interest in the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “They want that one shot and to be done.”

Contributing: The Associated Press.

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