New Mexico latest state to fully open schools; this week marks one year of shutdowns: Live COVID-19 updates

New Mexico became the latest state Monday to push school reopenings as a majority of teachers around the nation will become eligible for the vaccine this week.

The state education and health departments said it will allow all schools to reopen fully by April 5. “Hybrid” learning would be “phasing out,” but families would be able to choose fully remote learning.

Meanwhile, New York City high schools will also reopen for in-person learning March 22, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced Monday. Last week, Arizona gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order requiring classrooms to reopen March 15, and California announced it will offer financial incentives for school districts to welcome students back by May 1.

The Biden administration is mobilizing the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program this week to provide enough supply to give U.S. school staff their first dose. President Joe Biden has said that he wants all teachers to be vaccinated by the end of March.

Also in the news:

►This week will mark the one-year anniversary of shutdowns taken across the nation at the beginning of the pandemic. Biden will make the first prime-time address of his term Thursday night to commemorate the milestone. One year ago, state lockdowns rapidly closed businesses across the country, spiking unemployment to a high of 14.8% last April before slowly improving.

►Three cases of the COVID-19 variant originating in South Africa have been reported at a correctional facility in Colorado, public health officials said.

►Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his wife tested positive for COVID-19 after showing mild symptoms, according to a statement tweeted by the presidential office.

►Oklahoma health officials plan to start offering coronavirus vaccines Tuesday to a wide range of essential workers, granting vaccine eligibility to a vast majority of Oklahomans.

►Nearly a third of COVID-19 “long haulers” were asymptomatic when they initially were infected and a majority of them are women, a preprinted study said.

►Satisfaction with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the U.S. has increased enough that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans approve of it, but 1 out of every 4 Americans still say they’ll never get the vaccine if they can avoid it, according to a new Monmouth University poll.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 525,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 117 million cases and 2.6 million deaths. More than 116.3 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 92 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: As the U.S. vaccinates more than 2 million people a day, the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention released its guidelines for Americans who have received the full course of a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s a breakdown of the CDC guidelines.

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.

Biden administration dangles $250 million to cities in push to promote COVID-19 vaccinations, safety

President Joe Biden’s administration is making $250 million in federal grants available to local governments that work to encourage COVID-19 safety and vaccinations in underserved communities.

Vice President Kamala Harris announced the program Monday during a virtual address to the National League of Cities, saying the grants would be available to localities that partner with community organizations on the health literacy initiative.

“Our goal is to provide underserved communities with the information they need to stay safe and to get vaccinated,” Harris said. “And remember, information and education, of course, save lives.”

Harris said the federal government expects to fund 30 projects in urban communities and 43 projects in rural communities over two years.

– Joey Garrison

CDC eases restrictions for fully vaccinated Americans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans on Monday, saying they can visit with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. They can also visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 – indoors and without wearing masks or physical distancing.

Fully vaccinated people also don’t need to quarantine or get testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic. But they still must take precautions in public such as wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing and avoidance of medium- and large-size in-person gatherings.

“COVID-19 continues to exact a tremendous toll on our nation,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing of the White House COVID-19 Response Team. “Science and the protection of public health must guide us as we begin to resume activities.”

Spring break in Florida won’t be ‘anything goes’ this year

As the CDC issued relaxed rules for the fully vaccinated on Monday and the pace of shots increased, concern mounted on another front: Young people eager to go on spring break.

Florida is getting busy. Disney theme parks in Orlando are booked solid next Monday through Thursday. Throngs of college students are strolling the strip in Fort Lauderdale, many without masks and ignoring social distancing. At least one hot spot there, however, is pumping the brakes.

The outdoor event space The Wharf, featuring live music, food and drink, announced on social media that during the spring break season guests with out-of-state ID must be 23 or older. The Wharf says it will be operating at reduced capacity and requiring masks be worn at all times while walking through common areas and when not eating or drinking.

In Miami Beach, Mayor Dan Gelber is determined to avoid a new burst of virus cases in his city. Gelber issued a stern warning for spring break revelers: “Don’t be foolish. Don’t come here if you think this is an anything-goes environment. We will arrest you and it will ruin your time here.”

Contributing: Associated Press

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