US reports 30% of adults fully vaccinated; Florida education official tells schools masks optional: Latest COVID-19 updates

The U.S. has reported 30% of adults fully vaccinated, and nearly 50% of the U.S. adult population having received at least one vaccine dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But we’re still a far way from herd immunity. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has said the number could be as high as 85%.

Meanwhile, people will probably need a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech within 12 months of being fully vaccinated, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Thursday. Annual shots may also be needed, Bourla said.

COVID-19 variants will “play a key role” in determining what future vaccinations will be needed, The Hill quotes Bourla. The nation’s primary focus at the moment should be vaccinating the population now to prevent the virus’ spread, he said.

In addition, Fauci said this week that people may need to get booster shots for the COVID vaccines in a year, during an interview with MSNBC’s Medhi Hasan. Recent data suggests that Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines provide protection for at least six months, Fauci said.

Also in the news:

►Almost 6,000 “breakthrough cases” of Americans becoming infected with the coronavirus despite vaccination have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — far less than 1% of the 76 million Americans who are fully vaccinated.

►Travelers visiting Maui, the second-most-popular vacation destination in Hawaii after Oahu, will soon have to take a second COVID-19 test to bypass the state’s mandatory quarantine.

►New U.S. government data shows that the country saw somewhere around 600,000 more deaths than usual during a 13-month span. COVID-19 was blamed for most of those deaths.

►New Hampshire’s governor says the state will lift its mask mandate Friday, though individual communities and businesses will be allowed to continue to impose restrictions.

►Michigan’s largest hospital system is turning to tents to handle emergency care as it deals with a crush of COVID-19 patients in suburban Detroit. Beaumont Health said it had more than 800 COVID patients Thursday, up from 500 two weeks ago and 128 at the end of February.

►The pause in using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a bump in the road to full vaccination for health care workers relying on the one-dose shot to vaccinate Florida’s more than 100,000 farmworkers before they begin migrating north. The Healthcare Network, which reached more than 430 farmworkers Saturday in Immokalee, Florida, with the one-shot, will now rely on the two-dose Moderna vaccine.

►France has become the third country in Europe after the U.K. and Italy to reach the unwanted milestone of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths as new infections and deaths surged due to virus variants.

►A top official from the World Health Organization says Europe has surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID-19.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 31.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 564,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 138 million cases and more than 2.97 million deaths. More than 250.99 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 194.7 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: The child care industry collapsed during COVID-19, so President Joe Biden is giving it $39B. 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.

Some health experts worry Johnson & Johnson pause could cause ‘grave damage’ to public perception of COVID-19 vaccines

The U.S. government’s recommended pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to a rare side effect will remain at least another week, after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel decided Wednesday it needed time to evaluate more data.

With more than 3.7 million J&J shots administered in the two and a half weeks before the April 13 halt, additional information on the rare blood clotting condition is expected. But some health experts fear prolonging the pause may do more harm than good.

“When you have a long pause that’s not rapidly resolved, it stirs worry and fear on the part of people who are already vaccine hesitant,” said Dr. Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City.

Health experts not only worry people will become more hesitant about getting the J&J vaccine but fear people may avoid COVID-19 vaccines altogether. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. are a different technology from J&J’s and one by AstraZeneca, which also has been associated with similar blood clots in Europe.

– Adrianna Rodriguez

Florida education commissioner tells schools to make masks optional for 2021-22 school year

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued a letter Wednesday telling school districts to amend their mask policies for the 2021-22 school year to make masks optional.

The Department of Education reviewed data from across the state and did not find a correlation between sweeping mask mandates and the presence of COVID-19 in schools, Corcoran said.

“The data shows us that districts’ face covering policies do not impact the spread of the virus,” Corcoran wrote, calling for more “surgical — not sweeping” policies.

Families should have the option of determining whether their child wears a face covering, Corcoran said. He added students with disabilities and those learning English are particularly impeded by the “one size fits all” mask policies and some families may have opted to pull their child out of school due to the mandate.

His letter closes with the request for “districts which currently are implementing a mandated face covering policy (to) revise their policy to be voluntary for the 2021-22 school year.”

– Ryan McKinnon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Contributing: The Associated Press

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