US to begin talks on wider vaccine distribution with WTO; New Jersey governor to ease restrictions: Live COVID-19 updates

Even though 55% of Puerto Rico’s residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. territory is grappling with a spike in cases and hospitalizations while trying to prop up an economy battered in recent years by the coronavirus pandemic, hurricanes, earthquakes, and a prolonged financial crisis.

While health authorities say many are eager to get vaccinated — more than 2 million doses have been administered on the island of 3.3 million American citizens — they note that some people who are not yet fully protected are disregarding restrictions that include a curfew lasting more than a year.

That and the spread of new variants may be partly to blame for the current surge in infections, which inched up in the last week of April to 28 new daily cases per 100,000 people, compared with 17 per 100,000 on the U.S. mainland.

“The solution is vaccination,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, who has resisted tighter restrictions after Puerto Rico imposed a lockdown and mask mandates ahead of any U.S. state. The island has reported about 2,000 COVID deaths.

Also in the news:

►Los Angeles County public health authorities reported no new COVID-19 deaths Sunday. Infections remain at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic.

►New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy will make an announcement Monday easing COVID restrictions as case numbers continue to fall in the state.

►Colorado’s governor has extended a statewide mask mandate for another 30 days but loosened face-covering requirements for groups who are vaccinated against COVID-19.

►Illinois is approaching 10 million vaccinations, public health officials said Sunday. The state, with more than 12 million residents, has reported more than 1.3 million coronavirus cases and 22,019 deaths.


📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 577,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 152.4 million cases and nearly 3.19 million deaths. More than 312.5 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 245.5 million have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 104.7 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.

📘 What we’re reading: California is reopening again as the state’s coronavirus cases plummet. But critics say the “extreme measures” to fight the virus were too much.

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.

US to talk to WTO on wider vaccine distribution

The White House says the U.S. trade representative will begin talks with the World Trade Organization on ways to overcome intellectual property issues that are keeping critically needed COVID-19 vaccines from being more widely distributed.

The White House has been under intense pressure to join an effort to help waive patent rules for the vaccines so that poorer countries can begin to make their own generic versions.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will be starting talks “on how we can get this vaccine more widely distributed, more widely licensed, more widely shared.”

Klain and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the administration would have more to say on the matter in the coming days.

About 92% of Americans who got the COVID-19 vaccine returned for their second shot

About 1 in 12 Americans haven’t gotten their second scheduled dose of COVID-19 vaccine on time, and while that worries epidemiologists, the follow-through is far better than other adult two-dose vaccines.

According to recent data from the CDC, about 92% of people who got the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine made it back for their second shot.

Experts noted such completion numbers for the two-dose regime of the most widely used vaccines against the coronavirus are a cause for celebration.

“With the biggest mass vaccination program in history, 92% of people coming back for their second shot is a huge victory,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

The second shot matters because it provides stronger immunity against COVID-19. The first dose, called the priming dose, introduces the body to the spike protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The second boosts that immune response so the body is ready to fight off the virus if exposed. Read more here.

– Elizabeth Weise

India sets global records, but reality is probably even worse

India smashed another daily global record of new infections Saturday with more than 400,000 new cases, but at least one expert says the true tally could be much higher than that. Dr. Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto estimates, based on modeling from a previous surge in India, that the true infection numbers could be 10 times higher than the official reports.

“Entire houses are infected,” Jha said. “If one person gets tested in the house and reports they’re positive and everyone else in the house starts having symptoms, it’s obvious they have COVID, so why get tested?”

India reported 392,488 new infections Sunday, down slightly from the previous 24 hours.

The U.S. has begun shipping valuable vaccine components, oxygen, and masks to India, and other countries are lending help as well, but the demand will still outstrip supply. President Joe Biden’s administration also plans to restrict travel between the U.S. and India beginning Tuesday.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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