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U.S. COVID vaccine program speeds up to about 3 million doses a day in the past week

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The U.S. COVID-19 vaccine program continues to kick into high gear, setting a record Saturday of more than four million doses administered, although experts continue to urge Americans to stick with safety measures and wear face masks in public and socially distance.

The vaccine program averaged 3 million doses a day in the last week, according to Cyrus Shahpar, COVID-19 data director on the White House Response Team.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker is showing that as of 6 a.m. ET Sunday, 207.9 million doses had been delivered to states, 165 million doses had been administered and 106.2 million Americans had received at least one dose, equal to 32% of the population.

By now, 61.4 million Americans are fully vaccinated, meaning they have received two shots of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc.
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and German partner BioNTech SE
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and Moderna Inc.
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or one of Johnson & Johnson’s
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one-shot vaccine. That’s equal to 18.5% of the population.

In the 65 years-and-older group, 29.9 million people are fully vaccinated, more than half — 54.8% — of that population. In some states, that number is even higher.

Johnson & Johnson said it would take over manufacturing of its vaccine at a Baltimore plant run by Emergent BioSolutions Inc.
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where a batch of 15 million doses had to be scrapped last week after a production problem involving workers confusing components of the J&J vaccine with ones intended for the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC
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and Oxford University, according to media reports.

The Emergent plant hadn’t yet been cleared by regulators when J&J discovered the quality problem during a routine inspection, and none of the batch had been shipped for use to make vaccines.

Emergent said Monday it will move manufacturing of the AstraZeneca vaccine elsewhere. J&J will take over the making of its vaccine and will install a new leadership team and technical, quality and other personnel.

The U.S. is unlikely to face a “true” fourth wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, but the country should wait a few weeks longer before easing mitigation efforts, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday, as MarketWatch’s Mike Murphy reported.

Speaking to CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Gottlieb acknowledged that young people were driving new coronavirus outbreaks in many states, but that vaccination efforts should prevent another devastating surge of the virus.

The U.S. added at least 36,670 new cases on Sunday, according to a New York Times tracker, and at least 277 people died. Those numbers may be underreported given reduced staffing at hospitals at weekends. The U.S. has averaged 64,019 cases a day in the past week, up 18% from the average two weeks earlier.

COVID-19 cases are rising in 27 states and the District of Columbia, with more outbreaks seen as schools reopen. 

Don’t miss: How 6 feet became 3: Meet an ER doctor behind the research showing kids are still safe in school with new social-distancing standard

“The infection is changing its contours in terms of who’s being stricken by it right now,” Gottlieb said, according to a CBS News transcript.

“I think we need to stick to strict mitigation in the schools,” Gottlieb told CBS News, adding that maintaining mask requirements and social-distancing measures are crucial, to avoid intermingling in large groups. “If you’re taking those measures in schools, I think the schools can be made more safe, and I think the benefits of being in school outweigh the risks.”

See now: Americans have tired of wearing masks and social distancing before; here’s what happened next

In other news:

• The U.S. government s will open three new federal COVID-19 vaccine sites in Columbia, S.C.; Pueblo, Colo.; and St. Paul, Minn., MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported. There are least 25 other mass vaccination sites in the U.S. that can provide a total of about 95,000 shots per day, according to comments made Monday by Andy Slavitt, a White House senior advisor for the nation’s COVID-19 response, during a White House press briefing. “Each one is located in the high-risk community, as defined by the CDC social vulnerability index, or other factors,” he said.

See also: NYC to get rid of ‘two-case rule’ for COVID-19 infections in schools

• The U.S. government s will open three new federal COVID-19 vaccine sites in Columbia, S.C.; Pueblo, Colo.; and St. Paul, Minn., MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported. There are least 25 other mass vaccination sites in the U.S. that can provide a total of about 95,000 shots per day, according to comments made Monday by Andy Slavitt, a White House senior advisor for the nation’s COVID-19 response, during a White House press briefing. “Each one is located in the high-risk community, as defined by the CDC social vulnerability index, or other factors,” he said.

• Britain is planning to test a series of measures including “coronavirus status certifications” over the coming weeks to see if they can allow people to safely return to mass gatherings at sports arenas, nightclubs and concerts, the Associated Press reported. People attending a range of events this month and in May, including a club night and key FA Cup soccer matches, will need to be tested both before and after. The trials will also gather evidence on how ventilation and different approaches to social distancing could enable large events to go ahead. Officials are also developing plans to test out COVID-19 passports that are expected to show if a person has received a vaccine, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has some immunity due to having had coronavirus in the previous six months. The U.K. is also planning to reopen for travel using a “traffic light” system.

• Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings
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has sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlining its plan to resume U.S. cruise operations in July. The company said its plan includes the requirement that its guests and crew be fully vaccinated, as well as strict health and safety protocols. “Norwegian trusts and is optimistic the CDC will agree that mandatory vaccination requirements eliminate the need for the [Conditional Sailing Order] and therefore requests for the lifting of the order for Norwegian’s vessels, allowing them to cruise from U.S. ports starting July 4,” Norwegian said in a statement. 

See also: Vaccines are here. That’s no reason to call off the hunt for effective COVID-19 treatments.

• Delta Air Lines canceled about 100 flights Sunday due to staff shortages, and it opened up middle seats a month earlier than expected in order to carry more passengers,” the AP reported. The airline says it had over 1 million passengers during the past few days, the highest number since before the coronavirus pandemic began last year. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience, and the majority have been rebooked for the same travel day,” the airline said Sunday in a statement.

Covid-19, a virus that many experts believe came to us from bats, has been transmitted on from humans to pets and other animals. Here’s why some scientists are worried that so-called spillbacks could potentially perpetuate a cycle of infection. Photo: Markus Scholz/Zuma Press

• There are growing calls in Germany for the introduction of nationwide coronavirus restrictions amid confusion and frustration over the differing arrangements across the country as the infection rate continues to rise, the Guardian reported. Most Germans favor a more unified approach to the crisis, which is now in its third wave, according to a poll by YouGov. Chancellor, Angela Merkel has called for tighter, more unified rules across the country, but has frequently been overruled by the leaders of the states.

• India has become the second country after the U.S. to record more than 100,000 new COVID cases in a day, NPR reported. A surge is happening across South Asia. Pakistan’s prime minister and president are among those to test positive in recent weeks. A one-week lockdown began in Bangladesh on Monday. But in most of India, shops, factories, and even cinemas remain open as the government seeks to avoid the economic pain felt in 2020 when GDP fell nearly 24%.

Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness rose above 131.5 million on Monday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, while the death toll rose above 2.85 million.

At least 74.5 million people have recovered from COVID, the data show.

The U.S. continues to lead the world by cases, at 30.7 million, or about a quarter of the global tally, and fatalities, at 555,035.

Brazil is second globally in cases at 12.9 million and also second with a death toll at 331,433.

India is third worldwide in cases with 12.6 million and fourth in deaths at 165,101.

Mexico is third by deaths at 204,147 and 13th highest by cases at 2.3 million.

The U.K. has 4.4 million cases and 127,104 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world.

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 101,877 confirmed cases and 4,841 deaths, according to its official numbers.

What’s the economy saying?

The large service side of the U.S. economy surged in March as governments lifted businesses restrictions and rising vaccinations gave Americans more confidence to go out and shop, travel or take a vacation, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.

A survey of business leaders at service-oriented firms such as banks, retailers and restaurants jumped to 63.7% last month from 55.3% in February, the Institute for Supply Management said Monday.

See also: Yellen pushing a global minimum corporate tax

That’s the highest level on record since the ISM began the survey in 1997. It doesn’t mean service-oriented companies are doing better than ever, just that the improvement between February and March was especially strong.

Readings above 50% signal that businesses are expanding, and numbers above 55% are a sign of broad strength.

A similar ISM survey of manufacturers also showed great strength in March as it posted a 38-year high.

Read: Surging U.S. manufacturers grow faster as key ISM index hits 38-year high

Orders for U.S. manufactured goods fell 0.8% in February, the Commerce Department said Monday, as MarketWatch’s Greg Robb reported.

It was the first decline since the depth of the coronavirus recession last April. Orders were up 2.7% in January.

Economists were expecting a 0.6% decline in February factory orders.

Durable-goods orders fell a revised 1.2% in February, slightly weaker than the initial estimate of a 1.1% decline. Orders for nondurable goods were down 0.4% in the month.

Orders for nondefense capital goods, excluding aircraft, fell a revised 0.9% in February, down slightly from the prior estimate of a 0.8% decline.

Economists blamed the weakness in February on cold weather. The lack of key supplies may also have placed a role. The factory sector is expected to rebound quickly.

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