Coronavirus update: AstraZeneca results questioned, cases rising in 27 states

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Vaccines may have already saved 40,000 lives

Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 29,872,398 (29,821,403)

Total U.S. deaths: 543,057 (542,382)

Total global cases: 123,839,047 (123,321,541)

Total global deaths: 2,726,061 (2,716,990)

U.S. agency questions AstraZeneca vaccine results

A day after drugmaker AstraZeneca released the results of a U.S. trial for its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, U.S. health officials are calling those results into question.

The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, issued a statement saying AstraZeneca may have relied on out-of-date information and “provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.” The drugmaker said the vaccine showed a 79 percent efficacy rate.

NIAID said AstraZeneca should “review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible.”

COVID-19 cases rise in 27 states

At a time when millions of Americans are being vaccinated and businesses are beginning to return to normal, health officials warn that we’re not out of the woods just yet. According to Johns Hopkins University’s compilation of data, the U.S. seven-day average of daily new coronavirus cases is up by at least 5 percent in 27 states.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is cautioning policymakers about lifting COVID-19 restrictions too soon, saying that could be a “serious threat” to recent progress against the pandemic.

“We are at a critical point in this pandemic, a fork in the road,” she said at a briefing.

Former CDC director: vaccines have saved 40,000 lives

More than a half-million Americans have died from COVID-19 in the last year, but a lot of people are still breathing because they’ve been vaccinated. That’s the assessment being given by former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

Frieden credits the vaccines, which have been administered to more than 80 million Americans so far, with already saving 40,000 lives. Because of the variants that are now circulating, Frieden believes the U.S. is likely to see another surge in virus cases but far fewer deaths.

"These are really good vaccines and the quicker we get them out the better," he told CNN.

Another theater chain is ready to reopen

In a sign that things may be getting back to normal, another theater chain has announced reopening plans. Regal Cinemas says it is ready to reopen its U.S. theaters that have been empty for the last six months.

The chain said it plans to reopen about 500 locations on April 2. The theaters will operate at a limited capacity based on local guidelines. In most cases, that will be no more than 50 percent capacity.

The move follows AMC’s decision, announced last week, to reopen 98 percent of its theaters with capacity limits and social distancing.

Study finds pandemic causes humans to be nicer to machines

We humans often take machines for granted and get angry when they don’t perform as expected. But researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) say people affected by COVID-19 are showing more goodwill to both their fellow humans and to machines.

"The new discovery here is that when people are distracted by something distressing, they treat machines socially like they would treat other people,” said Jonathan Gratch, senior author of the study. 

Gratch said the study found that as people interacted more via machines during the past year, perceptions about the value of technology increased, which led to more favorable responses to machines. 

Around the nation

  • California: Vaccine supplies continue to roll out across the country, but shortages persist in parts of California. Solano County health officials are asking for more vaccine doses, complaining that its vaccine allocation per 1,000 residents has dropped to the third-lowest in the state over the past two weeks. 

  • Nevada: State health officials are breathing a little easier. As of Monday, the state’s rate of positive coronavirus tests dropped below 5 percent for the first time since the pandemic started. Its 4.8 percent rate is now below the goal set by the World Health Organization.

  • Vermont: The state department of health reports that 171,000 residents have received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine. That’s nearly one-third of people over the age of 16. Starting Thursday, eligibility is being raised to everyone over the age of 60.

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