Coronavirus update: Brazilian variant drives new cases, 20 percent of Americans are vaccinated

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A Johnson & Johnson vaccine shortage is developing

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 31,006,952 (30,931,178)

Total U.S. deaths: 560,152 (559,219)

Total global cases: 134,125,854 (133,311,664)

Total global deaths: 2,905,412 (2,891,206)

Blame it on Rio: Brazilian variant drives new U.S. cases

The rise in new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19), largely clustered in a handful of states, is likely being caused by the spread of the Brazilian variant of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Known as the P1 variant, the mutation that first appeared in Brazil has now been identified as the second-most common case in the U.S., with the official infection count at 434. The majority of these cases have been reported in Florida, Massachusetts, and Illinois.

While vaccinations may keep the variant under control in the U.S., it is running rampant in  Brazil. That country reported 4,195 deaths in a single day earlier this week, and health experts have called it a “biological Fukushima,” in reference to the Japanese nuclear plant that was devastated by a 2011 tsunami.

One in five Americans now vaccinated

After some initial hiccups, the U.S. COVID-19 distribution effort is rolling on, well ahead of schedule. The CDC reports that one in five Americans is now fully vaccinated and presumably protected against the virus that has claimed more than 550,000 American lives.

States are administering a seven-day average of 3 million vaccine doses per day. Perhaps because of the increased rate of vaccinations, new infections have fallen dramatically.

The rate of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. is close to 70,000, which is well below January’s peak of about 250,000 new cases per day.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine shortage looms

You may have difficulty finding an appointment for a Johnson & Johnson vaccination next week. Health officials say deliveries of the vaccine to various states are expected to fall by as much as 80%.

The CDC has cut allocations of the one-shot vaccine to just 700,000 doses, which have to be spread across the entire country. That compares to nearly 5 million doses that were sent out this week.

No reason has been given for the sudden shortage, although the distribution of all three COVID-19 vaccines has fluctuated week to week. It may or may not be linked to the production problems at a Johnson & Johnson subcontractor in Baltimore earlier this month, resulting in the loss of 15 million doses.

Small businesses still getting hammered

While many people believe the pandemic is coming to a close and Wall Street is at an all-time high, Main Street is still suffering. In fact, small businesses continue to close at a rate that’s similar to the peak of the pandemic last year.

“It continues to be a very painful time for small businesses,” John Stanford, co-executive director of the Small Business Roundtable, told CNBC

To compile the report, the Roundtable and Facebook surveyed more than 35,000 small- and medium-sized businesses worldwide and found that 22% of U.S. small businesses were closed in February. In May 2020, the pandemic had forced 23% of small businesses to close their doors.

DC’s July 4th celebration canceled

The sudden improvement in the pandemic picture, thanks to the large number of vaccinations that have already been administered, caught many planners off guard. Even though it now appears most Americans will have had the chance to be vaccinated well before July 4, the national Independence Day Parade in Washington has been canceled.

The National Parks Service, which organizes the annual event, says it takes months of planning to put everything in place. Because of the pandemic, bands and other organizations haven’t been able to prepare.

“The National Park Service and our partner, Diversified Events — who put on the National Independence Day Parade with us every year — have come to the reluctant but necessary conclusion that we’ll have to cancel this year’s parade,” National Park Service spokesperson Mike Litterst told WTOP Radio in Washington.

Around the state

  • Ohio: In a sign that things are starting to return to normal -- at least to some extent -- Ohio State will allow 19,180 fans to sit socially distanced in the stands to watch the annual spring football game on April 17. However, tailgating will not be allowed in parking lots or anywhere on Ohio State’s campus.

  • Wisconsin: While cases of the virus are declining in many states, Wisconsin has just reported 1,046 new cases of COVID-19, the largest total since Feb. 11. The daily average of new cases has nearly doubled in the last month. 

  • Nevada: Nye County, located in a rural area of the state, is expected to lift mask mandates and business capacity limits that were enacted as pandemic prevention measures more than a year ago. County commissioners are scheduled to vote on April 20 to let businesses return to 100% capacity and make face coverings optional.

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