Coronavirus update: CDC sees new variants driving cases, vaccinated Americans ready for ‘normal’

Photo (c) Eugene Mymrin - Getty Images

The Biden administration is reportedly ready to help reopen schools

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 29,928,341 (29,872,398)

Total U.S. deaths: 543,933 (543,057)

Total global cases: 124,378,693 (123,839,047)

Total global deaths: 2,736,980 (2,726,061)\

CDC head sees variants driving most new U.S. cases

The increase in cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) reported in a growing number of states is likely the result of more contagious variants of the virus, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Rochelle Walensky says steps need to be taken now to head off another surge in cases, and she suggests that some states that have recently loosened restrictions may need to rethink that policy. She said the variants appear to be causing most of the new illnesses.

In addition to the variants found in the U.K. and South Africa, the CDC says two variants that appear to be unique to the U.S. have shown up recently -- one in California and one in New York City.

Vaccinated Americans ready to get out and spend

A growing number of consumers say they are comfortable with the idea of going to restaurants and traveling after being fully vaccinated, but a Harris Poll conducted for USA Today shows that more than a quarter expect to wait until the country reaches “herd immunity.”

The poll cites 33 percent of respondents who said they would feel comfortable eating indoors at a restaurant after their second shot. Twenty-eight percent said they would feel safe taking an airline flight a few weeks after being fully vaccinated.

“The vaccine is certainly a game-changer for getting back to doing the things we love,” said John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll.

Money earmarked for school reopenings

In addition to getting Americans vaccinated, the Biden administration has prioritized getting public schools back open. To that end, the president will reportedly announce $81 billion in additional money for schools.

According to CNN, Biden will use an appearance at a Department of Education event today to announce the release of funding from the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package. Public schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico will be eligible for the funds.

Taco Bell prepares for the post-pandemic world

The fast-food industry adapted very quickly to the realities of the pandemic, stepping up curbside service and at-home delivery to compensate for closed dining rooms. Evidence suggests some of those changes may be long-lasting.

For example, Taco Bell is launching a new set of designs for future restaurants with new builds and remodels that the company believes will “take modernization to new levels from coast to coast.” While the brand will continue building destination restaurants, it will simultaneously prioritize digital elements to maximize efficiency for on-the-go customers.

"Prioritizing our development plans continues to be a major focus for 2021, especially as we look towards building our next 1,000 restaurants," said Mike Grams, Taco Bell's president and global COO. "Our restaurant portfolio continues to rapidly evolve, striking a crucial balance between being technology-forward and social-oriented.”

Poll suggests people are eager to return to stadiums

Stadiums have been largely quiet and empty over the last 12 months. But if a new survey is any indication, that will radically change as more Americans get vaccinated.

In a survey by Oracle Food and Beverage, 32 percent of people said they plan to return to stadiums for sporting events and concerts immediately. Fifty-four percent say they’ll return within the first four months after stadiums reopen.

But this enthusiasm comes with caveats. Fifty-six percent of respondents said social distancing measures should remain in place, with stadiums operating at a reduced capacity. Many also want operators to rethink concessions, such as offering in-seat delivery to reduce crowded lines. Responses suggest that some are willing to pay more for that option.  

Around the nation

  • Tennessee: Restaurants around the state are beginning to reopen, but they’re reporting a problem: It’s hard to find employees. A consistent theme highlighted by hiring managers is that fewer people want restaurant jobs. When people do apply, they often don’t show up for an interview.

  • Florida: After spring break crowds mobbed Miami Beach last week, state health officials are keeping a close eye on COVID-19 numbers. They reported 5,302 new cases on Tuesday and 301 new hospitalizations.

  • Texas: Texas nursing home residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are now allowed visits from their loved ones as long as the facility permits it. The new rule from state health officials ends a year of isolation for all nursing home residents. The rule change is taking place effective immediately.

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