Coronavirus update: J&J vaccine mix-up, Delta ready to unblock middle seats

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A CDC study suggests that vaccinated people can’t spread the virus

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 30,467,164 (30,399,372)

Total U.S. deaths: 552,246 (551,118)

Total global cases: 129,083,807 (128,421,931)

Total global deaths: 2,819,141 (2,807,094)

15 million J&J vaccine doses discarded after factory mix-up

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has delayed further shipments of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine after an issue at a Baltimore manufacturing plant resulted in a batch that “didn’t meet company standards.”

The FDA says 15 million doses of the vaccine had to be discarded. Workers at Emergent BioSolutions reportedly mixed up two vaccine dosages.

“Quality and safety continue to be our top priority,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement. “Therefore, as we continue to work with FDA and Emergent toward the emergency use authorization of the Emergent Bayview Facility, Johnson & Johnson is providing additional experts in manufacturing, technical operations, and quality to be on-site at Emergent to supervise, direct and support all manufacturing of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.”

Delta will unblock middle seats starting May 1

Delta Airline flights are about to get a little more crowded. The carrier has announced that it will once again be selling the middle seat aboard aircraft. The seat has been left empty since the start of the pandemic to maintain social distancing.

Delta said it will begin unblocking the middle seat on all flights beginning May 1. It is the last major airline to keep all middle seats empty. Alaska Airlines said it would block the middle seat in Premium Economy through May 31.

United Airlines never had a policy of keeping the middle seat empty, saying there was no health reason to do so. It characterized middle seat blocking as a “publicity stunt.”

CDC: Vaccinated people don’t carry or spread the virus

If you’ve been completely vaccinated against COVID-19, do you still need to wear a mask in public? According to current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you do.

But a new CDC study tells a different story. In an analysis of thousands of vaccinated first responders, it found they did not carry the virus or pass it on to others. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, put it this way: “Vaccinated people do not carry the virus, they don’t get sick,” she said on MSNBC. “That’s not just in the clinical trials, but it’s also in real-world data.”

It’s likely that the CDC will alter its guidance for vaccinated people at some point, but the health agency wants everyone to stay masked up until then.

CVS logs more than 10 million vaccinations

CVS Health said its retail pharmacies and clinics have now administered more than 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. CVS was an early participant in the government’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program and Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. 

After a ramp up period, the company said it is now giving vaccinations in nearly 2,000 stores across 44 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. As vaccine supplies increase, CVS says it will have the capacity to administer up to 25 million shots per month.

"We've experienced some of our highest customer satisfaction scores ever, which speaks to the seamless digital scheduling experience we've built and the professionalism of our health care teams putting shots in arms," said Karen S. Lynch, CEO at CVS Health.

Play Ball!

It’s opening day for Major League Baseball (MLB), and the league, along with its fans, are hoping for a different experience than last year’s shortened season. With millions of Americans already vaccinated, hopes are on the rise.

In fact, the MLB plans on a full 162-game season and a return of fans in stadium seats -- just not too many fans in some stadiums. The Texas Rangers plan for a full house for its home opener next week but plan to play before reduced crowds after that.

Under league rules, players who have been vaccinated would not have to wear masks in dugouts or bullpens and will not be required to wear tracking devices in team facilities, according to ESPN and USA Today.

Around the nation

  • Pennsylvania: State officials have announced that all state residents will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by April 19. That’s in line with President Biden’s revamped timeline, which originally targeted May 1 as the date for universal eligibility.

  • Arkansas: The state has lifted its mask mandate, and many Arkansas churches are celebrating since the change comes just days before Easter. But some church leaders are showing caution. “We still have a sense that it’s not yet time for large groups to come together in small spaces,” said Pastor Rod Loy of First NLR in Little Rock.

  • Idaho: The return from spring break will mark a change for students in the state’s largest school districts. Ending the hybrid system that has been in place for nearly a year, all five of the state’s largest school districts will be running an in-person model of education by the end of the month.

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