Up to three quarters of all newly diagnosed Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom are attributed to the variant first identified in India, Britain’s health minister Matt Hancock said at a news conference on Monday.
“The latest estimates are that more than half and potentially as many as three-quarters of all new cases are now of this variant,” Hancock said. “As we set out our road map we always expected cases to rise, we must remain vigilant.”
Hancock went on to say, the surge in cases attributed to this particular variant was focused in certain “hotspots.”
“The increase in cases remains focused in hotspots and we are doing all we can to tackle this variant wherever it flares up,” he said adding that health authorities were increasing testing and vaccination capacity in those areas.
“In Bolton, for instance, we have done 17,147 vaccinations in the last week,” he added.
A total of 6,959 cases of the Covid-19 variant first identified in India, Public Health England said on Thursday.
A very lucky Ohio teen is the first to win a four-year college scholarship in the state’s vaccine lottery.
“My dad was driving me home from youth group, and then the people from the state government told me in my driveway that I had won the scholarship from the vaccine entering of the lottery,” 14-year-old Joseph Costello told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.
“I was pretty blown away with it … really happy about it,” Costello said.
Ohio’s Vax-a-Million lottery awards $1 million to five people if they are vaccinated. For 12- to 17-year-olds, separate drawings are being held, with prizes of a full-ride college scholarship. It’s helped boost the state’s Covid-19 vaccination rate by 45%, Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday.
Joseph’s dad, Ricard Costello, said there’s “nothing to lose” with the program.
“There’s a safety component, just being vaccinated. And b) the possibility of winning, you know, a scholarship or money, and so that’s the way we see it. … It’s a very good thing,” he said.
Joseph said he’s considering Ohio State University or Miami University of Ohio, but “it changes sometimes.”
The American Civil Liberties Union urged the Biden administration to provide Covid-19 vaccine access to immigrants in detention, citing the rapid spread of coronavirus in congregate settings, according to a letter sent to the Department of Homeland Security secretary and obtained by CNN.
Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities wrestled with a growing number of positive cases, totaling more than 15,000 confirmed cases and nine deaths. As of May 25, there are 1,495 positive Covid-19 cases in ICE custody, according to agency data.
The ACLU, which filed dozens of lawsuits against ICE during the pandemic, called the lack of a vaccine strategy for the detained population a “failure” in a Thursday letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“ICE’s failure to ensure a coordinated strategy for vaccination continues to endanger people in detention nationwide,” the letter reads.
“Meanwhile, COVID-19 outbreaks continue to spread in detention facilities nationwide, risking the health and safety of detainees despite ICE’s duty to protect those in its custody, in violation of their constitutional rights,” it adds.
There are more than 22,000 immigrants in ICE custody.
DHS did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
ICE previously described vaccination procedures in a document titled “COVID-19 Pandemic Response Requirements,” putting the onus on detention facilities to contact their state’s vaccine resource, such as the state or country department of health, to obtain vaccines. But only a limited number have been vaccinated, in part because of the differing priority guidance across states, acting ICE Director Tae Johnson told lawmakers earlier this month.
As of May 5, 2,707 detainees have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 1,229 detainees are fully vaccinated, according to Johnson.
Mayorkas said plans to offer Covid-19 vaccines to detainees is “under review.”
But senior staff attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project, Eunice Hyunhye Cho, called the delay “unacceptable.”
“It is a literal matter of life or death,” Cho told CNN. “This was a completely foreseeable issue and ICE has failed to protect people who are in their custody.”
Pennsylvania’s mask order will be lifted on June 28 or when 70% of all adults in the state have received their second vaccine dose, whichever comes first, the commonwealth’s acting health secretary Alison Beam announced during an ongoing press conference Thursday, citing encouraging vaccination data.
According to Beam, “nearly 98%” of Pennsylvanians over the age of 65 have received at least one vaccine dose, while 52.7% of all adults have completed their vaccine regimen.
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania crossed the milestone of having more than 70% of adults partially vaccinated.
“Once the statewide masking order is lifted, Pennsylvania will continue to follow the CDC guidance for wearing a mask where required by law, rule, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” a statement from the health department said.
“I assure you that the department of health will continue making getting the vaccine as convenient as possible,” Beam said.
Research published this week indicates that Covid-19 antibodies produced by those with mild infection may remain detectable for at least 11 months post-infection.
In the study published in the journal Nature, researchers took blood samples from 77 people previously infected with Covid-19. In the initial phase of the study, samples showed a decrease in the presence of Covid-19 antibodies post-infection. Between four and 11 months post-infection, this decline slowed.
However, researchers also took bone marrow samples from 18 previously infected patients, to measure the presence of bone marrow plasma cells, which are important in antibody protection and the development of long-term viral protection.
Within the bone marrow samples, researchers did find long-lived bone marrow plasma cells (BMPC) which would produce Covid-19 antibodies. Unlike the decline in other antibodies observed, BMPC levels remained stable 7 to 11 months after infection.
“We’re looking at the source of these antibodies that are produced by cells that live in our bone marrow,” Ali Ellebedy, an associate professor at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine who contributed to the study told CNN on Wednesday.
“What we saw in people who have been infected even a year ago, those cells are stable in their bone marrows and they continue to produce antibodies over time,” Ellebedy said.
Researchers said the presence of these cells does not automatically mean a robust immune response would kick in if any of these participants were to be re-infected, but that the potential for long-lived immune response is present.
“I think it’s very important to make a distinction between having an antibody doesn’t mean you’re completely protected, that’s very different,” he said. “But what we should be excited about and encouraged about is you have these memory cells that are ready to jump into action once we have the virus or once we get exposed to the virus again.”
The companies Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline announced on Thursday that they have started enrolling volunteers in their Phase 3 clinical trial to assess the safety and efficacy of their coronavirus vaccine.
The trial will include more than 35,000 participants aged 18 and older from around the world, including the United States, Asia, Africa and Latin America, according to statements from the companies.
“We are encouraged to see first vaccinations starting to take place in such an important, pivotal Phase 3 study, as we believe that our unique technology platform will provide a clinically-relevant vaccine option,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global Head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in the statement.
“We have adapted our vaccine development strategy based on forward-looking considerations as the virus continues to evolve, as well as anticipating what may be needed in a post-pandemic setting,” Triomphe said. “This trial is testament to the urgency and agility in our approach to help overcome the ongoing impact of this pandemic.”
The companies announced that they plan to evaluate the efficacy of their vaccine against variants and test boosters. The release noted that, pending positive Phase 3 trial results, the vaccine could be authorized as early as in the fourth quarter of this year if all goes well.
“We believe further solutions for COVID-19 are very much needed to help reach people around the world, especially as the pandemic evolves and variants continue to emerge,” Roger Connor, President of GSK Vaccines, said in the statement.
CEO of Delta Airlines Ed Bastian said the company will only be hiring people who are vaccinated as travel, particularly on planes, starts to reopen.
He said as they are evaluating applicants, Delta can ask them if they have been vaccinated.
“If they haven’t been vaccinated, we’re not going to take them into the employment,” he told CNN on Thursday. “We have 20, 30, 40 applicants per job so we have the opportunity to be selective,” he added.
Bastian said Delta is encouraging all current employees to get the shot, and right now, about 64% worldwide are vaccinated.
Delta Airlines will be operating at close to 90% of its capacity in the US by this summer, according to Bastian. He said this is ahead of an anticipated surge in demand as restrictions relax.
Bastian said ticket prices are at about 15-20% what they were in 2019.
“As the summer plans continue to get booked, I encourage everyone to go out and hold your seats and get your plans booked because pricing will eventually start to respond to the big surge in demand,” he said.
He said Delta will continue to require passengers to wear masks on planes for now, adding the airline will re-evaluate after the federal mandate ends in September.
“I think the majority of our customers appreciate the fact that we… particularly as the planes are full, we’re flying at 80% to 90% load factors for this weekend, so I think people actually are happy to be wearing masks, collectively,” Bastian said.
Claims for first-time unemployment benefits fell for the fourth consecutive week last week, hitting a new pandemic low.
Another 406,000 American workers filled jobless claims in the week ending May 22,adjusted for seasonal swings. It was a new low for first-time claims since the pandemic began last March, and fewer than analysts expected.
As the economy reopens and restrictions ease for vaccinated Americans, the labor market is making strides toward recovering jobs lost during the pandemic.
Claims for pandemic unemployment assistance, which provides benefits for people like the self-employed who aren’t eligible for regular state benefits, fell to 93,546 without seasonal adjustments.
Meanwhile, the count for continued jobless claims – the number of people filing for at least two weeks in a row – also fell. In the week ending May 15, continued claims stood at about 3.6 million.
An administration official tells CNN the 90-day window President Biden has given the US intelligence community to investigate the origins of Covid-19 started Wednesday, meaning officials should wrap up their deep dive by Aug. 24.
The White House has not yet committed to making the results of that report public. Officials had privately debated not even announcing the investigation, multiple people told CNN, but decided to do so in the end amid heightened interest.
President Biden made the ultimate decision to make the investigation public.
More on the investigation: Biden said in a statement Wednesday that in March he directed his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, to task the intelligence community with preparing a report on the most up-to-date analysis of the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, including whether the virus emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident. Biden said he received that report earlier this month and asked for additional follow-up.
A series of factors went into Biden’s decision to task his intelligence community with a deeper dive into the origins of Covid-19, including the thinking that the initial March-ordered report didn’t go far enough in delving into the issue, according to a source familiar with the decision.
Biden viewed Wednesday’s statement, and additional review, as in the compelling public interest given the scale of the devastation wrought by the pandemic, the source said.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan, Donald Judd and Phil Mattingly contributed reporting to this post.