Coronavirus Vaccine Updates: UK variant responsible for most US infections

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- The CDC says the highly contagious and possibly more deadly U.K. variant is now the most widespread source of new COVID infections in the U.S.

The CDC says the strain is believed to be at least 50% more contagious than previous strains of the virus and likely more deadly.

"If you add on the fact that we are loosening restrictions and more people traveling, young people spreading and more contagious variants, that is a set up for more outbreaks," said Dr. Alok Patel, Pediatrician.

COVID hospitalizations are on the rise in at least 16 states. Health experts say the vaccines are still effective against the variant, making the race to vaccinate more urgent.

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Here are more of today's headlines:



Teen COVID survivor takes part in first pitch relay at Mets home opener
Karla Duarte, a teenager who survived a serious bout with COVID-19 thanks to an innovative blood-cleaning procedure, was part of a ceremonial first pitch relay at the Mets home opener Thursday.

The relay involved three pairs of New Yorkers who represent groups that were greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Duarte and her life-saving doctor, James Schneider, anchored the relay.

Bar & restaurant curfew extended in New York
All the state's executive orders and directives regarding restaurants and bars -- including the 11 p.m. curfew -- were extended until May 6 in an executive order signed by Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday.

That does not mean they will remain in effect until May 6, as Cuomo could lift them at any time. But Republican leaders have blasted the governor and released statements asking Cuomo and state Democrats to "stop hurting bars and restaurants."

Florida sues federal government to allow cruises to sail
The state of Florida has filed a lawsuit against the federal government to demand cruise ships be allowed to start sailing immediately, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday.

DeSantis said the no-sail order is outdated and hurts the state as the industry generates billions for the economy and employs tens of thousands of Floridians.

'Long haul' COVID: Doctor describes patients' 'crushing headaches,' 'cognitive symptoms' after recovery
Concerns are growing about what is being called "long-haul" COVID-19. These are lingering and often serious symptoms appearing in someone after they've already beat the virus.

A medical study that came out this week finds 1 in 3 coronavirus survivors are dealing with serious neurological symptoms.

Walk-up vaccination program for NYC seniors 75+ expands again
The number of vaccination sites that will not require an appointment for some New Yorkers has increased to 26. And seniors' companions, such home health aides, are now eligible to get a vaccine at those sites as well.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the increase of walk-up vaccine sites for New Yorkers 75 and older on Tuesday - and another expansion to the program on Thursday.

New NYC COVID Schools closure rules

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced NYC Public Schools' replacement plan for the two-case rule. It's a multi-part plan that takes into account the number of cases and where the spread of COVID happened.

One confirmed case in a classroom means that classroom goes virtual.
Two or three cases in a week at a school means that there will be increased testing.

The threshold for 10-day school closures includes:
- 4 or more cases in a week
- In different classrooms
- Traced to known exposure in school

UK infections drop about 60% amid vaccinations, lockdown
A new study shows that Britain's COVID-19 vaccination program is beginning to break the link between infection and serious illness or death. Researchers at Imperial College London found that COVID-19 infections dropped about 60% in March as national lockdown measures slowed the spread of the virus.

People 65 and older were the least likely to be infected as they benefited most from the vaccination program. The study also found that the relationship between infections and deaths is diverging, "suggesting that infections may have resulted in fewer hospitalizations and deaths since the start of widespread vaccination." But researchers also urged caution, saying that infection rates leveled off as the government began to ease the national lockdown.

Australia halts AstraZeneca vaccine for most people under 50
Australia has become the latest country to restrict use of the AstraZeneca vaccine by recommending that it not be given to people under age 50. The announcement came after drug regulators held a series of urgent meetings earlier in the day.

The recommendation came after the European Medicines Agency said it had found a "possible link" between the shot and the rare blood clots, though regulators in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he'd received a series of recommendations and chief among them was that the Pfizer vaccine should now be adopted as the preferred vaccine for people aged under 50.

How Americans used their pandemic stimulus payments
Americans saved or paid off debt with most of their pandemic stimulus payments, according to surveys from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

For the second round of relief checks that gave $600 to eligible Americans and were issued at the end of December, survey respondents said they spent or planned to spend 25.5% of the total. Respondents said the other 74% went or would go toward paying down debts (37.4%) or savings (37.1%).

Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply issue
There's a bump in the road in the Race to Vaccinate, and concern about how that will impact the Tri-State region. The federal government will ship fewer Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses to the New York City area and across the country next week due to production issues.

CDC says there will be less than 800,000 Johnson and Johnson shots allocated next week, an 85% drop.

New York Yankees vaccinated
The New York Yankees announced Wednesday that all players, coaches and staff have been vaccinated.

"The New York Yankees would like to offer their sincere thanks to Dr. Philip Ozuah, President of Montefiore Medical Center, and the hard-working and dedicated group of medical staff from this Bronx-based hospital, who have been on-site at Yankee Stadium this evening to administer COVID vaccinations to New York Yankees players, coaches, field staff and support staff. This process has been seamless and efficient, and we are grateful that by receiving the vaccine, we can contribute to stopping the spread of COVID-19."

When did you realize the COVID pandemic changed everything?
Many of us had a moment, most often occurring in March 2020, when we realized that COVID-19 had completely changed our lives forever. Even though we've managed to move forward and adapt to a new normal, that memory still sticks with us. Tell us: What was that moment to you?

Top 7 COVID vaccine questions answered
You had questions about COVID-19 vaccines and 7 On Your Side is getting you answers from doctors on the front line of the pandemic.

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