Coronavirus Vaccine Updates: Brazil entering worst phase of COVID crisis

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- There are new warnings about COVID spread in Brazil as the country reports a new single-day record for coronavirus-related deaths.

That nation's health minister predicts Brazil will go through the worst of the pandemic this month.

Officials reported 16,000 deaths on Wednesday, a 29% increase compared to two weeks ago.

Officials say 81% of ICU units in Brazil are now working at more than 95% capacity.

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Here are more of today's headlines:



Connecticut easing COVID restrictions
Connecticut is easing some of its coronavirus-related restrictions as infections and hospitalizations are declining and vaccinations continue, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday. Lamont said it wasn't a major lifting of COVID-19 rules like some other states have announced, but he detailed the next phase of the reopening process. Restaurants will be allowed to operate at full capacity on March 19, with social distancing and mask requirements still in place. The 11 p.m. curfew for on-site dining will remain, and tables will be limited to a maximum of eight patrons. CLICK HERE for full details.

Murphy predicts 'much more normal summer on the shore'
Gov. Murphy said he is looking forward to a "much more normal summer on the shore" if the vaccine supply flows into the Garden State as expected this spring.

"First shot in the arms with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in New Jersey tomorrow morning, likely in Hudson County," Murphy said on CNBC. "We've already begun to take baby steps to reopen and assuming the vaccine rollout continues, that we don't have these variants that overwhelm us, there's no question we will continue to open up and we will get to I believe a much more normal summer on the shore."

Bucking Republican trend, Alabama governor extends mask order
Breaking from other Southern GOP governors, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended her state's mask order for another month Thursday but said the requirement will end for good in April. Following the recommendations of medical officials, Ivey said she will keep the mask order that was set to expire Friday in place until April 9.

"We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions. Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we're getting closer," Ivey said at a news conference.

State-run vaccination sites in NY go 24/7 as J&J vaccine arrives
It's another major step forward in the war on the coronavirus today in New York City, with the arrival of the initial supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Much of New York state's allotment is headed to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. As a result, the state-run site will now operate 24 hours a day.

New Jersey marks anniversary of 1st COVID-19 case, NJT begins vaccinating
Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of New Jersey's first confirmed COVID-19 case, this as the state expands vaccine eligibility amid a surplus in doses. The first case of the coronavirus was diagnosed in a man from Fort Lee, but it was Teaneck that became the early epicenter. By mid March, Teaneck had 18 cases of coronavirus -- the most of any municipality in the state -- prompting Township Manager Dean Kazinci to the first to make the drastic decision to have residents self-quarantine. Since then, the state has reported about 800,000 cases and more than 20,000 deaths.

COVID relief bill update: Fewer people will qualify
President Joe Biden has agreed to a compromise with moderate Democrats to narrow the income eligibility for the next round of $1,400 stimulus checks that are included in a bill the Senate is expected to take up this week. That means 7 million fewer families will receive a partial payment than would have under the House version of the bill, according to an estimate from the Penn Wharton Budget Model. The new proposal will completely cut off those who earn more than $160,000 a year and individuals who earn more than $80,000 a year. The House legislation, which passed Saturday, set the income caps at $200,000 for couples and $100,000 for individuals.

Texas nurse says she's scared about end to state's mask mandate
Brittany Smart has spent months tending to the COVID-19 patients who poured into Texas hospitals as the virus raged across the state -- and the country. It has been devastating, the ICU nurse told CNN's Chris Cuomo Tuesday night, speaking right after the end of another shift. Health care workers had begun to see a light at the end of the tunnel, she said, amid ongoing vaccinations and after several weeks of declining COVID-19 cases. But that was "shut down" when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was lifting the statewide mask mandate and capacity limits on businesses, Smart added. Smart said she doesn't think now is a safe time to take away the mask mandate and called the governor's move "nerve-wracking."

Father of 7 records heartbreaking video message for his kids 2 weeks before dying of COVID
Two weeks before he died, 35-year-old Charles "Charley" Torres struggled to breathe as he said his goodbyes to his three children and four stepchildren. There were times when his family thought he would beat COVID-19, but 30 days after he was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 15, he died. It was Valentine's Day.

Royal Caribbean plans first fully vaccinated cruises from Israel
Royal Caribbean has announced its first "fully vaccinated" cruises will depart Israel later this year. The cruise line announced the plans for its new ship "Odyssey of the Seas." The vessel is expected to leave Israel and sail to the Greek Islands and Cypress in May. Passengers for the first sailing season have to be residents of Israel, and of course, be vaccinated for COVID-19 if they're above 16 years old.

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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