‘Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vacciiiine!’

‘Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vacciiiine!’

“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vacciiiine! I’m begging of you please don’t hesitate,” sang Dolly Parton, riffing on her hit song “Jolene” as she received her first Covid-19 vaccine dose.

“I know I’m trying to be funny now, but I’m dead serious about the vaccine,” she told the camera. “I think we all want to get back to normal, whatever that is, and that would be a great shot in the arm, wouldn’t it?”

But as this joyful video was shared on Parton’s Twitter account on Tuesday, several US states went against the advice of health experts by lifting mask mandates and loosening other restrictions put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The governors of Texas and Mississippi defied federal government warnings not to relax restrictions or open economies too fast by rescinding mask mandates and allowing businesses to operate at full capacity. Their counterparts in Louisiana and Michigan announced that restaurants will be allowed to increase capacity, among reopening measures in other states.

The looming relaxations are paradoxically a symptom of President Joe Biden’s success as confidence grows in the availability of vaccines, Stephen Collinson writes. But experts are warning that opening too quickly could provide a vast petri dish that new variants of Covid-19 need to thrive.

After the number of new coronavirus cases in the United States declined from unprecedented highs recently, the downturn appears to have stagnated at a high level, and seven-day average case levels are as high as they were last summer. “We should not ease up, allow indoor dining, big groups … getting rid of mask mandates. We have to hold on for another two or three months in this condition,” Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who was a member of Biden’s Transition Covid-19 Advisory Board, told CNN.

The new Covid-19 variants that are sweeping across the globe are often not just more infectious, they could also make vaccines less effective. That means that states like Texas and Mississippi, which were slow to adopt steps like mask wearing, are not just risking their own citizens but all other Americans too.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: Do mask mandates work?

A: Mask mandates can work, according to research released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in February, which found that fewer people ended up in hospital with Covid-19 in places where state and local governments required mask use.

The team, from the CDC and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, noted that the study did not control for other factors that could have affected hospitalization rates. But it said its findings support community mask wearing to reduce Covid-19 transmission and hospitalization, noting that the practice likely has a direct effect on coronavirus-related illness and death.

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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

US will have enough vaccines for all adults before June, says Biden

President Biden said the US would have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for every American adult by the end of May, dramatically accelerating the administration’s previous goal of having enough shots by the end of July. The speedier estimate has been helped along by a new partnership between drugmakers, which will see Merck help manufacture the recently authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  

This comes as Barbara Schmalenberger, 86, became the first patient in the US to receive the Johnson & Johnson shot. “It was really exciting,” Schmalenberger told CNN after getting vaccinated. “When I got out of my car, I was shaking I was so excited. I couldn’t wait.”

The variant first reported in Brazil may be 2.2 times more transmissible

A coronavirus variant of concern first reported in Brazil, known as P.1, may be up to 2.2 times more transmissible and could evade immunity from previous Covid-19 infection by up to 61%, a new modelling study by researchers in Brazil and the UK suggests.

The variant’s emergence in the UK has exposed major flaws in the British government’s hotel quarantine system, while also vindicating critics who warned that the country’s failure to clamp down on indirect flights from high-risk countries like Brazil would make it easier for variants to spread, Tara John reports.

Europe’s unified vaccine strategy is falling apart as countries look to Israel, China and Russia for help

The European Union’s vaccine strategy is splintering as the 27 member states turn to nations outside the bloc to boost a faltering rollout plagued by supply issues, contract skirmishes and sluggish takeup, Zamira Rahim reports.  

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced Monday that he intends to work with Israel and Denmark on future vaccine production and cooperation around developing further shots to combat variants. Other EU nations have turned to Russia and China to plug the gaps in vaccine supply through unilateral procurements.

ON OUR RADAR

  • With Australians still unable to travel abroad due to pandemic restrictions, flag carrier Qantas is launching a series of “Mystery Flights” to encourage domestic travel.
  • Dozens of rural areas in the US have no pharmacy that can distribute vaccines, which risks prolonging the pandemic in the hard-hit regions.
  • Mammograms are picking up swelling due to the Covid-19 vaccine and causing unnecessary fear, radiologists say.
  • Covid-19 and the seemingly unending sense of uncertainty that came with it have stripped us of much of the control we had pre-pandemic.

TOP TIP

Why kids are reaching a pandemic wall

Young people around the world appear to be hitting a breaking point that developmental psychologists are calling the “pandemic wall.”

As we near the anniversary of the outbreak and associated social distancing measures, kids and parents alike are mourning how our lives used to be. It doesn’t even matter how dramatically kids’ lives have changed, experts say. The fact that disruption has become normalized is traumatizing enough.

Here’s how grown-ups can help.

TODAY’S PODCAST

“No hugs or high-fives, and no cheering, only clapping.” — Selina Wang, CNN International Correspondent

We’re just months away from the start of the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. The games were supposed to showcase Japan’s recovery from the deadly Fukushima earthquake but things have not gone according to plan. In today’s episode, Wang explains how Japan is preparing for the world’s largest sport event during a global pandemic. Listen now.