Global cases rise for 1st time in 6 weeks; Merck to produce J&J vaccine, officials say — 5 COVID-19 updates

Global COVID-19 cases rose for the first time in six weeks, World Health Organization officials said during a March 1 news conference. 

Worldwide, cases are edging up, WHO officials said, citing circulating variants and the premature easing of public health restrictions.

Four more updates:

1. Merck will help produce Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, reports The Washington Post. President Joe Biden is expected to announce the partnership March 2, senior administration officials told the Post on the condition of anonymity. Merck, one of the world's largest vaccine makers, and Johnson & Johnson, normally a market competitor, will work to boost supply of the single-shot vaccine. 

2. One dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine or Pfizer's vaccine reduces risk of severe COVID-19 and death in older people, according to preprint study findings submitted by Public Health England. Among people 70 years and over, protection against symptomatic COVID-19 four weeks after the first dose ranged from 57 percent to 61 percent for Pfizer's vaccine and between 60 and 73 percent for AstraZeneca.

3. The coronavirus variant first found in Brazil likely infected many people who had already recovered from COVID-19, according to three new studies cited by The New York Times. The studies suggest the P.1 variant likely emerged in November 2020 and fueled Brazil's first surge in cases. Researchers say there is "an increasing body of evidence" to suggest that the country's second wave of cases was due to reinfections. The studies have not been peer-reviewed and researchers say the findings are preliminary. Read more here.

4. Florida, Ohio and New York City are expanding vaccine eligibility this week, reports The New York Times.. The expansions come amid increasing vaccine supplies for states and the recent authorization of a third COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in U.S.

Cases: 28,664,957

Deaths: 514,660

Americans receiving at least one vaccine dose: 50,732,997

Counts reflect March 1 and March 2 data from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University and the CDC.

More articles on public health:

Nationwide minimal flu activity reported for month straight — 4 CDC FluView takeaways
Researchers file patent for RNA-based vaccine for malaria
Daily COVID-19 case average down 73% from winter peak: 11 CDC stats to know


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