With the majority of states having already lifted vaccine restrictions to all adults in recent weeks, the United States grows ever closer to President Joe Biden's two vaccine goals.
Three more will join them this week: First, Illinois will open up vaccine eligibility to those 16 and older Monday, and following close behind are Washington state and California on Thursday.
It all comes nearly a week before Biden's goal for states to make all adults in the U.S. eligible for coronavirus vaccines, which is Monday, April 19. The six remaining states after this week will open up at or before that date.
But vaccine hesitancy is becoming an ever-present problem: The number of U.S. counties with unfilled vaccine appointments at chain retailers Walmart, CVS and Rite Aid grew about 60% over the past week. Public health experts have warned of hard work ahead to immunize enough Americans to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, states will see a sharp decline in deliveries of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week as the company struggles to meet its manufacturing timeline.
Also in the news:
►Travel is rising throughout the US: the country averaged more than 1.5 million travelers on Thursday and Friday and nearly 1.4 million travelers on Saturday, similar to the numbers from Easter weekend, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration.
►Nearly 40% of United States Marines who have been offered the COVID-19 vaccine have declined it, according to the Pentagon. Of the 123,500 Marines who have had access to the vaccine, 75,500 are either fully vaccinated or have received one dose, while about 48,000 have declined it, Communication Strategy and Operations Officer Capt. Andrew Woods told USA TODAY.
►As Michigan grapples with the highest rate in new coronavirus infections in the country, a surge that's straining hospitals and prompted a pause in some non-emergency procedures, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues to press the White House to alter its vaccine-distribution plan.
►The Wonder Wheel began turning and the Cyclone whipped into action as Coney Island's illustrious amusement parks reopened Friday after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered New York City's iconic summer playground all last year. After 529 days of closure, “it’s a very emotional day. We wanted to spread positivity,” Alessandro Zamperla, president of the company that owns Luna Park — home of the Cyclone — said at an opening ceremony.
? Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 31.19 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 562,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 135.85 million cases and 2.93 million deaths. More than 237.79 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 187 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
? What we're reading: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application, in a program that launches Monday, April 12. Here's what to know.
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Doctors said they had done all they could do. Then his wife spoke up
On the same day Debbie Lloyd's father succumbed to COVID-19, doctors told her there was little more they could do for her husband. Kevin Lloyd's lungs had been scarred by the virus, and only high-flow oxygen was keeping him alive. His doctors saw little long-term hope for him, given the damaged state of his lungs. Debbie Lloyd determined that she could not lose her father and husband on the same day to the same disease. So Debbie, an elementary school secretary, took a shot in the dark.
What about a lung transplant? she asked. Today Debbie and Kevin Lloyd are breathing easier. Read their story here.
– Shari Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star
Florida reports single-digit increase in COVID-19 deaths
For the first time in almost seven months, the state of Florida reported only a single-digit increase in new reported deaths linked to the coronavirus pandemic. The state health department said Sunday seven more Floridians and two additional non-residents have died due to COVID-19. Over the past two weeks, daily reported COVID deaths across the state have ranged between 22 and 98, and the week-to-week reported deaths have been on a slow decline since January. Just five new coronavirus deaths in Florida were reported Sept. 28.
The state continues to lead the country in the number of U.K. variants of the coronavirus, with 3,510 cases identified, as well as 126 Brazil variant cases and 27 cases with the variant first identified in South Africa.
—Hannah Morse, Palm Beach Post
US vows to be leader in global vaccinations
China's failure to share information and provide access to international public health experts in the early stages of the pandemic fueled the global crisis, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday. "I think China knows that in the early stages of COVID, it didn't do what it needed to do," Blinken said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "And one result of that failure is that the (virus) got out of hand faster and with, I think, much more egregious results than it might otherwise."
The secretary pledged that the U.S. will be "the world leader on helping to make sure the entire world gets vaccinated."
Blinken said the pandemic revealed the need for a "stronger global health security system to make sure that this doesn't happen again" and to ensure the world can mitigate public health crises. Blinken said the World Health Organization must be strengthened and reformed, and that "China has to play a part in that."
Contributing: The Associated Press