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Spread of variants accelerate across US; Nevada widens vaccine eligibility; Latino vaccination rates lag in Texas: Live COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

The natural immunity provided by a first coronavirus infection is “robust” for relatively young people but not so much for people over 65 – and generally not as good as vaccination, a new study found.

Researchers in Denmark found that 80% or more of the naturally infected population who are younger than 65 were protected against reinfection for at least six months. Good, but not as good as some vaccines that appear to provide more than 90% protection for people with no prior infection.

The researchers also found that previous infection provided less than 50% protection for people 65 years and older. Since that group is also more prone to a “serious clinical course of illness,” the researchers urged protective measures for the elderly in the form of effective vaccines and enhanced physical distancing and infection control.

“Furthermore, our data indicate that vaccination of previously infected individuals should be done because natural protection cannot be relied on,” the researchers said.

Also in the news: 

►The European Medicines Agency’s expert committee is set to announce the results of its investigation today into whether there is any evidence that AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine is linked to a small number of blood clots reported in people across the continent. More than a dozen countries including Germany, France, Spain and Italy suspended immunization using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

►Sniffer dogs in Thailand trained to detect COVID-19 in human sweat proved nearly 95% accurate during training and could be used to identify coronavirus infections at busy transport hubs, the head of a pilot project told Reuters.

►France is set to announce new coronavirus restrictions on Thursday, including a potential lockdown in the Paris region, as the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units spikes.

►The European Commission proposed a Digital Green Certificate for travel inside the EU. The certificate would provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19. Details will be worked out “in the coming months.”

►More than 15% of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated and 28% have had at least one dose, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

►Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez survived an opposition attempt in Paraguay’s congress to impeach him Wednesday over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while hundreds protested outside the legislature demanding his resignation.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 538,000.deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 121 million cases and 2.68 million deaths. More than 147.5 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 113 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Could COVID-19 vaccination bring relief for long-haul sufferers? Researchers are finding out. Read the full story.

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Italy marks anniversary of one of its darkest days in pandemic

Italy held a national remembrance for virus victims Thursday, marking one year since     the Italian army needed a truck convoy to take coffins away from Bergamo, the city and province hit hardest by the first wave of the coronavirus. The northern city’s funeral facilities had been unable to cope with the number of the dead. Premier Mario Draghi laid a wreath at the cemetery there and inaugurated the ‘Wood of Remembrance’ at the city’s Martin Lutero alla Trucca park, where a first set of 100 trees was being planted. The anniversary comes as much of Italy is under new lockdown amid a new surge of infections

“We cannot hug each other, but we are more united today,” he said. “Never again will fragile persons not get adequate assistance.”

Nevada governor widens COVID-19 vaccine eligibility starting next week

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak says Nevadans over the age of 16 with underlying health conditions will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, and that all residents over that age will be eligible to schedule vaccination appointments on April 5. Sisolak unveiled the state’s latest vaccination timeline at a news conference in Carson City, Nevada, where he praised the move as “a critical step forward” in the inoculation effort. Nevada now joins a growing number of states planning to open up vaccinations to all adults ahead of the May 1 deadline urged by President Joe Biden.

“By continuing our strong push to vaccinate high-risk Nevadans, including seniors, individuals with underlying conditions, frontline workers, individuals with disabilities and Nevadans experiencing homelessness, we are working to protect the most vulnerable in our state,” he said in a statement released shortly after his remarks. “The state will work closely with our local partners to ensure we’re putting as many doses as possible into arms every day.

Wednesday’s announcement puts the Silver State slightly ahead of the pace set by President Joe Biden, who has challenged states to open vaccine eligibility to all adults by May 1. 

— James DeHavenReno Gazette-Journal

Latino vaccinations lag behind whites across Texas, especially in capital city

About half the 770 people who have died of COVID-19 in Travis County, Texas – home of the state capital of Austin – have been Latinos. And yet, an analysis by the USA TODAY network shows only 22% of people vaccinated in the county have been Latinos, even though they made up one-third of the 1.2 million residents in 2019, according to census data. 

In Travis County, white-majority ZIP codes had average vaccination rates 1.7 times higher than ZIP codes where people of color were in the majority. The disparity was most pronounced in ZIP codes with a Latino majority, and Travis County’s gap for Latinos was bigger than in all but three other large Texas counties: Cameron, Harris –where Houston is located — and Dallas.

Overall, in the 20 largest counties in Texas, ZIP codes with white, non-Latino residents in the majority had vaccination rates 1.3 times higher than other ZIP codes on average through the end of February. No Latino-majority ZIP code had a higher vaccination rate than white-majority ZIP codes, according to the analysis.

— Sarah Asch and Jayme Fraser, Austin American-Statesman

Contributing: The Associated Press

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