New York, Maryland open vaccines for anyone over 16 as variants continue to spread. Latest COVID-19 updates

New York and Maryland will open vaccine eligibility to those who are 16 years or older on Tuesday, the day after 12 states did the same as the country continues in its race against more mutated forms of coronavirus spreading. 

The two states will join a dozen others that opened up vaccinations to all over 16: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Michigan, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

The increased availability of vaccines comes as variants of COVID-19 continue to surge with more than 16,000 cases reported across the country. 

Federally run vaccinations centers continue to pop up, with three more announced Monday by the White House. The sites, in South Carolina, Colorado and Minnesota, bring the total number of vaccination sites to 28. 

But experts have cautioned about a potential fourth wave of the disease in the aftermath of spring break as students returned home. 

Also in the news:

► The United Nations says the U.N.-backed program to provide COVID-19 vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable people has delivered more than 36 million doses to 86 poor and developing countries to date.

►A top U.S. public health official says young people are driving the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases, as the increasing rate of vaccination in older Americans is preventing the most serious cases among seniors.

► The Nationals will begin their season Tuesday by hosting the Atlanta Braves after Major League Baseball postponed Monday’s opener of the teams’ three-game series because of a coronavirus outbreak that involves 11 of Washington’s players.

► The British government says all adults and children will be able to have routine coronavirus tests twice a week as a way to stamp out new outbreaks as the U.K. emerges from lockdown.

► Vice President Kamala Harris promised a popular vaccination site in her home state of California will remain open. The Oakland Coliseum was scheduled to stop administering vaccinations on Sunday after an eight-week contract with FEMA but Harris told the San Francisco Chronicle the site would remain open.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 30.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 555,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 131.7 million cases and 2.8 million deaths. At least 207 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 167 million have been administered, according to the CDC. 

📘 What we’re reading:  People across the country also spoke with USA TODAY about their emotions after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Here are their stories.

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.

LPN Shannon Gordon, left, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Rachel Sisemore, 21, on Monday at Saint Leo University, which is serving as host for the Florida Department of Health's COVID-19 vaccine distribution for East Pasco County. (Photo: Douglas R. Clifford, Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Walgreens to switch second dose of Pfizer vaccine to CDC’s recommended timing

Walgreens has been administering the second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine a week after federal guidelines say it is ideally delivered, but the chain will change its policy to come into line with the government’s recommendations.

While the extra time is not feared to be a problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked the drugstore chain to follow its guidelines, the New York Times reported Monday.

Until now, Walgreens had been administering the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine four weeks after the first, the company confirmed Monday to USA TODAY. Federal guidance is three weeks.

“We have been automatically scheduling patients’ second doses to occur a minimum of 28 days following their first dose to ensure that no dose is administered earlier than the authorized intervals and patients are able to complete the series vaccination,” Walgreens spokesperson Rebekah Pajak said in an email.

The company is improving its scheduling system to allow people beginning this week to set their second dose appointment at the three-week timeframe, Pajak said.

– Nathan Bomey

California, after seeing winter surge, now has lowest COVID rate in country

California now has the lowest coronavirus infection rate in the country — months after the state saw a winter surge that made it the epicenter of the pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom bragged on Twitter about the low infection rate. The Golden State is the only in the country with a rate under 2%, according to data released by Health and Human Services for the last week in March. The state saw a 1.7% positivity rate.

Los Angeles County, similarly, has seen drastic drops in the number of COVID cases after the area — the most populous county in the entire country — became overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases over the winter. 

At the start of the pandemic, California was applauded for its quick actions to curb the spread of the virus but the strict measures quickly became unpopular. The frustration grew over the winter when the state saw a sudden surge in cases. At one point, the state had a nearly 20% positivity rate. The grievances led to more supporters of  recall effort against the governor. 

1.2 million people have contracted COVID-19 in the state and more than 23,000 people have died. 

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