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Nations challenge WHO report on coronavirus origins; US adds 4,300 variant cases in last week: Latest COVID-19 updates.

The U.S. and a dozen other countries issued a rare joint statement on Tuesday questioning the validity of a World Health Organization study into the origins of the coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, and has now killed almost 2.8 million people across the globe.

“We support a transparent and independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence, of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, we join in expressing shared concerns regarding the recent WHO-convened study in China,” reads the statement, which was issued by the U.S. State Department in coordination with a raft of other governments, including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The controversy swirled as the U.S. reported that half of all seniors have now been vaccinated. “Vaccination milestone,” tweeted Andy Slavitt, White House senior COVID adviser. “50% of all seniors have now been fully vaccinated.”

The statement included strong support for the WHO and did not directly blame China for interfering with the scientific probe. But it said health experts were delayed in studying the origins of the virus and that even when granted access, they were denied “complete, original data and samples.”

“The mission of the WHO is critical to advancing global health and health security,” the statement said.”Scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings.”

The WHO’s director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has also highlighted China’s lack of cooperation.

“I do not believe that this assessment was extensive enough,” he said. “Further data and studies will be needed to reach more robust conclusions.”

– Deirdre Shesgreen

Also in the news:

►German health officials recommended restricting the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine in people under 60, amid fresh concern over unusual blood clots reported in a tiny number of those who received the shots. Canada suspended use of the vaccine among people under 55.

►The University of Connecticut football team cut its spring practices short because of positive COVID-19 test results and subsequent contact tracing protocols, the Hartford Courant reported. The Huskies were one of a small number of FBS teams to opt out of the 2020-21 season. 

►England had a glimmer of good news: London had no deaths reported for one day. During a spike in cases during January, more than 200 deaths a day linked to the virus were recorded in the capital.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 30.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 550,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 128.1 million cases and 2.8 million deaths. More than 180.64 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 145.8 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: As a growing number of states have removed eligibility requirements for getting vaccinated, it’s become less clear why some act faster than others. Read more here.

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.

US tops 12K known COVID variant cases

The United States has reported more known coronavirus variants in the last week –nearly 4,300 – than it reported through the middle of March, a USA TODAY analysis of CDC data shows.

Tuesday night’s tally reflected more than 1,000 new cases just since Sunday’s report. The U.S. now has 12,053 known cases of variants that can spread COVID-19 more easily, dodge some treatments and immunities, or both.

California alone reported 289 new variant cases Tuesday, bringing it up to 865 known cases. Most of those are of B.1.1.7, a variant first seen in the United Kingdom. But California’s P.1 case count also exploded, moving from seven known cases on Sunday to 33 known cases Tuesday. P.1 was first seen in Brazil.

Massachusetts reported 266 new cases, bringing its total to 732.

Several states that hadn’t had much of a known variant problem suddenly have much larger problems. West Virginia went from just three known variant cases on Sunday to 53 on Tuesday, while Nevada went from 11 cases on Sunday to 63 cases on Tuesday. Idaho jumped from 18 to 32.

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