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COVID-19 infections drop in 23 states as Oregon restores restrictions

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New coronavirus shutdowns are going into effect in Oregon, as the state leads the nation in new infections for a second week in a row. Meanwhile, Florida and New York are lifting most restrictions. CBS News' Mola Lenghi and Jonathan Vigliotti report on the developments from coast-to-coast. Then, Dr. Leo Nissola, an immunotherapy scientist, joins CBSN's Elaine Quijano with his analysis.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: New coronavirus shutdowns are going into effect in hard-hit Oregon. The state is leading the nation in new infections for a second week in a row. Governor Kate Brown is implementing restrictions on indoor dining and gyms. Meanwhile in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Monday suspending all remaining COVID orders across the Sunshine State.

And in New York, most restrictions for restaurants, bars, and even theaters will be lifted starting May 19. Nearly a third of the American population has been fully vaccinated, and all eyes are on federal health officials now reviewing if the COVID shot is safe for younger teens. It's a key step in the nation's road to recovery.

Jonathan Vigliotti will have more on the coronavirus crisis in Oregon in just a moment. But first, we begin our coverage with Mola Lenghi in New York City.

MOLA LENGHI: With New York here set to reopen, we could be just days away from a vaccination for millions of children around the country. After months of clinical trials, a vaccine could be approved for children ages 12 and up. Pfizer is set to receive FDA emergency use authorization of its vaccine in children ages 12 to 15 within days, according to "The New York Times." Pfizer recently announced trial results showing the vaccine has similar efficacy in that age group to adults, and study participants experienced few side effects.

ANDREW CUOMO: It's a smart reopening. It's a measured reopening.

MOLA LENGHI: Tonight, New York is ready for revival.

ANDREW CUOMO: Today is a milestone for New York state and a significant moment of transition.

MOLA LENGHI: In sync with neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut, the move comes on May 19 when most capacity limits will be lifted. Museums and businesses, including restaurants, retail, gyms, and hair salons can fully reopen as long as space is available to maintain six feet of social distancing. The reopening is a huge turnaround for more than a year ago.

- Everyone is COVID positive.

MOLA LENGHI: When New York City was the epicenter of the COVID crisis, reporting nearly 5,500 cases and more than 600 deaths per day. And it's not just the Northeast that's getting back to normal. Today, the governor of Florida ended all COVID restrictions in the state.

Back in New York, a record 635,000 jobs were lost in 2020. The pain of the city's economic downturn is evident in the endless closed storefronts. For a year, it was only takeout and delivery at Ousia, a Manhattan restaurant.

- For us, it's just, you know, a new beginning and an opportunity to get back to normal.

MOLA LENGHI: An opportunity that can't happen soon enough. Mola Lenghi, CBS News, New York.

- Yeah, how are you?

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: I'm Jonathan Vigliotti in Oregon, where tonight, as much of the nation is opening back up, nearly half the state is shutting back down due to one of the largest increases in infections in the country. This after Oregon had one of the lowest infection rates nationwide for months.

KATE BROWN: This virus is like a sucker punch. You never know when it's going to get you.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: The surging numbers have triggered Governor Kate Brown to declare 15 counties in extreme risk, banning all indoor dining and limiting gyms and indoor entertainment spaces to only six people at once.

What went so wrong?

KATE BROWN: The variants. The variants are extremely transmissible.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: That more transmissible variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, now accounts for about half the cases in the state, with more young people hospitalized than ever.

KATE BROWN: Right now it's truly a race between the variants and the vaccines. Obviously, the variants are winning. But over the next couple of weeks, I'm confident we can beat it back.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: Vaccines have been available to everyone in Oregon 16 and older for two weeks. Now the hope is that as vaccination numbers rise, infections will drop. It would be welcome news to front line workers like ICU nurse Linus Silvey.

LINUS SILVEY: We started getting our vaccine here in mid-December, and so it was a beacon of light. It is a little disheartening to be back in kind of what we were.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: Still, the new restrictions are hitting frustrated business owners like Brian McMeniman hard.

BRIAN MCMENIMAN: It's just this up and down game. It feels like we're just getting beat up.

KATE BROWN: There were two paths here. Number one that we don't put any additional restrictions on, or number two that we take the path that save lives. And I, as Oregon's governor, took the path to save lives.

JONATHAN VIGLIOTTI: Average daily cases have more than doubled in the last month, and ICU beds are near capacity. If the numbers drop, the governor says the state could fully reopen July 1. Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Jonathan Vigliotti, thank you. For more on this, I want to bring in Dr. Leo Nissola. He's an immunotherapy scientist and joins us now from San Francisco. Dr. Nissola, welcome. So we're seeing parts of the country starting to turn to pre-pandemic normality, while things worsen in other areas. What do you make of this contrast?

LEO NISSOLA: Well, it's complicated because in New York, you had a high-- a high number of cases in the beginning of the pandemic because of how dense the city is. And in Oregon, we didn't see that in the beginning of the pandemic. But having 25% of its population living in a very high vulnerability area, it allows for those outbreaks. And I think that's the surge we're looking at today. Now, clearly--

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, vaccine demand--

LEO NISSOLA: --we don't want--



ELAINE QUIJANO: --Doctor. Sorry.

LEO NISSOLA: I just had an audio issue. I think the number of cases in Oregon is increasing right now, I think, because of these clusters that were protected in the beginning of the pandemic and are not anymore. Now, indoor dining was banned, and I think for now it's the right measure to do.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, vaccine demand has slowed recently. This week, more than 20 states declined to order all doses available to them. But the CDC also says a very low amount of vaccine doses have been wasted, only about 0.13%. Still, Doctor, are you concerned about the rate of vaccination or about the country's efforts to reach herd immunity?

LEO NISSOLA: Well, I think it's truly sad to see it when we see countries like India and Brazil struggling to keep their people alive today, losing thousands a day. We here have safe and effective vaccines that are available to us all. So I think you would take a lot of perspective to try to make that choice of not getting vaccinated. I think vaccine hesitancy is a social problem, not a scientific one. So in that sense, I would urge folks to get vaccinated in their hometown.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Meanwhile, the Biden administration says it will pay health care providers for vaccination fees not covered by insurance. Doctor, how much concern has there been over these reimbursement costs since the vaccine rollout began? What type of expenses are incurred with administering the shots?

LEO NISSOLA: I think it's important to cover small clinics and to cover these costs that providers are having while doing this public health attention. So in that sense, I think it makes sense to allow for providers to be reimbursed, but also to use them to educate folks around vaccine hesitancy as well.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, "The New York Times" reports the FDA is preparing to authorize Pfizer's COVID vaccine for kids as young as 12 by early next week. Now, the former FDA commissioner told "Face the Nation" Sunday that 10 million kids could be vaccinated before the fall if the shot is approved. What advice would you give parents who may be hesitant to get their child vaccinated?

LEO NISSOLA: I think it's important to always talk to the pediatrician. You should talk to the family doctor and try to understand if there is any allergies that the vaccinator should be knowing about. But most of all, just trust the health care provider that is in front of you to answer your questions when you're getting vaccinated or considering getting the vaccine. Now, we have an ample source of vaccine information available on the CDC website that also allow folks at home to help them make their decision.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Finally, Doctor, you mentioned India a moment ago. The US will ban most travel from India starting Tuesday due to rising cases there. How big of a threat is the situation in India when it comes to global recovery efforts? And what more can the United States do to help?

LEO NISSOLA: Well, it's really complicated because the travel bans at this point, I'm not sure what the potential benefit is since the variants are here. But I do understand the concern of perhaps bringing a new variant that we have not yet picked up on our genomic surveillance. Now, what is more complicated is that I have been hearing reports that in India and in Brazil, they are running out of even COVID tests.

So while we here now have in the US an abundance of those, I would encourage folks to reach out to folks in India and understand if maybe the US can help by providing some of these resources that we don't actually need as many right now. Another layer to that is ensuring that enough vaccine vials make it to those countries. That would help us all at the end of the day.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Right, because as we've talked about time and time again, it is really difficult to not fight this at a global level, because, as you said, the variants may already be here. This indeed is a global pandemic. Dr. Leo Nissola for us. Dr. Nissola, thank you very much.

LEO NISSOLA: Thanks for having me.