(NEW YORK) — The United States is facing a COVID-19 surge this summer as the more contagious delta variant spreads.
More than 660,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.6 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Just 63% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Sep 14, 4:06 pm
Army orders active-duty soldiers to be vaccinated by mid-December
Active-duty soldiers must be fully vaccinated by mid-December, the Army announced in a statement Tuesday.
Reserve and National Guard units will have until the end of June 2022 to be inoculated.
“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live,” Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the U.S. Army Surgeon General, said in the statement.
Soldiers can request exemption on religious grounds and for legitimate medical or administrative reasons.
Soldiers who refuse to receive full vaccination without an exemption could be subject to serious reprisals.
“Commanders will request a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand be initiated for any Soldier who refuses to be vaccinated and does not have a pending or approved exemption request. Such reprimands can be career ending,” the statement said.
Sep 14, 3:33 pm
US likely less than 2 weeks away from surpassing 1918 pandemic death toll
The number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. is likely less than two weeks away from surpassing the 1918 pandemic death toll.
In the H1N1 flu pandemic of 1918, an estimated 675,000 Americans lost their lives. To date, 662,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, meaning the U.S. is less than 13,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths away from surpassing that staggering death toll more than a century later.
However, in comparing the pandemics it’s important to note that the population of the U.S. is significantly higher now than it was in 1918.
Even though the nation is 18 months into the pandemic, more than 1,000 Americans are still dying each day of the virus. It’s a sobering milestone as the national average of deaths had dropped to a near pandemic low of 191 deaths each day just two months ago.
Now, death metrics are on the rise, and the U.S. vaccination rate has fallen in recent weeks. Since Aug. 10 the rate of Americans receiving their first dose declined by 42.7%.
Sep 14, 2:10 pm
Judge temporarily blocks New York’s vaccine mandate for health workers who want religious exemptions
A federal judge in New York issued a temporary restraining order that stops the state from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers if they seek a religious exemption.
The vaccine mandate for health care workers was set to take effect Sept. 27.
The decision is a temporary victory for a group of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who challenged the mandate in court.
The lawsuit accused former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of running a “nearly 18-month-long medical dictatorship.”
“The same front line health care workers hailed as heroes by the media for treating COVID patients before vaccines were available, including the Plaintiffs herein, are now vilified by the same media as pariahs who must be excluded from society until they are vaccinated against their will,” the lawsuit said.
The judge’s order instructs the state to respond by next week. Oral arguments are scheduled for Sept. 28, one day after the health worker vaccine mandate was to have taken effect.
Sep 14, 1:24 pm
Pfizer shares vaccine timeline for children under 12 years old
Pfizer discussed its plans to expand the availability of its COVID-19 vaccine this fall to include children that are 6-months-old to 11-years-old during an on-camera investor conference Tuesday.
Pfizer’s Chief Financial Officer Frank D’Amelio said the company projects to have safety and efficacy data for children 5 to 11-years-old “by the end of September.” Pfizer expects to file the data with the FDA in “early October.”
D’Amelio said that in the weeks following the submission, the company will file similar data for children between the ages of 6 months to 5-years-old. Phase three studies are currently underway for children in those age groups.
“We would expect to have similar data for children between the ages of 6 months and 5-years-old, that we would file with the FDA, I’ll call it, in the weeks shortly thereafter the filing of the data for the 5 to the 11-year-olds,” D’Amelio said. “And then obviously, all of that depends on having a positive outcome on the data.”
In the meeting, he also doubled down in support of booster shots saying the company “believes that there’s clearly benefit” to “maintaining high levels of protection with a third dose.”
Sep 14, 12:01 pm
Vaccinated people who experience breakthrough cases less likely to experience long-hauler symptoms: Study
New research indicates that vaccinated people are about half as likely to experience long-hauler symptoms if they have a breakthrough COVID-19 infection, compared to unvaccinated people with the virus, according to a study conducted in the U.K. published earlier this month.
Researchers found that fully vaccinated individuals who did get breakthrough infections were 49% as likely as the unvaccinated to report long hauler symptoms. The study analyzed data from individuals who submitted their symptoms, test results and vaccination status between December 2020 and July 2021.
Long-haulers were defined in the study as anyone whose symptoms lasted more than four weeks after infection. Symptoms include brain fog, muscle pain, and fatigue that can last for months after recovery from an initial infection.
Among the vaccinated breakthrough infections, a third were as likely as the unvaccinated to report severe symptoms and they were more than 70% less likely to require hospitalizations.
“These latest findings offer the encouraging news that help is already here in the form of vaccines, which provide a very effective way to protect against COVID-19 and greatly reduce the odds of long COVID if you do get sick,” National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said in a blog post on the study.
Sep 14, 11:37 am
More than 90% of COVID-19 hospitalizations are among unvaccinated
Nearly all of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. are unvaccinated, according to government officials and frontline health care workers.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week “well over 90% of people who are in the hospital are unvaccinated.”
“Those who were unvaccinated were about four-and-a-half times more likely to get COVID-19, are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die,” she added.
Hospitals across the nation contacted by ABC News have echoed Walensky’s statement.
At Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, doctors said about every COVID-19 patient in their overflowing ICU was unvaccinated.
“We are overwhelmed,” the ICU director said. “We have so many patients with COVID who are unvaccinated.”
Tracking hospitalizations by vaccination status is tough because only about half the states report that information and many share it in different ways.
However, an analysis of that data found that breakthrough cases, in general, are uncommon among the fully vaccinated and “the vast majority of reported COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. are among those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated,” according to a study released last month by The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on national health issues.
Sep 14, 8:15 am
Putin goes into self-isolation due to COVID-19 among inner circle
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he will self-isolate “for a certain period,” after a member of his entourage tested positive for COVID-19.
Putin made the comment during a telephone call with Tajikistan’s president, while excusing himself from attending a regional summit there this week, the Kremlin said Tuesday in a readout of the call.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Russian leader is “completely healthy” and that the self-isolation will not affect his work. Putin will continue to participate in meetings via video but will not meet with people in person while he self-isolates.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Putin has effectively been in a form of isolation, with most people being required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days before meeting with him.
Putin hinted at the issue of COVID-19 among his inner circle on Monday but still went to several public events, including a meeting with Russian Paralympians, attending military exercises conducted in coordination with Belarus and a meeting with Syria’s president.
“Even in my entourage, problems are arising with this COVID. We need to sort out what is happening there really,” Putin said while meeting with the Paralympians. “I think I, myself, will soon have to go into quarantine. A lot of people are sick around [me].”
Putin’s self-isolation has prompted speculation that he may be using it as a convenient excuse to not attend the summit in ex-Soviet Tajikistan in person. Chinese President Xi Jingping has also dropped out of the summit.
Sep 13, 9:42 pm
Lee County schools superintendent reverses mask mandate
The superintendent of schools in Lee County, Florida, informed parents and staff Monday night that he is reversing the mask mandate he imposed for students and will now let parents opt their children out of wearing face coverings.
In a letter, the superintendent, Ken Savage, said that last week’s ruling by an appeals court allowing the state to continue sanctioning mask-requiring districts, led him to reverse course.
“Last Friday, the 1st District Court of Appeal instituted a stay, which means the Florida Department of Education can continue to enforce its interpretation of the parental opt out until this matter is ultimately resolved. Therefore, starting on Tuesday, September 14, the School District of Lee County will require face coverings, while allowing parents to opt-out without a medical exemption,” Savage said in statement.
Lee County was one of at least 13 districts in Florida defying Gov. Ron DeSantis and requiring masks for students unless they provided a doctor’s note exempting them from wearing one.
Savage implemented a mandate on Sept. 1, effective for 30 days, while the district tracked coronavirus-related numbers.
Sep 13, 6:22 pm
DeSantis threatens Florida cities that issue vaccine mandate with $5k fine
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is threatening to sue cities in the state that have issued vaccine mandates, for up to $5,000 per infraction.
The governor, who early Monday repeated falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccines, said hours later, at a press conference, that he’s willing to sue the cities because he does not want vaccine mandates to threaten Floridians’ jobs.
“We are not gonna let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate,” he said.
Meanwhile, over 11,215 patients remain hospitalized in Florida with COVID-19, according to the Florida Hospital Association.
As of Monday, 75% of the state’s eligible population has had one vaccine dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sep 13, 9:01 pm
Judge issues temporary order to allow mask mandates in Iowa schools
A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order that ordered Iowa officials to stop enforcing a law passed in May that prevents school boards from enforcing mask mandates.
Judge Robert Pratt said the parents who are suing Gov. Kim Reynolds and state and local education offices, have demonstrated that an “irreparable harm exists” if masks aren’t used and required.
The judge said he looked at data on the effectiveness of masks to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and agrees with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics on mask wearing in schools.
The order will stay in effect until the court issues an order for a preliminary injunction.
Thomas Ahart, the superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, called the judge’s decision “welcome news.”
“I will reinstate a mask mandate – as we had in place for most of last school year — for all students, staff and visitors to Des Moines Public Schools,” he said in a statement.
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