As of Tuesday evening, 663,913 people in the United States died from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. According to the US Census Bureau, the US population in April 2020 was 331.4 million.
It’s a sobering toll as US hospitals struggle to keep up with patient volumes and more children grapple with the virus. Hoping to manage the spread and prevent more unnecessary deaths, authorities are implementing workplace vaccination and school masking mandates.
They are battling a strong upward trend in cases and deaths: the United States reports an increase of more than 30% in the average number of daily cases and a near-tripling in the average number of daily deaths over the past month, according to data from the United States Centers for Disease Control. and Prevention.
But with only 54% of the population fully vaccinated, the rate of people initiating vaccinations each day has declined over the past month.
Health experts hailed vaccinations as the best source of protection against the virus, noting that the majority of people hospitalized and killed by COVID-19 are not vaccinated. In Pennsylvania, from Jan. 1 to Sept. 7, 97 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the state were unvaccinated, the Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Health said Tuesday.
Another strong layer of protection, experts say, is masking.
The CDC recommends that people – even those fully vaccinated – wear masks indoors in areas of high or high community transmission. Over 99% of the population lives in a county with one of these designations.
In Ohio, where children’s hospitals are inundated with COVID-19 and respiratory cases, Governor Mike DeWine encourages schools to issue mask warrants as the state legislature told him it would cancel any warrant that he issued.
“Reasonable people can disagree on a lot of things, but we can all agree that we need to keep our kids in class so they don’t fall behind and their parents can go to work and not take the time to watch. their kids at home, ”DeWine said.
The combination of masks and vaccinations is the way to keep children in school, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Tuesday.
“If you surround the children with vaccinated people and everyone wears a mask, you can achieve a situation where the children will be relatively safe in school,” Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
The fight braces for vaccine mandates
In an attempt to manage the spread of the virus, many officials and experts have promoted vaccination mandates – but others oppose such measures.
New York issued an order in August requiring all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 27. But on Monday, 17 Catholic and Baptist health professionals filed a federal lawsuit aimed at preventing the state from implementing the warrant, saying they objected to getting the vaccine on religious grounds.
On Tuesday, a federal judge issued a restraining order temporarily suspending New York State from enforcing its vaccine mandate if healthcare workers demanded a religious exemption.
Since the warrant does not require healthcare workers to receive their first dose of vaccine by September 27, the judge’s order says the temporary restraining order “does not, in practice, come into effect. in force before that date “.
A hearing is scheduled for September 28.
After the decision, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s press secretary Hazel Crampton-Hays said in a statement the governor was considering all legal options.
“Governor Hochul is doing everything in her power to protect New Yorkers and combat the Delta variant by increasing vaccination rates statewide,” Crampton-Hays said.
In Los Angeles, despite a mandate that all city employees be vaccinated against the virus, nearly a quarter of police forces are asking for an exemption, according to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office. Those who are not vaccinated will need to show evidence of weekly tests and a negative COVID result if they report to work regularly.
By Nov. 1, Nevada workers serving “vulnerable populations” must show proof of vaccination under new emergency regulations adopted on Tuesday.
New recruits must have received at least one dose by their start date and must adhere to the immunization schedule required to remain in post. Workers are allowed to request medical or religious dispensation.
The callback meeting won’t be a slam dunk
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet on Friday to determine if most Americans need a booster of their COVID-19 vaccine.
Unlike other meetings to discuss the vaccine, this one, along with Pfizer’s demands to allow a third dose for most people, will not be a slam dunk.
“It will be much more complicated than in December,” said Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University. The FDA committee was quick to recommend authorization for vaccines made by Pfizer and rival Moderna last December.
When the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biologics Advisory Committee meets on Friday, it will be presented with dueling data, with some suggesting there is a need for boosters, but other evidence suggesting there is a need for boosters. there is no such need.
Three separate articles published last week in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report suggest we don’t need boosters.
On the flip side, an Israeli study found that over time, the power of vaccines to keep people from getting very sick with COVID-19 was diminishing. Looking at illnesses in the second half of July, this study found that those who received their second dose of Pfizer vaccine in March were 70% more protected against serious illness than those who received the second dose in January.
President Joe Biden announced last month his intention to start giving booster doses next week. While not directly saying whether that date would be met, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday she was hopeful about the timing for the administration of the doses.
If the booster is approved, experts will still have to wait and see what protection is added by the third dose.
“I hope this will support us for an extended period of time, but I don’t know at the moment,” Fauci said. “We’re just going to have to do the boost and then follow people long enough to determine how durable that protection is.”