(Trends Wide) — The United States has reached another grim milestone in its fight against the devastating COVID-19 pandemic: 1 in 500 Americans have died of coronavirus since the first reported infection in the country.
As of Tuesday night, 663,913 people in the US had died of 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 figure that comes as US hospitals struggle to keep up with patient volumes and more children are dealing with the virus. Hoping to control the spread and prevent more unnecessary deaths, officials are implementing mandates for vaccinations in workplaces and wearing masks in schools.
They are battling a strong upward trend in cases and deaths: The US reports a more than 30% increase in average daily cases and nearly tripling average daily deaths over the past month, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. the US Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But with only 54% of the population fully vaccinated, the rate of people initiating vaccination each day has decreased over the past month.
Health experts have praised vaccines 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 January 1 to September 7, 97% of COVID-19 deaths in the state were among unvaccinated people, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of health said Tuesday.
Another layer of strong protection, experts say, is the use of face masks.
The CDC recommends that people, even those who are fully vaccinated, wear masks indoors in areas with significant or high community transmission. More than 99% of the population lives in a county with one of those designations.
In Ohio, children’s hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 and respiratory cases, Governor Mike DeWine said, encouraging schools to issue mask-wearing mandates as the state legislature told him it would revoke any mandates it issued.
“Reasonable people can disagree on many things, but we all agree that we should keep our children in the classroom so that they do not fall behind and so that their parents can go to work and not take time off to care for their children. children at home, “DeWine said.
The combination of masks and vaccines is the way to keep children in school, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Trends Wide on Tuesday.
“If you surround children with vaccinated people and have everyone wear a mask, you can get into a situation where children will be relatively safe at school,” Fauci told Trends Wide’s Jake Tapper.
Fight against vaccination mandates
In the effort to control the spread of the virus, many officials and experts have promoted vaccination orders, but others are opposed to such measures.
New York issued an order in August requiring all healthcare workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 27. But on Monday, 17 Catholic and Baptist medical professionals filed a federal complaint to prevent the state from enforcing the mandate, saying they oppose receiving 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 claim a religious exemption.
Because the mandate does not require healthcare workers to receive their first dose of the vaccine until September 27, the judge’s order states that the temporary restraining order “does not go into effect, as a practical matter, until that date. “.
A hearing is scheduled for September 28.
Following the ruling, New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s Press Secretary Hazel Crampton-Hays said in a statement that the governor is 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 the mandate that all city employees be vaccinated against the virus, nearly a quarter of the police force is seeking an exemption, according to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office. Those who are not vaccinated will need to show evidence of weekly testing and a negative covid result if they report regularly for work.
By Nov. 1, Nevada workers serving “vulnerable populations” must show proof of vaccination under a new emergency regulation passed Tuesday.
New hires must have at least one dose prior to the start date and must meet the required vaccination schedule to continue working. Workers can apply for a medical or religious exemption.
The booster shot meeting won’t be a piece of cake
On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet to discuss whether most Americans need a booster for their covid-19 vaccine.
Unlike other meetings to discuss the vaccine, this one, with requests from Pfizer to authorize a third dose for most people, will not be a piece of cake.
“This 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 licensing the vaccines made by Pfizer and its rival Moderna last December.
When the FDA’s Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biologics meets on Friday, it will be presented with grief data, some of which suggests there is a need for reinforcements, but other data suggests 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 booster shots.
On the other hand, an Israeli study found that over time, the power of vaccines to prevent people from getting seriously ill with COVID-19 decreased. Looking at illnesses in the second half of July, that study found that those who had received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in March were 70% more protected against serious illness than those who received the second dose in January.
President Joe Biden announced plans last month to begin administering booster doses next week. While she did not directly say if that date would be met, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday that she is hopeful about the schedule for administering the doses.
If the booster is approved, experts will still have to wait and see how much protection is added with the third dose.
“I hope that will sustain us for an extended period of time, but I don’t know right now,” Fauci said. “We will just have to give the booster shot and then follow people long enough to determine how long that protection will last.”
Trends Wide’s Ben Tinker and Deidre McPhillips, Liam Reilly, Kay Jones, Lauren Mascarenhas, Artemis Moshtaghian, Jenn Selva, Andy Rose, Elizabeth Cohen, and Virginia Langmaid contributed to this report.