The United States surpassed 700,000 coronavirus deaths Friday night, half of them in the last nine months alone as the delta variant drove a brutal surge across the weary nation.
The U.S. reached 600,000 deaths in June, when daily deaths had dropped to under 400 amid hope that the crisis, at least at home, was near an end. Vaccines were widely available to all American adults and teens. For free.
Three months and 100,000 deaths later, 2,000 Americans are dying per day. And millions have lost interest in the fight. Football stadiums are packed with maskless fans, some in states that ban vaccination and mask requirements.
Reaching 800,000 deaths isn’t a longshot, and the specter of even 1 million deaths looms. Winter will bring crows to indoor venues; people will socialize inside. All that increases transmission risk, said Ogbonnaya Omenka, an associate professor and public health specialist at Butler University in Indianapolis.
“Given the current rates and expectations, the possibility of reaching 800,000 by the end of 2021 is not unreasonable,” Omenka said. And beyond that, “because the ending depends mainly on human preferences, we can hit that (1 million) number.”
– John Bacon
Also in the news:
►Grocery shopping has gotten more expensive. In August, grocery store prices crept up another 0.4%, leaving them 3% above their level a year earlier and 7.6% higher than they were two years ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic upended the U.S. economy.
►A group of teachers asked the Supreme Court on Thursday for an emergency injunction blocking implementation of New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public schools staff.
►Almost half of parents with children between ages 12 and 17 said their child has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found. About one third of surveyed parents with children between ages 5 and 11 said they would vaccinate their child “right away” once a vaccine is authorized for them.
►Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb renewed the state’s public health emergency order for the 19th time on Thursday.
►Health officials in Michigan’s Livingston County are warning of a possible COVID-19 outbreak after a Luke Bryant concert earlier this month. Officials say 27 people who attended the country music concert have tested positive since the show.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 43.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 700,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 234.2 million cases and 4.79 million deaths. More than 184 million Americans — 55% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘What we’re reading: As Qamil Wright struggled with intense coronavirus symptoms throughout August, she briefly questioned if she would ever perform again.
Young children could be able to get vaccinated before Halloween
A critical federal advisory committee meeting has been scheduled, and its timing suggests kids age 5 to 11 could start getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in time for Halloween.
In the coming weeks the FDA is expected to review and then authorize Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for children ages 5-11 at one-third the dose provided to adolescents and adults. On Friday, it scheduled a meeting of the independent committee, which advises the Food and Drug Administration on vaccine and drug approvals, for Oct. 26.
Pfizer-BioNTech submitted its clinical trial data to the FDA on Wednesday. The company says the data shows their vaccine is safe and effective in children ages 5 to 11 at one-third the dose used in adolescents and adults.
If FDA authorizes the use, and if a second federal advisory committee also agrees, the vaccine could become available to children within days of the final meeting.
“We know from our vast experience with other pediatric vaccines that children are not small adults,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement. The FDA will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of clinical trial data submitted in support of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for use in children, she said.
– Elizabeth Weise
The Supreme Court on Friday declined to block New York City’s requirement that public school teachers receive COVID-19 vaccinations, marking the second time the nation’s high court has declined to wade into the issue.
A group of teachers in New York had asked the Supreme Court for an emergency injunction to block implementation of the mandate, which required them to receive a shot by 5 p.m. Friday or face suspension without pay when schools open Monday.
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied the emergency request without comment. A federal appeals court earlier in the week permitted New York’s mandate. Read more here.
– John Fritze
California will require eligible students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend school in-person, but only after the Food and Drug Administration fully approves the vaccine for more school-aged children, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.
“I believe we’ll be the first state in America to move forward with this mandate and requirement,” Newsom said from a school in San Francisco.
He added that student vaccine mandates will help keep more kids safe and learning continuously in classrooms. The vaccine mandate would be rolled out in two phases, pending FDA approval: The first for students in middle and high school, and then for elementary school students.
Newsom said he expects the mandate to be in place for by July 1 of next year for students in 7th through 12th grade. Read more here.
– Erin Richards
An experimental drug successfully treated half of COVID-19 infections, preventing cases from progressing to hospitalization, according to a study released Friday. The news offers new hope that the virus could soon be treated by a pill.
The antiviral drug molnupiravir, made by Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics of Miami, was given to 385 people within five days of their diagnosis with COVID-19. Another 377 volunteers who tested positive were given a placebo. All participants had at least one risk factor for severe COVID-19.
Of the participants who received molnupiravir, 7.3% were hospitalized during the monthlong trial. In the placebo group, 14% were hospitalized and 8 of them died.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the data “impressive.”
– Karen Weintraub
Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh tested positive for COVID-19 just days before the justices were set to return to the courtroom to begin a new term, the court announced Friday.
Kavanaugh, who along with the other Supreme Court justices has been vaccinated, is not experiencing symptoms, the court said. He was tested Thursday ahead of an investiture ceremony for Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett set for Friday.
– John Fritze
With 56,662 reported deaths by COVID-19, the United States’ September was more than twice as deadly as its August. It was far deadlier than June, July and August combined.
America fared slightly better on cases, with 4.14 million cases reported compared to August’s 4.28 million. The numbers made September America’s fifth deadliest month of the entire pandemic, and the fifth-worst for cases.
The deaths were worse in the South and America’s outlying territories. Florida reported 10,448 deaths and Texas reported 8,159 deaths, each about twice as many as August’s. Florida’s deaths were about 90% worse than the previous month on record.
Hawaii and Alaska also set records and saw about a 58% worse death toll than their previous worst months.
– Mike Stucka
The NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball all have required certain key employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, especially those who might come into close contact with their most important assets – the players. But the one big exception: the players themselves.
Players unions have opposed or avoided such vaccine mandates in what has become a delicate subject in pro sports.
Some, including former NBA Players Association executive director Charles Grantham, say players union leadership is failing its members if it isn’t pushing for vaccine mandates.
Others see it differently. In these cases, vaccine mandates for players would have to be collectively bargained between league management and the players unions. Players unions have fought to win other rights and benefits in collective bargaining, and they generally don’t want to give an inch for a shot if it means league management might start to think it can take a mile later for something else. Read more here.
– Brent Schrotenboer
Domestic flyers within the United States may soon need to prove they’re likely COVID-free if a proposed bill Wednesday becomes law.
The U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act, introduced by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would require all U.S. passengers to be fully vaccinated, fully recovered or test negative for the coronavirus before boarding a domestic flight.
“We know that air travel during the 2020 holiday season contributed to last winter’s devastating COVID-19 surge,” Feinstein said in a Wednesday news release. “We simply cannot allow that to happen again.”
While testing and or showing proof of vaccination is common for international air travel, domestic U.S. air passengers do not go through the same level of scrutiny.
The bill could face an uphill battle to becoming law despite Democrats, many of whom are behind COVID-19 related mandates, holding a slight majority in Congress.
– Bailey Schulz, Dawn Gilbertson and Christal Hayes