COVID-19 live updates: Three states account for about one-third of last week’s deaths

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(NEW YORK) — The United States has been facing a COVID-19 surge as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread.

More than 677,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.7 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. The average number of daily deaths in the U.S. has risen about 20% in the last week, according to data from the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. is continuing to sink on the list of global vaccination rates, currently ranking No. 45, according to data compiled by the Financial Times. Just 64% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Sep 22, 7:48 pm
FDA authorizes Pfizer booster dose for those who are 65 and up, high-risk

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for people who are 65 and older or at high risk of severe COVID-19, the agency announced Wednesday.

The dose is authorized to be administered at least six months after the second shot. High-risk recipients must be at least 18 years old.

The announcement comes days after a similar recommendation from FDA advisers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory board is scheduled to vote on booster recommendations Thursday.

Sep 22, 6:04 pm
Florida letting parents choose whether to quarantine asymptomatic, close-contact children

The Florida Department of Health issued an emergency rule Wednesday that lets parents choose whether to quarantine their children if they are deemed a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

In such cases, parents can let their children “attend school, school-sponsored activities, or be on school property, without restrictions or disparate treatment, so long as the student remains asymptomatic,” the emergency rule stated.

The move is the state’s latest to empower parents when it comes to coronavirus measures in schools. In July, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order giving parents the choice of whether to send their kids to school with masks, setting off an intense back-and-forth between the state and districts that mandated masks in the weeks since.

DeSantis touted the new “symptoms-based approach” during a press briefing Wednesday.

“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging to their educational advancement,” he said. “It’s also incredibly disruptive for families all throughout the state of Florida.”

At least one superintendent in Florida has spoken out against the new quarantine rule.

“I find it ironic that the new state rule begins with the phrase ‘Because of an increase in COVID-19 infections, largely due to the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant,'” Carlee Simon, superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, said in a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday.

“In fact, this rule is likely to promote the spread of COVID-19 by preventing schools from implementing the common-sense masking and quarantine policies recommended by the vast majority of health care professionals, including those here in Alachua County,” she added.

-ABC News’ Will McDuffie

Sep 22, 4:07 pm

Booster shots appear safe from preliminary data

At the ongoing CDC advisory committee meeting, Dr. Anne Hause presented preliminary data showing a low rate of serious adverse events among the over 2 million people who have already received booster doses.

Nearly all adverse events reported were not serious (95%) for both Pfizer and Moderna third doses, according to data collected from the national reporting system, which is not a formal, controlled study.

Dr. Sara Oliver of the CDC called booster effectiveness and safety data “reassuring,” adding, “but many unknowns remain.

Committee member Dr. Sarah Long urged her colleagues to stay focused on how well vaccines specifically prevent hospitalizations and severe illness.

“I would just encourage us not to lump infection and hospitalization,” Long said. “I don’t think there’s any hope that vaccines such as the ones we have will prevent infection, after the first maybe couple weeks that you have those extraordinary immediate responses.”

Sep 22, 3:40 pm

Nevada county declares health misinformation a public health crisis

Nevada’s Clark County, home to Las Vegas, is declaring health misinformation a public health crisis following a 5-2 vote from the Clark County Commission.

This follows the same move in the California counties of San Diego, Sacramento and Monterey in an effort to tackle misinformation.

When the proposal was introduced in Clark County, 83.7% of cases and 96.7% of hospitalizations were among people who were not fully vaccinated.

Sep 22, 3:16 pm

71M eligible Americans still haven’t gotten a shot, White House estimates

About 71 million Americans who are eligible for the vaccine have still not gotten a shot, said White House COVID-19 data director Cyrus Shahpar.

About one month ago, the White House said about 82 million eligible Americans didn’t have the shot.

Wednesday just in: +713K doses reported administered over yesterday’s total, including 290K newly vaccinated and 62K additional doses. Every day we chip away at the unvaccinated. Now 71M are eligible but haven’t yet gotten a dose. Let’s try to reach them. 🇺🇸

— Cyrus Shahpar (@cyrusshahpar46) September 22, 2021

Sep 22, 2:17 pm

Jesse Jackson back home after COVID battle

Rev. Jesse Jackson was released from rehab Wednesday after a battle against COVID-19.

The civil rights leader, who has Parkinson’s Disease, and his wife, Jacqueline Jackson, were both hospitalized with COVID-19 on Aug. 21.

Jacqueline Jackson was discharged on Sept. 4 and Jesse Jackson was transferred to a rehab facility for physical therapy for Parkinson’s.

“Our father continues to stress the importance of being vaccinated, wearing masks and obeying the COVID-19 protocols including social distancing and the washing of the hands,” their son, Jonathan Jackson, said in a statement.

Sep 22, 1:49 pm

Penn State suspends 117 students for missing tests

Penn State said it’s placed 117 students on interim suspension for missing at least three weeks of the university’s weekly COVID-19 testing requirement. (Weekly testing is required for students who aren’t fully vaccinated.)

Suspended students can’t go to class or campus and can’t participate in any school activities, including football games, the university said.

“The last thing we want is to suspend them,” said Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs. “I’m sorry these students did not follow our repeated admonitions and warnings, and I hope they will make the correction necessary. Others should not repeat their mistake.”

Sep 22, 12:32 pm

Biden announces 500 million Pfizer vaccine global donation

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. is donating another 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to low- and middle- income countries around the globe.

“For every one shot we’ve administered to date in America, we have now committed to do three shots to the rest of the world,” Biden said Wednesday.

Biden also announced the creation of a new U.S.-EU partnership focused on expanding global vaccination. He noted that the U.S. is working to ramp up manufacturing around the world.

“For example, our quad partnership with India, Japan and Australia is on track to help produce at least 1 billion vaccine doses in India to boost the global supply by the end of 2022. And we’re providing financing and helping to strengthen manufacturing in South Africa and produce more than 500 million doses of J&J in Africa, for Africa, next year,” Biden said.

Biden announced an initial 500-million-dose commitment in June. The U.S. has so far sent more than 160 million doses to 100 other countries, Biden said.

The latest announcement comes as the World Health Organization has criticized the U.S. for pushing booster doses while much of the world has yet to receive a single shot.

Sep 22, 11:41 am

NYC cracking down on masks on subway

In New York City, officials say they’ll be cracking down on mask enforcement on the subway, buses and commuter trains.

Compliance was near-universal earlier in the pandemic when ridership was way down. Now, subway compliance is at about 87%, according to MTA chief safety officer Patrick Warren.

“We want to move up to 100%,” Warren said at a Wednesday news conference.

In recent months the MTA has issued only 41 summonses for noncompliance with mask requirements.

“We’re going to start handing out summonses more frequently,” Warren said.

Sep 22, 10:06 am
States with low vaccination rates have much higher new death toll

With more than 1,500 coronavirus-related deaths reported each day, the U.S. is now averaging the highest number of daily deaths in nearly seven months.

States with the lowest vaccination numbers are experiencing weekly death rates nearly four times higher than the most vaccinated states, according to an ABC News analysis of federal data.

The 10 states with the lowest vaccination rates, where under 45% of residents are fully vaccinated, averaged more than 7.39 deaths per capita each day. The 10 states with the highest vaccination rates, where more than 62% of residents are vaccinated, averaged about 1.89 deaths per capita.

The lowest vaccination rates are in West Virginia, Wyoming, Idaho, Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas. The highest vaccination rates are in Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Washington and New Mexico.

Sep 22, 8:34 am
In hard-hit Alabama patients are ‘dying at an alarming rate’

Alabama is experiencing a near record-breaking surge in COVID-19 deaths.

“We are seeing a decrease in the number of patients that are in the hospital, but unfortunately, it’s not because all of them are getting better and going home to their families… these patients are dying,” Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, chief of hospital medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, told ABC News Tuesday.

In July, there were only six COVID-19 patients in the UAB hospital, but within four weeks, the number skyrocketed over 100, according to Kennedy.

This latest wave of patients is much younger, primarily consisting of unvaccinated patients, Kennedy said.

“These patients are as sick if not sicker than elderly patients. They’re staying in the hospital longer, and they’re dying at an alarming rate,” Kennedy said. “It’s unlike anything that I’ve seen.”

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Friday, “2020 is going to be the first year that we know of in the history of our state where we actually had more deaths than births — our state literally shrunk in 2020.”

Across Alabama, more than 97% of ICU beds are in use, according to federal data.

Just 41.6% of the state’s total population is fully vaccinated.

Sep 22, 7:01 am
UK and South Korea agree to swap COVID-19 vaccine doses

The United Kingdom and South Korea have agreed to share COVID-19 vaccine doses to mutually support the rollout of shots in each nation.

The U.K. will send 1 million of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to South Korea to enhance their vaccination program, with the first batch of shots expected to arrive in the coming weeks. South Korea will return the same volume by the end of the year, as the U.K. presses ahead with its vaccine rollout and booster shot program over the winter months, according to a press release from the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care.

The swapping initiative, similar to the arrangement between the U.K. and Australia, will help South Korea toward hitting its target of administering a second dose to 70% of its population by the end of October.

“The Republic of Korea is a strategic partner for the UK and the sharing of one million vaccines benefits both countries as we help build resistance against COVID-19 and save lives,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement Tuesday.

The deal will have no impact on the U.K.’s ongoing vaccine rollout or booster shot program, nor will it effect the doses the country has already pledged to give to the global vaccine-sharing initiative COVAX. Almost 90% of people over the age of 16 in the U.K. are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are not immediately required in the U.K. due to robust supply management, according to the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care.

Sep 22, 6:20 am
Brazil’s health minister tests positive for COVID-19 at UNGA

Brazilian Minister of Health Marcelo Queiroga said Tuesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19 while in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly.

Queiroga, who accompanied Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the event, announced his diagnosis on Twitter and said he will quarantine.

Sep 22, 6:06 am
US to donate another 500 million vaccine doses abroad: White House

The Biden administration is ordering another 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to donate to countries around the globe, the White House said.

President Joe Biden is set to announce the commitment at a virtual COVID-19 summit on Wednesday, held amid the United Nations General Assembly.

Biden is also poised to call on world leaders, the nonprofit sector and private industry to commit to certain goals, including a 70% global vaccination rate by the end of 2022, during his remarks at the summit, a senior White House administration official told reporters Tuesday.
MORE: Millions of vaccine doses shipped globally, Biden announced, as NGOs call for more

Biden announced an initial 500-million-dose commitment in June. This second purchase, which the president had teased during his remarks to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, would bring the administration’s total donated doses to 1.1 billion.

The new batch of doses will be purchased from Pfizer at a not-for-profit price, manufactured in the U.S. and begin shipping out in January 2022, the White House official said.

The U.S. has so far sent more than 160 million doses to 100 other countries, Biden said.

The latest announcement comes as the World Health Organization has criticized the U.S. for pushing booster doses while much of the world has yet to receive a single shot.

Sep 21, 11:12 pm
US Department of Education investigating Texas schools over mask mandate ban

In a letter to the Texas Education Agency, the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday said it is beginning an investigation into Texas schools’ ban on mask mandates, and how that could potential be an infringement of students’ civil rights.

The investigation will focus on “whether, in light of this policy, students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are prevented from safely returning to in-person education, in violation of Federal law,” the letter states.

The Department of Education’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights, Suzanne Goldberg, laid out the process of the investigation in the letter, but also made clear that it could be resolved at any time if masks in schools are reinstated.

“OCR’s Case Processing Manual provides several ways for this investigation to be resolved, including an option to reach a voluntary resolution agreement prior to the completion of an investigation,” the letter reads. “If TEA expresses an interest in resolving the investigation in this way and OCR determines this form of resolution is appropriate based on the investigation, we will follow the steps set out in Section 302 of the Case Processing Manual.”

Sep 21, 3:35 pm
Texas, Georgia, Alabama account for about one-third of last week’s deaths

The U.S. daily death average has now climbed over 1,400 despite skewed reporting from the weekend, according to federal data.

About one-third of the nearly 9,500 virus-related deaths in the last week came from just three states: Texas, Georgia and Alabama.

About 90,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, compared to more than 100,000 patients about three weeks ago, according to federal data. But in the past month, at least 10 states — Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia — have reported record hospitalizations.

West Virginia is leading the nation in cases, followed by Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Kentucky, North Dakota, Tennessee and Ohio, according to federal data.

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