Fauci says FDA could give full approval to vaccines this month; Florida vaccinations on rise: Live COVID updates – USA TODAY

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Full approval for vaccines that protect against COVID-19 may not be far away, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.

Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, cautioned that while the Food and Drug Administration solely conducts its own review process, he “hopes” that full approval will come by the end of the month. 

“No one wants to get ahead of the FDA because they’re an independent group that makes their own decisions,” Fauci said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “But I hope, I don’t predict, but I hope that it’s in the next few weeks. I hope that it’s in the month of August.”

The vaccines have been given emergency use authorizations. Full approval could spur new vaccine mandates in private businesses, a move public health officials praise. Fauci warned that if COVID is not controlled another variant might emerge that is even more problematic than the delta variant now racing across the nation. A fully approved vaccine would lead to “the empowerment of local enterprises” to institute vaccine mandates, he predicted.

Over the past several weeks, an increasing number of private businesses and institutions have begun mandating vaccines as a condition of employment or enrollment in educational programs. Walmart and Target recently began requiring masks for employees – but not customers – in areas where virus transmission rates are high. McDonald’s is requiring masks for employees and customers.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, told ABC News’ “This Week” that he endorses seeing “businesses deciding that they’re going to mandate (vaccines) for their employees,” adding that “we ought to use every public health tool that we can when people are dying.”

– Matthew Brown

Also in the news:

►Moviegoing continues to be battered by the pandemic. The latest casualty: James Gunn’s critically acclaimed “The Suicide Squad” disappointed with $26.5 million in estimated opening weekend ticket sales.

►The University of Virginia is requiring everyone on campus to wear face masks indoors starting Monday. Virginia Tech made a similar announcement last week.

►Saudi Arabia says it is giving half a million riyals – $133,000 – to the family of each medical worker who died fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the kingdom.. 

►Israelis are rushing to get a third vaccine shot as protection from the surging delta variant. Over 420,000 Israelis older than 60 have received a booster shot, more than a third of the total targeted population. Israel is seeing a rising number of hospitalizations.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 35.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 616,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 202.4 million cases and 4.2 million deaths. More than 166.2 million Americans – 50.1% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Will COVID vaccine booster shots be needed? It’s likely, experts say, but the immunocompromised should be prioritized. Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Hospitalizations rising in Florida – but so are vaccinations

COVID cases are setting records in Florida and hospitalizations have doubled in the last two weeks, but there is a silver lining for the state. The number of people getting first or second vaccine shots is also rising: More than 380,000 people got them in the last seven-day period, compared with 334,000 who the previous week. Justin Senior is CEO of the Florida Safety Net Hospital Alliance, which represents some of the largest hospitals in the state caring for high numbers of low-income patients. He says news of the alarming numbers are having an impact on at least some of the unvaccinated.

“People are reacting to this by going out and getting the vaccine, and that really has to be the reaction,” he said.

Daily new infections reach 100,000

The new daily average for COVID-19 infections in the United States has climbed back to about 100,000 as of Saturday, according to CDC data. After the virus first began to spread in the U.S., it took until November 2020 to reach 100,000 new cases per day, and the country topped out at about 250,000 new cases per day in January 2021 before vaccines were widespread and cases began to decline.

Now, the delta variant, which spreads more easily than the original strains of the virus present in the U.S., is making up about 80% of new cases. Experts are urging the unvaccinated to get a shot in order to curb the rising caseload. 

“Our models show that if we don’t (vaccinate people), we could be up to several hundred thousand cases a day, similar to our surge in early January,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told CNN. 

Anger aimed at unvaccinated won’t help, experts say

Unvaccinated Americans are rapidly becoming sick from the ultra-contagious delta variant. And they’re often getting extremely ill: More than 97% of people being hospitalized for COVID-19 in mid-July were unvaccinated, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a tragically predictable outcome, leading some politicians and pundits to unload their frustrations on the unvaccinated. But insults, anger and dismissiveness are widely considered a terrible way to convince people to get vaccinated.

“If you’re going to call me an idiot … that isn’t encouragement,” Stephanie McClure, an assistant professor of biocultural medical anthropology at the University of Alabama, told USA TODAY. “You usually don’t get anywhere by attacking people.”

Joel Shannon

Canada to allow vaccinated Americans in starting Monday

Canadian businesses near the border have spent weeks preparing for Monday, when Canada will start allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents to cross the border. But the expected uptick in travel comes as businesses across North America face staffing shortages and supply chain issues. That could mean travelers to Canada will have a harder time getting certain reservations or face longer wait times, according to some business owners.

“People are just being snapped up left, right and center. I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Anna Pierce, vice president and general manager of Niagara Helicopters in Ontario.

Bailey Schulz

Joe Biden is continuing COVID-era student loan payment freeze

President Joe Biden’s administration said it will extend the pause on federal student loan payments one last time, until Jan. 31, for a total of almost two years’ reprieve for borrowers.

“This final extension will give students and borrowers the time they need to plan for restart and ensure a smooth pathway back to repayment,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said Friday in a statement.

Since the pandemic first struck, millions of student loan borrowers have been spared the obligation of paying on their accounts. The payment freeze had been scheduled to expire Sept. 30. It also included a 0% interest rate on loans, and the government had directed loan servicers to pause collection attempts.

– Chris Quintana and Lindsay Schnell

Judge rejects unvaccinated Capitol riot convict’s plea for freedom

A Washington state man who pleaded guilty Friday to assaulting an officer during the Capitol riots was jailed pending sentencing despite defense arguments that the unvaccinated man was at risk of the resurgent coronavirus. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered Devlyn Thompson, who struck an officer with a baton, to be detained, ruling that the potential coronavirus risk did not constitute “an exceptional circumstance” allowing for his release. Attorney Thomas Durkin said Thompson, who also has autism, has not been vaccinated because of “concerns over severe allergic reactions” related to an ingredient in the vaccines.

Thompson had been free since being charged last month, and prosecutors acknowledged that he has been cooperating in the investigation. But the government maintained that the violent nature of his conviction required that he be jailed pending his sentencing next month.

– Kevin Johnson

Contributing: The Associated Press