America’s recovery from the delta variant surge dropped the pace of new infections to under 500,000 per week in late October. Now cases are above 600,000 per week and are rising in 34 states, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.
The numbers are not close to January, when weekly infections peaked at 1.7 million. But the recovery from one wave has reversed into another wave, more than six months after free, safe, effective vaccines became widely available to all adults. The United States is again reporting an average of more than 1 case every second.
Unvaccinated people remain at highest risk for infection. The good news: 80% of Americans 12 and over have had at least one coronavirus vaccine shot.
Melissa Nolan, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, told USA TODAY that seasonal flu infection increases risk in winter.
“Sadly, this virus will never leave our society,” Nolan said. “To help mitigate spread as we go into this next winter respiratory disease season, it is vitally important that Americans get both their booster shot and their flu shot.”
Also in the news:
►A global study has shown that the single most effective public health measure at tackling and preventing COVID-19 is mask-wearing, which reduces incidence by 53%.
► New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she believes being fully vaccinated includes boosters, eschewing federal guidance which currently defines it as people with two doses of Moderna or Pfizer or one does of Johnson & Johnson.
►The Department of Defense will send medical teams to two major Minnesota hospitals to relieve doctors and nurses who are swamped by a growing wave of COVID-19 patients, Gov. Tim Walz announced.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 47 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 767,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 255 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 195 million Americans – 58% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘What we’re reading: The pandemic has spurred many workers to reevaluate their lives and the role work plays in them, leading some to set fresh boundaries, find new jobs or maintain the side hustles that got them through the shutdowns and layoffs. Some workers shared their stories with USA TODAY.
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With Republicans touting their defense of personal freedom and Democrats condemning the special session called by Gov. Ron DeSantis as a political stunt, Florida lawmakers have approved measures aimed at blocking any kind of vaccine or test mandates. The Republican-controlled state legislature finished work Wednesday night on a package of bills that both defy the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test requirements for larger businesses and stop local governments from enacting such standards.
DeSantis called lawmakers back to the Capitol primarily to fight the White House in what Democrats condemned as a political play to enhance the governor’s national image and affirm his support among Floridians who refuse vaccinations. Republicans disagreed.
“Today we’re doing something to protect people’s rights,” said Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach. “We are a legislature and governor who believe in individual rights, including liberty. It’s not a charade. It’s not a stunt.”
– John Kennedy, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Gov. Bill Lee released a video trying to persuade officers to join the Tennessee Highway Patrol because it doesn’t have any coronavirus related mandates. During the 71-second video released to YouTube, Lee said the Tennessee Highway Patrol “won’t get between you and your doctor,” adding THP is offering to cover all moving expenses for any officer who leaves another state to join its force. Earlier this month, Lee signed a new state law banning vaccine mandates and curtailing when mask mandates can be enacted.
Lee specifically mentioned New York City and Los Angeles in the video. New York requires police officers and sheriff deputies to be vaccinated against COVID-19; Los Angeles does provide a testing option.
– Adam Friedman, Nashville Tennessean
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize as soon as today a COVID-19 booster shot for anyone who wants one and is at least six months past their initial vaccination. Vaccines do a great job of preventing hospitalization and death, but their protection against infection starts to fade at about six months – even in young, healthy people. That’s why booster doses may be recommended for all adults – or at least those over 30. Ted Ross, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Georgia in Athens, who recently got a booster shot himself, said the U.S. government bought so many doses so long ago that many will go to waste if they aren’t used soon.
“The thing boosters might help with is to help dampen the surge or increase we’re going to see this winter,” as people travel and spend more time indoors, Ross said. “That peak or that slope will hopefully not be as steep.”
– Karen Weintraub
Vaccine-or-test work rules are proving to be a costly compromise for governments. Virginia’s Department of Corrections requires unvaccinated employees who work in crowded settings to get tested every three days, and the rest, every seven days. It cost the department nearly $7,000 to test 442 staff members over two days in October. The state is tapping federal COVID relief funds to pay for the testing.
Securing scarce testing supplies also can be difficult. The Virginia State Police had to wait more than a month to start a testing program in part because of delays in delivery.
Some experts say the option just isn’t as good as effective as mandating vaccine anyway.
“A vaccine-and/or-testing policy is second best,” said Jeffrey Levi, a professor of health management and policy at George Washington University. “A testing policy catches a problem early. It doesn’t prevent a problem, whereas the vaccination requirement helps to prevent it.”
– Amanda Michelle Gomez and Phil Galewitz, KHN
Nearly 100 Maryland elementary school students received an incorrect dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a clinic last week, health officials said. Officials were notifying the parents of 98 students at South Lake Elementary School by telephone that doses of vaccine administered at a clinic at the Montgomery Village school on Nov. 10 were diluted more than recommended, the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release. Students were given additional doses at a clinic Wednesday. Acting county Health Officer Dr. James Bridgers said staff already received more training on children’s doses.
Over the weekend, a health clinic in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Antioch gave 14 children under age 12 the wrong dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, raising a furor among parents.
Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press