The delta variant accounts for more than 98.8% of American cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
The report, which compiles data up to Aug. 14, was released as the United States hit 37 million cases since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data. August has been the third-worst month for coronavirus cases in 2021. Only January and February reported more cases throughout the entire month.
New Mexico's leading health official said state hospitals were a month or less away from revisiting crisis standards of care Tuesday.
One of the leaders of the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 task force warned Tuesday that area hospitals could soon begin triaging patient care "based on their probability of survival."
Cases in Riverside County, California, have climbed to numbers not seen since February, and four Oklahoma health systems begged Oklahomans to get vaccinated and wear masks as hospitals are being crushed under the strain.
“Oklahoma, we really need to stop debating this vaccine and start fighting the virus and its variants,” said Dr. Julie Watson, chief medical officer for Integris Health. “The virus is what is undermining our way of life, robbing mothers and fathers of health and of a future with their children — taking years away from those who deserve to live their lives to the fullest.”
Meanwhile, every state has 50% or more of those eligible for the vaccine, ages 12 and up, with at least one dose, with some states exceeding 80%, said White House COVID-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar.
But the US needs "high vaccination coverage everywhere to be fully protected," he said on Twitter.
Biden administration health officials are expected to recommend COVID-19 booster shots as soon as this week for all Americans who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, regardless of age, eight months after they received the second shot, a source familiar with the plans confirmed to USA TODAY.
Also in the news:
► In the latest political volley in Arizona over COVID-19 mask mandates, Gov. Doug Ducey is creating two grant programs that would provide funds to families and school districts that reject mask mandates.
►New Zealand’s first coronavirus outbreak in six months has grown to seven people. The announcement Wednesday came a day after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern imposed a strict lockdown after the first case was reported. The lockdown is for at least three days for the country and at least a week for the cities of Auckland and Coromandel.
►Britain has approved the Moderna vaccine for children aged 12 to 17, ahead of school reopenings.
►Air, train and bus travelers will need to mask up the rest of the year and into mid-January. The Biden administration is expected to extend the requirement yet again, through Jan. 18, 2022, according to multiple reports.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has had more than 37 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 623,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 208.5 million cases and 4.38 million deaths. More than 168.8 million Americans — 50.9% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we're reading: As more and more unvaccinated people lose loved ones to COVID-19, a chorus of regrets has started to resonate. Experts say those voices could persuade fence-sitters to get vaccinated – a crucial step toward ending the pandemic. Read more here.
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.
Francis and six Catholic cardinals and archbishops made a public service announcement released Wednesday in which they urged people to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
"Thanks to God's grace and the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19," the Pope said in the video, seated at a desk in the Vatican and wearing a white cassock and skull cap.
"Getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable," he said. "I pray to God that each of us can make his or her own small gesture of love."
- Elizabeth Weise
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has banned mask requirements at schools despite opposition from several school districts, has contracted the coronavirus. Abbott's office said the Republican governor, who is fully vaccinated and gets tested daily, had a positive result Tuesday.
"Governor Abbott is in constant communication with his staff, agency heads, and government officials to ensure that state government continues to operate smoothly and efficiently,'' Communications Director Mark Miner said in a statement. "The Governor will isolate in the Governor's Mansion and continue to test daily. Governor Abbott is receiving Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment.''
That's the same treatment that helped former President Donald Trump overcome his battle with COVID-19 last October.
Abbott's stance regarding virus mitigation measures has drawn the ire of parent and activist groups, and one of the latter, Marked by COVID, released a statement Tuesday that said:
"Our Governor has been working to keep masks out of schools harder than he has worked to keep guns out of schools. In his relentless and cruel pursuit of controlling mandates in the name of bodily autonomy he himself contracted COVID and is using every resource available to HIM, but refuses to allow local governments to use their own resources to help save lives.''
On Monday, Abbott spoke at an event in Collin County, and photos on social media show him mingling with the mostly unmasked crowd to shake hands and pose for pictures. Miner said Abbott, 63, is "in good health, and currently experiencing no symptoms.''
A top Mississippi health official said Tuesday that about 20,000 students are currently quarantined for COVID-19 exposure in the state — 4.5% of the public school population, according to the state's latest enrollment figures.
The data comes from reports made by 800 schools to the Mississippi State Department of Health last week, Mississippi State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said during a call with state pediatricians.
“These disruptions... are going to continue for a while," Byers said to members of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
At least five Mississippi children have died since the coronavirus pandemic was first reported in the state in March 2020.
The school outbreaks have resulted in many school officials rethinking their policies after beginning the academic year without restrictions such as mask mandates. Around 600 schools have now implemented universal masking for indoor settings, Byers said.
Cases and hospitalizations among children are on the rise, with the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus making up about 90% of new infections among kids, according to experts. Children under 12 are currently ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, making schools a potentially dangerous environment. Read more here.
Contributing: The Associated Press