Afghans arriving in the United States after fleeing the Taliban have begun to be vaccinated against COVID-19 near Dulles International Airport just outside of Washington, the only entry point for evacuees so far.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened a mass vaccination site, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told The Associated Press. A senior official also told the outlet that a second mass vaccine site would be set up near Philadelphia International Airport, where Afghans will also begin arriving.
Eligible Afghans are being offered the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and State Department translators are on site to assist. Officials told the AP that vaccination is a requirement for entry for refugees.
Only about 2% of Afghanistan's population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, according to data collected by Our World in Data. Reuters also reported that the rate of vaccination among Afghans dropped by as much as 80% as the Taliban took over, according to UNICEF.
Also in the news:
►The British government says it is preparing to vaccinate children 12-15, even though the inoculation campaign has not yet been approved by the country’s vaccine advisers. The Department of Health said it wants “to be ready to hit the ground running” once approval comes and be in position to deliver shots in schools when the new academic year starts in most of the country.
►The Arkansas Medical Board is investigating Dr. Robert Karas for prescribing an anti-parasitic drug to "thousands" of patients – including inmates at an Arkansas county jail –as a treatment method for COVID-19, even though the FDA does not approve of its use to address the coronavirus.
► Congo’s former public health minister, Dr. Eteni Longondo, was arrested Friday and is alleged to have misappropriated $1 million in funds allocated by the World Bank to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He has denied the allegations but was taken to the central prison of Makala.
► An unvaccinated teacher in Marin County, California, was the source of an elementary school outbreak that saw 26 additional COVID cases earlier this year, a CDC report showed. Twelve of 24 students in the class were infected, all too young for vaccination. Students seated closest to the teacher's desk were found to have higher rates of infection.
► More than half of Kentucky hospitals have “critical staffing shortages” because of rising COVID hospitalizations, Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday. The number of hospitals struggling with the shortages increased from the previous day, when Beshear said one-third of the state's hospitals were at a critical level.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 38.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 636,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 215.5 million cases and 4.4 million deaths. More than 172.6 million Americans – 52% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we're reading: Is there a delta variant test? Here's what we know about tracking COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Read the full story.
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Some of America's hottest spots for the delta-driven COVID-19 surge appear to have peaked, while other states are getting hit much harder.
Mississippi now has a higher per-person case rate, reporting about 719 cases per 100,000 people per week.
Florida is second worse, at 707. Tennessee, at 649, has surpassed Louisiana, which fell to fourth with 643. South Carolina is at 633 and Kentucky at 631. Georgia is at 592, and Alabama is 577.
The CDC considers 100 cases per 100,000 people per week "high community spread."
The low end is not really low: Maine reports about 112 cases per 100,000 per week, or 12.4% worse than the CDC's transmission measure. No other state is lower; no state is not high.
– Mike Stucka
Japan is investigating the deaths of two people who received Moderna vaccine shots from lots later suspended after the discovery of contaminants, the nation's health ministry said.
The nation suspended use of about 1.63 million doses Thursday after contamination was found in some unused vials. The health ministry said the contamination was reported at multiple vaccination sites.
Japanese distributor Takeda Pharmaceutical suspended the doses manufactured in the same production line as a precaution and asked Moderna to investigate the problem. The suspension raises the prospect of supply problems in Japan, which is relying on three foreign-developed vaccines for its COVID-19 inoculation campaign.
The men were in their 30s and died this month within days of receiving their second Moderna doses, Reuters reported. Each had a shot from one of three manufacturing lots whose use was suspended.
Moderna and Takeda issued a joint statement Saturday saying they had no evidence the deaths were caused by the Moderna vaccine, but they were working with the Japan health ministry to investigate the incidents.
U.S. intelligence officials remain divided over the origins of COVID-19. Some analysts conclude it was likely caused by natural exposure to an infected animal and others believe the first human infection was probably the result of a laboratory-associated incident, according to a new report.
The Biden administration report on the origins of COVID-19 found the virus "was not developed as a biological weapon." It also concluded China "did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak" of COVID-19 in late 2019.
"After examining all available intelligence reporting and other information, though, the IC (intelligence community) remains divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19," a summary of the report released Friday reads. "All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident."
– Maureen Groppe and Joey Garrison
The surging cases and deaths in Florida has caused a need for portable morgues at hospitals and mortuaries in the state.
Fourteen portable morgues were ordered for central Florida hospitals after the Central Florida Division of AdventHealth reached its morgue capacity, local ABC affiliate WFTV reported. Hospitals morgues are at capacity in Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties.
Maria Rosales, who runs an Orlando-area company that picks up bodies from hospitals and delivers them to funeral homes or crematoriums, says she has seen an increase in deaths in the past two weeks.
“They have to rent out big trucks for extra storage spaces,” she said of the hospitals.
Florida's death rate is 10 times what it was last month, and there have been 1,727 deaths in the last week, according to data released Friday. At the latest pace, a Floridian is reported dead every six minutes from COVID-19. Florida also reported 151,760 new cases for the week, just five cases shy of breaking a record set two weeks earlier.
–Jeanine Santucci and Mike Stucka, USA TODAY
Famed civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, 79, has been transferred to a hospital focused on physical rehabilitation after receiving treatment for a breakthrough COVID-19 infection while his wife, Jacqueline, 77, has been moved to an intensive care unit, according to a family statement released Friday.
Jonathan Jackson, one of the couple’s five children, said his father’s COVID-19 symptoms are abating. Jackson has Parkinson’s disease and Jonathan Jackson said he will receive “intensive occupational and physical therapy” at The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago.
Jacqueline Jackson is not on a ventilator but is receiving increased oxygen in the ICU at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Jonathan Jackson said.
Contributing: The Associated Press