Daily coronavirus infections are more than four times what the U.S. was seeing on Labor Day last year, or a 316% increase, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And daily deaths are almost twice as high.
Blame the highly contagious delta variant and a swath of Americans refusing easily accessible vaccines that most of the developing world is furiously scrambling to obtain.
Hospitalizations are up 158% from a year ago, U.S. Health and Human Services data shows. The result: Some U.S. hospitals are getting so crowded with COVID-19 patients that physicians may soon be compelled to make life-or-death decisions on who gets an ICU bed.
"We are perilously close," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told CNN. "You're going to have to make some very tough choices."
The crisis has arrived in Mississippi, the state with the nation's lowest vaccination rate at 38%. At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the emergency room and intensive care unit are beyond capacity, almost all COVID patients. Risa Moriarity, executive vice chair of the hospital's emergency department, described a “logjam” with beds in hallways and patients being treated in triage rooms.
"You leave work at the end of the day just exhausted by the effort it takes to (dig) that compassion up for people who are not taking care of themselves and the people around them,” Moriarity said.
– Mike Stucka
Also in the news:
►New Zealand reported its first COVID death in over six months on Saturday – a woman in her 90s who had underlying health conditions, according to authorities. New Zealand remains in a lockdown that began last month after one positive case.
►A German man attacked health care workers at a vaccination site after he demanded a vaccination certificate without receiving a shot, and they refused to give it to him. Police said he became violent and injured two workers, who were treated in a hospital and later released.
►A 116-year-old woman in Turkey has survived three weeks in an intensive care unit with COVID-19, according to her son, making her one of the oldest patients to beat the disease. "Her health is very good now and she’s getting better,” Ayse Karatay's son, Ibrahim, told the Demiroren news agency.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 39.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 648,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 220.6 million cases and 4.56 million deaths. More than 175,9 million Americans – 53% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we're reading: After 18 months of the pandemic, hospitals find themselves in a prolonged battle against a relentless enemy, fighting with tired, disheartened and depleted troops. Many states have lost hundreds to thousands of hospital workers to burnout, early retirement and job transfers. Read more here.
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Federal agencies and health care systems have spent years working together to reduce hospital-acquired infections and increase overall patient safety in the USA. From 2018 to 2019, there was up to an 18% decrease in central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections and certain surgical site infections among acute care hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A new study from the agency shows the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to undo that progress.
“As COVID has done in so many other areas, it has had unintended impacts in all of our health care delivery and that extends to health care associated infections,” study spokesperson Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director for the CDC’s Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs, told USA TODAY. Read more here.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that booster shots for those who received Moderna's vaccine may still be awaiting the green light from regulators on Sept. 20. That's when Biden said anyone who wants a third dose of vaccine will be able to get one if they are eight months out from their second shot. Moderna filed initial data for booster-shot authorization Wednesday and may not get cleared by Sept. 20.
"We were hoping that we would get both products, Moderna and Pfizer, rolled out by the week of the 20th," Fauci told CBS. "So the bottom line is very likely, at least part of the plan will be implemented, but ultimately the entire plan will be."Read more here.
At least 1,000 schools across 35 states have closed for in-person learning because of COVID-19 since the beginning of the school year, according to Burbio, a New York-based data service that is tracking K-12 school reopening trends. Schools listed in the company's tracker have closed for anywhere from one day to several weeks. Most temporarily moved to remote learning. Others temporarily closed with no instruction. And a small number delayed the start of school or shifted into hybrid learning, according to Burbio.
The rising number of closures comes amid a battle over mask mandates in schools and a surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases largely because of the highly contagious delta variant.
Last week was another reminder of how widely misinformation spreads, and how tech companies are scrambling to push back. Reddit shut down a popular anti-vaccine subreddit that had been connected to pushing misinformation about the pandemic and vaccine. The platform also placed 54 other COVID-19 denial communities under a quarantine, which means posts won't appear in search results on Reddit, and users must explicitly approve entering the subreddit before seeing any of its content.
Meanwhile, Amazon said it plans to block some autocomplete results linked to ivermectin – an anti-parasite drug the Food and Drug Administration has advised people not to take to treat COVID-19 – after it appeared once users started typing "iv" into the search bar. Read more here.
– Brett Molina
Hawaii has already reported more than twice as many coronavirus cases this year as it did in all of 2020, Johns Hopkins University data show. The Aloha State had 66,778 COVID-19 cases through Saturday afternoon, triple its 22,007 infections in all of 2020, prompting Gov. David Ige to ask tourists not to visit until after October. The annual comparisons don't begin to tell how much Hawaii struggled with a wave of cases caused by the delta variant. In just the last month, Hawaii has had more cases than in all of last year.
"It is a risky time to be traveling right now," Ige said.
– Mike Stucka
Denmark is banning unvaccinated tourists from the United States, joining a growing list of European Union member states that are tightening travel restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise. The change comes after the country moved the U.S. to its "orange" travel advisory category on Saturday. Previously, U.S. tourists could enter Denmark by showing a negative test or proof of recovery. Entry requirements do not change for fully vaccinated U.S. travelers, who are still exempt from testing and quarantine requirements.
The Netherlands, another EU member state, on Saturday started enforcing a quarantine period for vaccinated U.S. travelers and prohibited entry among unvaccinated travelers. Bulgaria announced it would prohibit travel from the U.S., Spain started requiring vaccination certificates and Italy added testing and self-isolation requirements for U.S. travelers.
– Bailey Schulz
The mu variant has been marked as a "variant of interest" by the World Health Organization and has spread across Chile, Peru and parts of the U.S. and Europe. The mu variant is the fifth variant of interest currently being monitored by the WHO. Stuart Ray, a professor of medicine at John Hopkins University, said the variant accounts for most cases in Colombia, Chile and Peru, but only some cases in the U.S.
As of now, Ray said what’s concerning is mu obtains similarities to deadlier variants such as the delta variant, which is the cause of over 99% of cases in the U.S. Read more here.
– Gabriela Miranda
Contributing: The Associated Press