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US approaches 700K COVID deaths; Americans getting vaccinated at low rates: Live updates – USA TODAY

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The United States is on the cusp of surpassing 700,000 coronavirus deaths, half of them in the last nine months alone as the delta variant drives a brutal surge across the weary nation.

The U.S. reached 600,000 deaths in June, when daily deaths had dropped to under 400 amid hope that the crisis, at least at home, was near an end. Vaccines were widely available to all American adults and teens. For free.

Three months and 100,000 deaths later, 2,000 Americans are dying per day. And millions have lost interest in the fight. Football stadiums are packed with maskless fans, some in states that ban vaccination and mask requirements.

Reaching 800,000 deaths isn’t a longshot, and the specter of even 1 million deaths looms. Winter will bring crows to indoor venues; people will socialize inside. All that increases transmission risk, said Ogbonnaya Omenka, an associate professor and public health specialist at Butler University in Indianapolis.

“Given the current rates and expectations, the possibility of reaching 800,000 by the end of 2021 is not unreasonable,” Omenka said. And beyond that, “because the ending depends mainly on human preferences, we can hit that (1 million) number.”

– John Bacon

Also in the news:

►Americans are getting vaccinated at the lowest rates yet this year, a USA TODAY analysis of CDC data shows. The U.S. is giving first-dose COVID vaccinations to fewer than 1.5 million people each week, down from a peak of nearly 14 million in mid-April.

Cody Rigsby has tested positive for COVID-19, days after his “Dancing With the Stars” partner Cheryl Burke announced she contracted the virus.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb renewed the state’s public health emergency order for the 19th time on Thursday.

Primetta Giacopini, a California resident who survived the 1918 flu, died due to COVID-19. She was 105. 

►Health officials in Michigan’s Livingston County are warning of a possible COVID-19 outbreak after a Luke Bryant concert earlier this month. Officials say 27 people who attended the country music concert have tested positive since the show. 

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 43 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 697,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 233 million cases and 4.7 million deaths. More than 184 million Americans — 55% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘What we’re reading: As Qamil Wright struggled with intense coronavirus symptoms throughout August, she briefly questioned if she would ever perform again. Read one singer’s struggle through contracting COVID-19. 

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.

School board group asks Biden for help policing threats

A group representing school board members around the country asked President Joe Biden on Thursday for federal assistance to investigate and stop threats made over policies, including mask mandates, likening the vitriol to a form of domestic terrorism.

The request by the National School Boards Association demonstrates the level of unruliness that has engulfed local education meetings across the country during the pandemic, with board members regularly confronted and threatened by angry protesters.

School board members are largely unpaid volunteers, parents and former educators who step forward to shape school policy, choose a superintendent and review the budget. But they have been frightened at how their jobs have suddenly become a culture war battleground. 

The climate has led a growing number to resign or decide against seeking reelection.

“Whatever you feel about masks, it should not reach this level of rhetoric,” NSBA Interim Executive Director Chip Slaven told The Associated Press by phone.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said responsibility for protecting school boards falls largely to local law enforcement but “we’re continuing to explore if more can be done from across the administration.”

The association asked for the federal government to get involved to investigate cases where threats or violence could be handled as violations of federal laws protecting civil rights. It also asked for the Justice Department, FBI, Homeland Security and Secret Service to help monitor threat levels and assess risks to students, educators, board members and school buildings.

Federal bill aims to force travelers to show proof of vaccination

Domestic flyers within the United States may soon need to prove they’re likely COVID-free if a proposed bill Wednesday becomes law.

The U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act, introduced by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would require all U.S. passengers to be fully vaccinated, fully recovered or test negative for the coronavirus before boarding a domestic flight. 

“We know that air travel during the 2020 holiday season contributed to last winter’s devastating COVID-19 surge,” Feinstein said in a Wednesday news release. “We simply cannot allow that to happen again.”

While testing and or showing proof of vaccination is common for international air travel, domestic U.S. air passengers do not go through the same level of scrutiny. 

The bill could face an uphill battle to becoming law despite Democrats, many of whom are behind COVID-19 related mandates, holding a slight majority in Congress.

– Bailey Schulz, Dawn Gilbertson and Christal Hayes 

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