New coronavirus infections are rising again in most states for the first time in two months, and deaths are increasing in about half of the states, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data reveals.
In the week ending Wednesday, case counts were higher in 29 states than they were the week before. A month ago, cases were rising in just 12 states.
The states now reporting increased infections are primarily in the North, which had fared far better in the late summer as the delta variant clobbered the South. Vermont, an early leader in vaccinations, is now seeing record case numbers. Florida, which has suffered the most deaths of any state since July 1 – 22,600 – now reports the lowest daily per-capita case count of any state.
The highly contagious delta variant began dominating even after vaccines, which are most effective at preventing severe disease and death, became widely available to all adults. Health officials are now encouraging booster shots and newly authorized vaccines for children.
– Mike Stucka
Also in the news:
►Colorado will expand hospital capacity and staffing amid a coronavirus surge in hospitalizations that could break records, Gov. Jared Polis said.
►Coronavirus deaths across Europe jumped 10% in the first week of November from the previous week, while new cases rose 7%, the World Health Organization reported. Globally, deaths fell 4% while new cases edged up 1%.
►A Veteran’s Day parade dubbed the nation’s first returned to the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, on Thursday after 2020 was online because of the pandemic. The Veterans Administration credits Birmingham with having the first celebration to use the term “Veterans Day” in its title after World War II veteran Raymond Weeks organized “National Veterans Day” in 1947.
►Stonecrest, Georgia, Mayor Jason Lary pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and other charges related to a scheme to steal federal coronavirus relief funds. Defense lawyer Dwight Thomas, however, said Lary won’t fight the charges.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 46.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 759,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 251.7 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 194 million Americans – 58% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: If you’re taking your child to get vaccinated against COVID-19 soon, experts say some approaches can make it easier.
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More than 2.2 million COVID home tests recalled
The Food and Drug Administration said more than 2.2 million COVID-19 home tests from Australian manufacturer Ellume are being recalled because of an unacceptable rate of false positives. This is an extension of a recall of 200,000 Ellume tests in early October because of the same problem.
The agency, which granted Ellume emergency use authorization for the tests in December 2020, said it has received 35 reports of false positives and none was connected to a fatality.
Though Ellume pointed out in a statement that “the reliability of negative results is unaffected by this issue,” the FDA noted false positives carry their own complications. Besides the worry they create, they could prompt healthy people to seek unnecessary treatment or quarantine themselves when they don’t have to.
The recalled tests were manufactured between February 24, 2021 and August 11, 2021.
NFL player sent to emergency room with COVID
The coronavirus struck the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings this week, including a vaccinated player who was admitted to an emergency room, head coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday. Zimmer, who said the situation was “scary,” said the player was hospitalized in stable condition. ESPN and NFL Network reported the player was offensive lineman Dakota Dozier, who was placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list last Friday. The Vikings have placed several players on the league’s COVID list in recent days; NFL policy does not require vaccinated players to be quarantined.
“It’s serious stuff,” said Zimmer, who has been outspoken in urging players to get vaccinated. “Like, 29 guys are getting tested because of close contact, including myself.”
– Analis Bailey
As FDA ponders, Moderna states case for adolescent vaccine
As it awaits FDA authorization of its COVID vaccine for children ages 12-17, Moderna is making the case for its effectiveness while acknowledging an increased risk of a rare side effect.
The FDA has withheld its endorsement as it studies the link between the vaccine and uncommon cases of myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle — in young men. Moderna Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Burton said Thursday the benefits of the Moderna vaccine in adolescents outweighs the risks, even as he recognized that a French study revealed those risks are higher than with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.
Burton cited CDC data in saying the Moderna vaccine has yielded fewer breakthrough cases — infections of fully vaccinated people — than Pfizer’s, according to CNBC.
Judge blocks Texas governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that bans schools from imposing mask mandates cannot be enforced because it violates federal law by putting students with disabilities at greater risk.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel also blocked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from bringing legal action against school districts that require students, teachers and staff to wear face coverings as a pandemic safety measure. The evidence, Yeakel wrote, shows that wearing masks can decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19 – a particularly useful strategy for children with disabilities who can be at higher risk of contracting respiratory disease and of suffering more severe symptoms.
“Because GA-38 precludes mask requirements in schools, (students with disabilities) are either forced out of in-person learning altogether or must take on unnecessarily greater health and safety risks than their nondisabled peers,” Yeakel wrote.
– Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman
Universities with mandates see widespread compliance
Universities that adopted COVID-19 vaccine mandates this fall have seen widespread compliance even though many schools made it easy to get out of the shots by granting exemptions to nearly any student who requested one. Facing pockets of resistance and scattered lawsuits, colleges have tread carefully as forcing students to get the vaccine when they have a religious or medical objection could put schools into tricky legal territory. For some, there are added concerns that taking a hard line could lead to a drop in enrollment.
Still, universities with mandates report much higher vaccination rates than communities around them, even in places with high vaccine hesitancy. Most of the nation’s largest public universities aren’t seeing large numbers of student exemption requests, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. At the same time, those colleges have approved the vast majority – in some cases all – of the requests.
At Virginia Tech University, where 95% of students are now vaccinated, the school granted all of the 1,600 exemption requests from students as long as they agreed to weekly testing.