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:
►Alabama hospital officials are planning a statewide moment of silence at noon Tuesday to remember the more than 12,000 Alabamians who have died of COVID-19.
►Five federal courthouses in eastern Michigan will fully reopen Tuesday for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in March 2020.
►West Virginia had one of its worst weeks as the number of positive cases neared a seven-day record. The 6,705 confirmed statewide cases for the six days ending Saturday already surpassed the previous week’s total and represented the fourth-highest for any week, according to state health data.
►Most of New Zealand will move out of lockdown Tuesday except for the largest city of Auckland, which will remain in the strictest type of lockdown until at least next week. New Zealand reported its first COVID death in over six months on Saturday.
►Nursing homes in Maryland are seeing another rise in coronavirus cases despite Gov. Larry Hogan's order that all nursing home employees have at least one vaccine dose. Facilities that fail to comply will be subject to fines.
►Greece has begun administering vaccinations outside churches in a pilot program as a means of encouraging more people to get the shots.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 39.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 648,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 220.9 million cases and 4.57 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.
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.
First responders not rushing to get vaccinated
Police officers and other first responders are among those most hesitant to get the coronavirus vaccine. No national statistics show the vaccination rate for America’s entire population of first responders, but individual police and fire departments across the country report figures far below the national rate of 74% of adults who have had at least one dose. It’s a stark contrast from the beginning of the vaccine rollout when first responders were prioritized for shots.
San Francisco firefighter Christopher Salas, 58, has nearly 28 years on the job. He plans to retire early instead of acquiescing to the city’s ultimatum to get vaccinated or get terminated. He said he believes in personal choice.
“I’m not an anti-vaxxer,” he said. “I have all my other vaccines. I’m just not taking this one.”
Bobby Ford got vaccinated, twin Billy Ford didn't. Here's what happened
Bobby and Billy Ford were identical twins and inseparable as youngsters growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1993, Bobby opened Bobby’s Auto Service Center, where Billy eventually joined him. Bobby got vaccinated, Billy refused. When COVID ran through the shop this summer, Bobby was sick for three days. William H. “Billy” Ford, 59, died Aug. 14.
“He changed his mind" on vaccinations after becoming ill, Bobby said of his brother. “It was too late for him.”
– Laurence Reisman, Treasure Coast Newspapers
No vaccination? No in-person treatment, Florida physician says
A Florida doctor said she will no longer treat primary care patients in person who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine. Linda Marraccini, a family medicine doctor in South Miami, sent a letter to patients informing them that because the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for general use by the Food and Drug Administration, unvaccinated individuals will no longer be allowed to attend in-person appointments at her practice.
"This is a public health emergency – the health of the public takes priority over the rights of any given individual in this situation," Marraccini wrote in the letter, obtained by NBC Miami. "It appears that there is a lack of selflessness and concern for the burden on the health and well-being of our society. "
– Emily Adams
COVID takes toll on battle to limit hospital infections
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
Moderna's booster shots may not be ready by Sept. 20
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.
In-person learning shut down in 1,000 schools since start of academic year
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.
Amazon, Reddit take steps in fight against COVID-19 misinformation
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
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New infections are up 316% from last Labor Day: COVID news