(NEW YORK) — The United States is facing a COVID-19 surge this summer as the more contagious delta variant spreads.
More than 630,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.4 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Just 60.2% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:
Aug 25, 4:25 pm
Gov. Abbott issues executive order maintaining ban on vaccine mandates
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Wednesday maintaining a ban on vaccine mandates.
I issued an Executive Order maintaining the prohibition of vaccine mandates.
Additionally, I’ve added the issue of vaccine mandates to the Special Session agenda.#txlege involvement is important to avoid a patchwork of vaccine mandates across Texas.https://t.co/mZQJEkUJqJ pic.twitter.com/C7BtyN7bRx
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 25, 2021
Abbott also said he added the vaccine mandate issue to Texas’ Special Session agenda.
Abbott tested positive for COVID-19 last week and has since tested negative.
Aug 25, 2:35 pm
Pfizer asks FDA for full booster dose approval
Pfizer on Wednesday asked the Food and Drug Administration for full approval for a booster dose. The company said its Phase 3 data showed that people who received a third dose between five to eight months after the second shot had antibody levels three times higher than levels seen after the second dose.
Because the Pfizer shots were approved by the FDA on Monday, Pfizer is now asking the agency to consider a “supplemental” application for boosters for people ages 16 and over. This is a “rolling submission,” with Pfizer intending to complete the submission by the end of the week.
The Biden administration said its goal is to have boosters available beginning Sept. 20, with the recommendation of getting one eight months after the second shot of Pfizer or Moderna.
-ABC News’ Sony Salzman
Aug 25, 1:35 pm
Baby dies in Louisiana marking state’s 1st pediatric death in 6 months
A baby under the age of 1 died in connection to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours in Louisiana, the state’s Department of Health said Wednesday.
This marked Louisiana’s first pediatric COVID-19 death in six months, the department said. The baby was one of 110 people in Louisiana to die of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
Eleven children in Louisiana have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, the department said.
Aug 25, 1:07 pm
Hospitalizations at highest point in 7 months
There are now over 100,000 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, the most in seven months, according to federal data.
The rate of hospital admissions per capita among Americans 29 and younger is at the highest point of the pandemic, according to federal data.
Compared with July 4, six times as many children are being admitted to hospitals, and daily deaths are up 281% over the last six weeks to 775, according to federal data.
Eight states have ICUs over 90% full: Alabama (100%), Arkansas (89.58%), Florida (93.52%), Georgia (92.74%), Kentucky (89.33%), Mississippi (92.93%), Oklahoma (88.93%) and Texas (93.12%).
-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos
Aug 25, 10:56 am
Pentagon announces mandatory Pfizer vaccinations
The Pentagon on Wednesday announced mandatory Pfizer vaccinations, calling it “necessary to protect the safety of our service members and force.”
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was granted full approval by the FDA on Monday.
Aug 25, 10:37 am
Delta Air Lines raising health insurance premiums for unvaccinated employees
Delta is raising health insurance premiums for unvaccinated employees by $200 a month to cover COVID-19 costs like potential hospitalization, which the airline says has cost it $40,000 per person on average.
In recent weeks, all Delta employees hospitalized with COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated, Delta CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a memo to employees.
Currently 75% of Delta employees are vaccinated, according to the airline.
The health insurance premium begins Nov. 1.
Unvaccinated employees will also have to wear masks indoors and be required to take a weekly COVID test beginning Sept. 12.
Aug 25, 10:00 am
Moderna finalizes submission to FDA for full approval
Moderna has finalized submission of its application to the Food and Drug Administration for full approval of its COVID-19 vaccine, the company announced Monday.
It’s not yet clear how long the FDA will take to review Moderna’s application.
Pfizer completed its vaccine application in May and was granted full approval on Monday.
Aug 25, 7:00 am
J&J says its vaccine booster shot raises antibody levels 9-fold
In the midst of a delta variant surge, a new study finds that giving a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot six months after primary vaccination results in a nine-fold increase of a crucial antibody response, according to a company press release.
Meanwhile, a prior study found that people vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine still had a durable immune response at least eight months later, even without a booster.
Collectively, the findings could help inform the U.S. government’s recommendations about booster shots for the 14 million people who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Boosting after six months “appears to be safe, and boosts immune responses substantially,” Dr. Dan Barouch, Ph.D., director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told ABC News.
Aug 25, 3:53 am
COVID-19 cases rise among athletes at Tokyo Paralympics
Several Paralympic athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 in Tokyo in recent days.
According to daily figures released by the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, at least eight positive cases have been confirmed among unnamed Paralympic athletes so far, with two new cases reported on Wednesday following the opening ceremony.
The 2020 Summer Paralympics officially opened in the Japanese capital on Tuesday, after a yearlong delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. Like the 2020 Olympics, which ended on Aug. 8, this year’s Paralympics is taking place under a state of emergency as Japan struggles with a growing COVID-19 crisis.
Aug 24, 9:01 pm
Another Florida school district issues mask mandate
Leaders of the Orange County public school system voted Tuesday to require a mask mandate for all students and staff.
The rule goes into effect on Aug. 30 and will last for at least two months. There will be exemptions for medical reasons.
School board members cited the growing COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations in the area as the reason for their decision.
Aug 24, 5:54 pm
NYC School chancellor discusses teacher vaccine mandate
New York City Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter spoke with ABC News about the vaccine mandate for public school staff that goes into effect Sept. 27.
Porter said she was confident that teachers and other staff members would comply to ensure that classrooms are safe for everyone.
“This is the additional extra layer of protection that we didn’t have a year ago,” she said.
Porter said she has been in discussions with the United Federation of Teachers over what the penalties will be if a teacher doesn’t comply, and she was told that “many of their members are already vaccinated.”
The chancellor said those who still have concerns should know that the Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the Pfizer vaccine and it has shown to prevent severe illness.
Aug 24, 5:38 pm
Kentucky reports record hospitalizations, ICU patients
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear tweeted a dire update on the state’s COVID-19 cases.
The state health department reported that 2,014 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, 589 of whom are in intensive care units and 338 are on ventilators. Beshear said these are record numbers.
“Folks, this is dangerous. Please, get vaccinated and mask up indoors,” the governor tweeted.
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