COVID-19 live updates: Judge rules Florida governor stop banning mask mandates in schools

(NEW YORK) — The United States is facing a COVID-19 surge this summer as the more contagious delta variant spreads.

More than 634,000 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 60.8% 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 Friday. All times Eastern:

Aug 28, 9:47 am
2 men die in Japan after receiving Moderna shots from suspended batch

Two men died in Japan after receiving shots of Moderna from a batch that was later suspended due to contaminants, Japan’s Health Ministry said Saturday.

The men were in their 30s and died this month, days after receiving their second Moderna doses, Reuters reported. Moderna’s Japanese partner Takeda pulled three lots of its vaccine in Japan Thursday, after reports of a foreign substance in the vials.

It’s not clear if the men died due to a problem with the shots and an investigation will take place.

“At this time, we do not have any evidence that these deaths are caused by the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine,” and the company is working closely with the Japanese Ministry of Health to investigate, Moderna said in a statement.

The pause in Japan does not affect doses distributed in the United States.

Moderna put more than 1.6 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine on hold last week in Japan after it was notified about the potential contamination in some vials of its vaccine.

To date, more than 200 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered to 110 million people in 45 countries, according to the company.

-ABC News’ Sony Salzman and Sasha Pezenik

Aug 27, 9:40 pm
Florida still threatening school districts over mask mandates

Despite a court ruling Friday ordering Florida to stop enforcing a ban on school mask mandates, the state’s education commissioner has since told eight school districts that they must drop their mandates by Wednesday or potentially face sanctions.

The districts notified on Friday — which include Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Orange — adopted mask requirements this month but had yet to hear from the state about repercussions.

In letters sent to leaders of the eight districts, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said he was opening investigations and threatened to withhold the salaries of school board members if the districts didn’t reverse their mandates by Wednesday.

Two other districts have already been sanctioned by the state board of education.

State officials have said they plan to appeal Friday’s ruling “immediately.”

-ABC News’ Will McDuffie

Aug 27, 9:20 pm
14 portable morgues headed to central Florida hospitals

As Florida continues to battle a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, 14 portable morgues are headed to central Florida hospitals.

ABC News confirmed the order with Lynne Drawdy, executive director of the Central Florida Disaster Medical Coalition, which is sending the coolers.

Each portable morgue can hold up to 12 bodies, Drawdy told ABC Orlando affiliate WFTV.

The coolers will go to hospitals across central Florida, as some have reached morgue capacity due to an influx of COVID-19 patients, and are expected to arrive by Monday, according to WFTV.

Aug 27, 6:34 pm
Delta more likely to lead to hospitalization among unvaccinated than alpha: Study

A new peer-reviewed study estimates that the delta variant doubles the risk of being hospitalized if you’re unvaccinated compared to the alpha variant.

The study — an analysis of more than 40,000 COVID-19 cases from the United Kingdom — primarily included unvaccinated people, so the findings don’t apply to vaccinated people with breakthrough infections.

Vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death for both the alpha and delta variants.

-ABC News’ Sony Salzman

Aug 27, 3:14 pm
7 Southern states have ICUs over 90% full

Seven states, all in the South, have intensive care units over 90% full, according to federal data: Alabama (100%), Florida (94.98%), Georgia (94.68%), Louisiana (90.15%), Mississippi (92.07%), Oklahoma (91.68%), and Texas (93.86%).

The U.S. is continuing to experience its steepest and most significant increase in hospitalizations in seven months, according to federal data. On Wednesday alone, more than 12,800 patients were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19, marking the highest number of patients seeking care over the span of 24 hours since January.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Aug 27, 3:14 pm
7 Southern states have ICUs over 90% full

Seven states, all in the South, have intensive care units over 90% full, according to federal data: Alabama (100%), Florida (94.98%), Georgia (94.68%), Louisiana (90.15%), Mississippi (92.07%), Oklahoma (91.68%), and Texas (93.86%).

The U.S. is continuing to experience its steepest and most significant increase in hospitalizations in seven months, according to federal data. On Wednesday alone, more than 12,800 patients were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19, marking the highest number of patients seeking care over the span of 24 hours since January.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Aug 27, 1:48 pm
50% of adolescents now vaccinated

Half of all U.S. 12- to 17-year-olds have had their first vaccine shot, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said at Friday’s briefing, which he called “critical progress.”

“The vaccination rate among adolescents is growing faster than any other age group,” Zients added.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said a new CDC report out of Los Angeles County showed that schools following the health agency’s guidelines had 3.5 times lower cases during the winter peak as compared to case rates in the community. (This study did not account for the delta variant).

“Even when communities were experiencing high levels of COVID transmission, in the LA County study, layered prevention measures in schools provided a shield of protection, helped to keep COVID out of school and reduced the spread when cases did occur,” Walensky said.

She continued: “I want to strongly appeal to those districts who have not implemented prevention strategies and encourage them to do the right thing to protect the children under their care.”

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett

Aug 27, 1:05 pm
Judge rules Florida governor stop banning mask mandates in schools

A Tallahassee judge ruled Friday that Florida school boards can enact student mask mandates, going against Gov. Ron DeSantis, who in July issued an executive order that set off a public feud with school districts.

Judge John C. Cooper found that a blanket ban on face masks in schools “does not meet constitutional muster” and ordered the Florida Department of Education to stop enforcing a state rule that requires districts to allow parents to opt-out of mask mandates.

Cooper, over about two hours, picked apart the state’s defense, saying the science presented during the weeklong trial did not support the state’s argument against masking children.

Ten Florida school districts have adopted mask mandates for students this month. Two — Broward and Alachua — were sanctioned by the Florida commissioner of education, who said he would begin withholding the salaries of board members who voted to require masks.

DeSantis will “immediately appeal” the ruling, the governor’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said in a statement. “This ruling was made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts,” Pushaw said.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Education said, “We are immensely disappointed that the ruling issued today by the Second Judicial Circuit discards the rule of law. This decision conflicts with basic and established rights of parents to make private health care and education decisions for children. … We are committed to the fundamental rights of parents and will push forward on appeal to ensure that this foundation of democracy is upheld.”

-ABC News’ Will McDuffie

Aug 27, 9:20 am
Kentucky sees third-highest day of cases

As Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced the state’s third-highest day of COVID-19 cases, he said at a news conference Thursday, “I’m gonna admit up front today I’m a little emotional and a little raw.”

“Seeing nearly 5,000 cases and 65 Kentuckians that we lost in just one day’s report is tough,” the governor said, adding that “it is entirely preventable.”

Hospitalizations have increased every day in the last 42 days, he said.

On July 14, there were 60 people in intensive care units. As of Wednesday there were 549, he said.

At the beginning of the summer Kentucky’s positivity rate fell to 1.79%. It’s now soared to 13.16%, he said.

Aug 27, 4:27 am
Houston sees 5-fold increase in COVID-19 vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccinations in Houston increased more than five-fold on Thursday as the city launched a new incentive program.

The Houston Health Department is now providing up to $150 in gift cards to get vaccinated against COVID-19. A total of 740 vaccine doses were administered at the health department’s eligible sites on Thursday, the first day of the program, marking a 51% increase over Wednesday’s total of 121 doses.

Of the total shots administered Thursday, 658 were first doses and 82 were second dose, according to a press release from the health department.

Aug 26, 10:29 pm
SCOTUS suspends eviction moratorium

The U.S. Supreme Court suspended the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide eviction moratorium in an unsigned, 6-3 opinion Thursday night

“It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of the COVID–19 Delta variant. But our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends,” the court wrote. “It is up to Congress, not the CDC, to decide whether the public interest merits further action here.”

“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” it continued. “The application to vacate stay presented to THE CHIEF JUSTICE and by him referred to the Court is granted.”

Liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki lamented the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying the CDC moratorium “saved lives by preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

“As a result of this ruling, families will face the painful impact of evictions, and communities across the country will face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19,” Psaki said in a statement, before reiterating President Joe Biden’s call for states, localities, landlords and local courts to do what they can to prevent evictions.

The Biden administration has repeatedly called on Congress to act in regard to the eviction moratorium, but Republicans have opposed the proposals.

The CDC had issued a 60-day extension to the moratorium the first week in August after the previous one expired July 31.

Aug 26, 6:37 pm
Every state now reporting high community transmission

Every state in the country is now reporting high community transmission of COVID-19, according to newly updated federal data.

In mid-June, no states were reporting high transmission, and just six states were reporting substantial transmission. Now, 10 weeks later, all 50 states are in that category, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The development comes as the delta variant has also rapidly spread. In June, the highly contagious variant accounted for just 26.4% of all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S.; today, it accounts for nearly 99%, according to the CDC.

Aug 26, 4:07 pm
US reporting more than 800 deaths per day, marking highest average in 5 months

The U.S. is continuing to experience its steepest increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the winter of 2020, with more than 101,000 patients now in hospitals, according to federal data. This marks the highest number of patients in seven months.

Eight weeks ago, there were under 12,000 patients receiving care.

The country’s daily death average has increased to more than 800 deaths per day. This is a 317% jump in the last seven weeks and marks the highest average since mid-March 2021.

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