(NEW YORK) — The United States has been facing a COVID-19 surge as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread.
More than 677,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.7 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. The average number of daily deaths in the U.S. has risen about 20% in the last week, according to data from the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The U.S. is continuing to sink on the list of global vaccination rates, currently ranking No. 45, according to data compiled by the Financial Times. Just 64% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Sep 22, 7:01 am
UK and South Korea agree to swap COVID-19 vaccine doses
The United Kingdom and South Korea have agreed to share COVID-19 vaccine doses to mutually support the rollout of shots in each nation.
The U.K. will send 1 million of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to South Korea to enhance their vaccination program, with the first batch of shots expected to arrive in the coming weeks. South Korea will return the same volume by the end of the year, as the U.K. presses ahead with its vaccine rollout and booster shot program over the winter months, according to a press release from the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care.
The swapping initiative, similar to the arrangement between the U.K. and Australia, will help South Korea toward hitting its target of administering a second dose to 70% of its population by the end of October.
“The Republic of Korea is a strategic partner for the UK and the sharing of one million vaccines benefits both countries as we help build resistance against COVID-19 and save lives,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement Tuesday.
The deal will have no impact on the U.K.’s ongoing vaccine rollout or booster shot program, nor will it effect the doses the country has already pledged to give to the global vaccine-sharing initiative COVAX. Almost 90% of people over the age of 16 in the U.K. are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are not immediately required in the U.K. due to robust supply management, according to the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care.
Sep 22, 6:20 am
Brazil’s health minister tests positive for COVID-19 at UNGA
Brazilian Minister of Health Marcelo Queiroga said Tuesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19 while in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly.
Queiroga, who accompanied Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the event, announced his diagnosis on Twitter and said he will quarantine.
Sep 22, 6:06 am
US to donate another 500 million vaccine doses abroad: White House
The Biden administration is ordering another 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to donate to countries around the globe, the White House said.
President Joe Biden is set to announce the commitment at a virtual COVID-19 summit on Wednesday, held amid the United Nations General Assembly.
Biden is also poised to call on world leaders, the nonprofit sector and private industry to commit to certain goals, including a 70% global vaccination rate by the end of 2022, during his remarks at the summit, a senior White House administration official told reporters Tuesday.
MORE: Millions of vaccine doses shipped globally, Biden announced, as NGOs call for more
Biden announced an initial 500-million-dose commitment in June. This second purchase, which the president had teased during his remarks to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, would bring the administration’s total donated doses to 1.1 billion.
The new batch of doses will be purchased from Pfizer at a not-for-profit price, manufactured in the U.S. and begin shipping out in January 2022, the White House official said.
The U.S. has so far sent more than 160 million doses to 100 other countries, Biden said.
The latest announcement comes as the World Health Organization has criticized the U.S. for pushing booster doses while much of the world has yet to receive a single shot.
Sep 21, 11:12 pm
US Department of Education investigating Texas schools over mask mandate ban
In a letter to the Texas Education Agency, the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday said it is beginning an investigation into Texas schools’ ban on mask mandates, and how that could potential be an infringement of students’ civil rights.
The investigation will focus on “whether, in light of this policy, students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are prevented from safely returning to in-person education, in violation of Federal law,” the letter states.
The Department of Education’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights, Suzanne Goldberg, laid out the process of the investigation in the letter, but also made clear that it could be resolved at any time if masks in schools are reinstated.
“OCR’s Case Processing Manual provides several ways for this investigation to be resolved, including an option to reach a voluntary resolution agreement prior to the completion of an investigation,” the letter reads. “If TEA expresses an interest in resolving the investigation in this way and OCR determines this form of resolution is appropriate based on the investigation, we will follow the steps set out in Section 302 of the Case Processing Manual.”
Sep 21, 3:35 pm
Texas, Georgia, Alabama account for about one-third of last week’s deaths
The U.S. daily death average has now climbed over 1,400 despite skewed reporting from the weekend, according to federal data.
About one-third of the nearly 9,500 virus-related deaths in the last week came from just three states: Texas, Georgia and Alabama.
About 90,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, compared to more than 100,000 patients about three weeks ago, according to federal data. But in the past month, at least 10 states — Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia — have reported record hospitalizations.
West Virginia is leading the nation in cases, followed by Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Kentucky, North Dakota, Tennessee and Ohio, according to federal data.
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