New coronavirus infections are rising again in most states for the first time in two months, and deaths are rising in about half of U.S. 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 rising cases 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 highly effective, safe and free vaccines 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:
►About 900,000 kids age 5 to 11 will have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in their first week of eligibility, the White House said Wednesday, providing the first glimpse at the pace of the school-age vaccination campaign.
►Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday that he plans to sign a sweeping legislative package curtailing the authority public schools, local health agencies and businesses have over COVID-19 restrictions.
►The U.S. has recorded more than 46 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 759,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 251.5 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.
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 that 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,” Zimmer, who has been outspoken in urging players to get vaccinated, said Wednesday. “Like, 29 guys are getting tested because of close contact, including myself.”
– Analis Bailey
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.
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 from 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.
Tom Melsheimer, a Dallas lawyer who represented the students and their families, praised the ruling.
“Going forward, school districts all over the state will be free to follow sound medical science and common sense to protect the most vulnerable among us. Who can reasonably object to such a result?” Melsheimer said.
– Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman
Contributing: The Associated Press