More people are deciding to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in some pockets of the U.S. where vaccination rates are low and COVID-19 case rates are high.
White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that this is the third week where states with the highest numbers of cases have also had the highest new vaccination rates.
She said the average number of people getting their first shot each day has increased by 30% over the past week alone.
Friday saw over half a million new shots in arms — the highest number since July 1, Jean-Pierre added.
Cyrus Shahpar, the COVID-19 data director for the White House, said more 857,000 more doses were administered Friday, up from 600,000 the previous Friday. He said 712,000 doses were administered Saturday, as opposed to 403,000 last Saturday.
More residents of the country’s hardest-hit states are rushing to get vaccinated amid surges in Delta cases, driving up national numbers.
On Friday, multiple media outlets reported Louisiana had seen a 114% increase in vaccinations. Arkansas saw a 96% increase while Alabama and Missouri saw increases of 65% and 49% respectively.
“This is an encouraging sign but we need everyone across the country to have a conversation with someone they know who is unvaccinated about getting the shot,” Jean-Pierre said. “This is how we’ll stop the spread of the Delta variant.”
Also in the news:
► Lollapalooza, Chicago’s largest music festival, is underway with huge crowds and is expected to be at full capacity with roughly 100,000 daily attendees over four days. The festival is requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination for COVID-19 or to test negative for the virus within the last 72 hours, but infectious disease experts from Northwestern University are warning of potential spikes in COVID-19 infections amid already climbing numbers of cases in the city.
► Despite every other U.S. swimmer wearing a mask during interviews with journalists, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has allowed unvaccinated swimmer Michael Andrew to not wear a mask. Citing the Tokyo playbook of COVID-19 protocols released in June, the USOPC said athletes can remove their masks for interviews.
► Amid concerns that summer vacations may lead to increases in Germany’s relatively low case rate, the country will require people entering who haven’t been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19 to show a negative test result.
► New Orleans emergency medical responders have been so hard hit by a resurgence in COVID-19 cases that the city doesn’t have the capacity to adequately handle 911 calls, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Friday, according to CNN. Cantrell announced a new mask mandates and an increase in EMS resources.
► Audience members at Broadway shows will have to show proof of vaccination and wear masks in theaters, producers announced Friday.
► Disney World and Disneyland are requiring all employees to be vaccinated, and visitors must wear masks once again.
► With many people complaining about brain fog, attention problems and confusion after COVID-19, researchers are exploring whether infections could have long-term consequences for the brain. In several trials made public Thursday, scientists have found changes in brain biology after hospitalization with COVID-19.
► The IRS announced it would expand tax credits to employers who give their employees paid time off to get vaccinated against COVID-19, encouraging them to make time for people to get inoculated.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 34.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 613,1006 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 197.3 million cases and 4.2 million deaths. More than 164.1 million Americans — 49.5% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘What we’re reading: Casinos from New York to Maryland are breaking new records for revenue as bettors return to slot machines and table games amid pent-up demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, records show. Read more.
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COVID outbreak in national spotlight shows ‘vaccines are working’
A COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts that was key to health officials deciding to expand masking recommendations could have been much worse without vaccines, health experts say.
Fully vaccinated people made up nearly three-quarters of COVID-19 infections after Fourth of July events in Provincetown, the community that was examined in Massachusetts, according to a CDC study published Friday in the agency’s Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report. The seaside tourist spot is located in the county with Massachusetts’ highest vaccination rate.
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement that the findings “raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with delta can transmit the virus.”
But the outbreak, fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant, could have been much worse without vaccines.
“The vaccines are working. Of the 900 cases related to the Provincetown cluster, there have been no deaths, 7 hospitalizations, and the symptoms are largely mild,” tweeted Alex Morse, the town manager of Provincetown.
“The outbreak is contained and Provincetown is safe.”
Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, called these “very low rates” on Twitter, adding that the numbers are “consistent with theme that vaccines prevent severe illness.”
Jha said as “many thousands of people (some unvaccinated) showed up to celebrate July 4,” the “packed bars, clubs, and lots of mixing of vaccinated and unvaccinated folks in tight quarters” created “ideal conditions for COVID spread.”
“Bottom line? P-town outbreak would’ve been a nightmare if no one was vaccinated,” he said.
Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, called Provincetown a “perhaps worst case scenario” on Twitter and added vaccines are highly effective in protecting against hospitalization and severe cases.
Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said on Twitter while some breakthrough infections occurred, “vaccines were still highly effective, saved lives” in Provincetown.
New cases breaking some local, state records
A deluge of delta cases is leading to record-breaking all-time weekly case counts in some places in the U.S., including in a dozen Louisiana parishes, 10 Florida counties, three Mississippi counties and three Oregon counties. The surge is also setting all-time case records in two states: Louisiana and Hawaii, according to USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
On Friday, Florida logged a weekly case count of 110,447, blowing far past last summer’s 83,090 weekly count. The Friday count puts the state in second place for the worst rate of new cases per person, behind only Louisiana.
While Louisiana has 4.6 million residents, it accounts for more new COVID-19 cases than New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island and Delaware combined. These six states have 43.3 million residents combined.
Congress fails to extend eviction moratorium, despite last-minute effort
After scrambling for votes all day, the House of Representatives on Friday failed to pass a bill that would have extended a freeze on evictions that is slated to expire Saturday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Whip James Clyburn released a joint statement on the failed bill and blamed Republicans.
“It is extremely disappointing that House and Senate Republicans have refused to work with us on this issue,” they wrote in the statement. “We strongly urge them to reconsider their opposition to helping millions of Americans and instead join with us to help renters and landlords hit hardest by the pandemic and prevent a nationwide eviction crisis.”
-Chelsey Cox and Ella Lee
Six test positive for COVID on Royal Caribbean ship
Six passengers sailing on Royal Caribbean International’s Adventure of the Seas, which departed from Nassau Saturday, have tested positive for COVID-19, Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, confirmed to USA TODAY Friday. All are American citizens.
The tests came back as part of routine, end-of-cruise testing, which is offered as a courtesy by the cruise line since most passengers need to show proof of a negative test in order to return home. Travelers flying to the U.S. from international destinations are required to show proof of a negative COVID test or proof they recovered from the virus within the past three months.
“These guests were quarantined and then retested with a PCR test to confirm their diagnosis,” Sierra-Caro said. PCR and antigen tests were offered to passengers, depending on their destination. The tests that came back positive were rapid tests, and those passengers were retested Thursday or Friday with a PCR test, which is more reliable.
Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; Jeffrey Schweers, Tallahassee Democrat; The Associated Press