The U.S. tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 passed 36 million on Wednesday, with at least three states gearing up to implement face-mask mandates as they struggle with surges in new infections caused by the delta variant of the virus.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, is expected to announce her state’s mandate later Wednesday, the Washington Post reported, joining Louisiana and Hawaii who have also applied the mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in indoor settings. Last month, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak mandated masks in counties with “substantial or high transmission” but stopped short of a full statewide order.
The moves come at a time of growing tensions in Texas and Florida where governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis have issued orders banning such mandates, including in schools, which are about to receive millions of for-now unvaccinated students. DeSantis has even gone so far as to threaten to withhold funding from schools that defy his order, and said he would not pay the salaries of inspectors and school board members.
“There are two keys to saving lives. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. And, by wearing masks, all of us––vaccinated and unvaccinated––can help ensure that a hospital bed staffed by health professionals is available for our loved ones in their time of need.”
— Oregon Gov. Kate Brown
Oregon’s Brown explained her rationale in a statement.
“There are two keys to saving lives. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. And, by wearing masks, all of us––vaccinated and unvaccinated––can help ensure that a hospital bed staffed by health professionals is available for our loved ones in their time of need. If we all do our part, we can beat COVID-19 once and for all, keep our economy open and thriving, and return our kids to the classroom with minimal disruptions in a few weeks,” she said.
In Texas, meanwhile, two court rulings have come in favor of local leaders who oppose Abbot’s ban and will allow them to at least temporarily require face masks, the New York Times reported.
The first was in Bexar County, which is home to San Antonio, the second was made by a district judge in Dallas, who said the ban was preventing officials from protecting residents during an emergency, the Times reported.
“..The citizens of Dallas County have and will continue to be damaged and injured by Gov. Abbot’s conduct,” said the ruling by Judge Tonya Parker.
Texas recorded 20,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker, while Florida counted 20,052.
The U.S. seven-day average of new cases stood at 118,067, up 86% from two weeks ago. Cases have climbed 10-fold since late June, while deaths have doubled. Hospitalizations overall are up 85% from two weeks ago, and hospitals in states with low vaccination rates are filling rapidly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker is showing that almost 167 million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID, equal to 50.3% of the overall population. That means they have had two shots of the vaccines developed by Pfizer
and German partner BioNTech
or one of Johnson & Johnson’s
one-jab vaccine, the only three to have been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said this week he expects the FDA to grant at least one vaccine full approval within weeks, clearing the way for it to be mandated by the private sector as well as schools and universities, as the Associated Press reported.
Among adults 18 years and older, 61.2% are fully vaccinated and 71.2% have received at least one dose. But rates vary widely from state to state and some, especially in the deep South, remain far below the national average.
Elsewhere, Russia recorded 799 COVID fatalities on Wednesday, Reuters reported, setting a fifth record in the past month. The coronavirus task force also confirmed 21,571 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours.
China is planning a mixed-vaccine trial that will combine the “inactivated” Sinovac vaccine with a DNA-based one developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc.
the Guardian reported. Preclinical work has found that “two different vaccine applications … produce an even stronger and more balanced immune response,” Advaccine chairman Wang Bin said in the statement.
In Canada, Quebec will become the first province to roll out a vaccine passport, that will be required to go to restaurants, bars, gyms and event venues, according to Quebec’s Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé.
In Australia, Melbourne, the country’s second biggest city, will stay locked down for a second week after counting 20 new cases of COVID, Reuters reported. Melbourne was meant to reopen on Thursday. The lockdown is the sixth since the start of the pandemic.
Sydney, the country’s biggest city, police are stepping up enforcement as it too remains in lockdown.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness headed above 204.2 million on Wednesday, while the death toll climbed above 4.31 million according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with a total of 36 million cases and in deaths with 618,175.
India is second by cases at 32 million and third by deaths at 429,179 according to its official numbers, which are expected to be undercounted.
Brazil is second in deaths at 564,773, but is third in cases at 20.2 million. Mexico has fourth-highest death toll at 245,476 but has recorded just 2.9 million cases, according to its official numbers.
In Europe, Russia continues to pull ahead of the U.K. by deaths at 164,413, while the U.K. has 130,813, making Russia the country with the fifth-highest death toll in the world and highest in Europe.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 106,163 confirmed cases and 4,848 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.