Delta variant accounts for 20% of new infections in US; world case rates fall to February 2021 levels: Live COVID-19 updates

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel will meet Wednesday to consider possible changes to COVID-19 vaccinations for young adults after reports of heart inflammation among a small number of teenage vaccine recipients.

There have been several hundred cases of this inflammation, also known as myocarditis, after the Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for minors 12 and older.

The vaccine safety group said in May the “relatively few” reports of myocarditis “appear to be mild” and are below the expected baseline rates. Read more here.

Meanwhile, the delta variant now represents more than 20% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. in the last two weeks, or double what it was when the CDC last reported on the variant’s prevalence.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned that the U.S. could be following the United Kingdom’s course, where the variant has become the dominant strain due to rapid spread among youth. Fauci says indications are that the vaccines remain effective against the variant.

The delta variant, first detected in India, is accounting for half of new infections in the regions that include Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Also in the news:

►70% of Californians ages 12 and up have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Twitter Tuesday. 

 ►The White House conceded Tuesday that it would fall short of the goal to vaccinate 70% of adults with at least one shot by July 4, although it said some age groups will hit the target. At least 70% of Americans ages 30 and older have received at least one shot, the White House said, and based on current estimates, the administration is on track to hit the 70% target for those 27 and older by the Fourth of July weekend.

►Deaths among Medicare patients in nursing homes soared by 32% last year, with two devastating spikes eight months apart, a government watchdog reported Tuesday in the most comprehensive look yet at the ravages of COVID-19 among its most vulnerable victims.

►Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says he will end the state’s public health state of emergency on July 1, more than 15 months after he initially declared it because of the coronavirus pandemic.

►Colombia has surpassed 100,000 recorded COVID-19 deaths, making it just the 10th country to reach that milestone.

►The European Union’s medicines regulator has approved two new manufacturing sites for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer. The move announced Tuesday by the European Medicines Agency will help increase production of the vaccine that has formed the backbone of many European nations’ vaccination programs.

►Roughly 900 U.S. Secret Service employees tested positive for the coronavirus between March 2020 and 2021, according to government records obtained by a government watchdog group.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 602,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 179 million cases and more than 3.88 million deaths. More than 150.42 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — nearly 45.3% of the population, according to the CDC. 

📘 What we’re reading: Doctors are seeing an increase in mental health issues and feelings of guilt among people recovered from COVID-19. Here’s why.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

World case rates lowest since February

U.S. infection rates for COVID this week are beginning to plateau, and there is increasing concern that could be because of the delta variant, according to the Johns Hopkins Weekly Situation report. 

Though the alpha variant still remains the most prominent variant in the nation, its prevalence fell slightly to give way to the delta variant last week. “If this jump is indicative of a longer-term increasing trend, the delta variant could quickly become the dominant variant in the US,” the report says.

But globally, cases and deaths continued to decrease over the past week with a 6% and a 12% decrease, respectively. That’s 2.5 million cases, the lowest weekly case incidence since February 2021, and 64,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly epidemiological update. 

Most regions reported a decrease in deaths. But Africa reported over 132,000 new cases and over 1,900 new deaths, a 39% and 38% increase, respectively, compared to the previous week, the update said. Less than 1% of people on the continent have been even partially vaccinated.

Houston hospital workers fired or resign over COVID-19 vaccine requirement

More than 150 employees at a Houston hospital system have been fired or resigned after the medical system implemented a mandate requiring a COVID-19 vaccine and a judge dismissed an employee lawsuit over it. 

The hospital system had previously required employees to complete their immunization by June 7. 178 employees were suspended for two weeks without pay for not complying.

And after the suspension period ended Tuesday, 153 employees either resigned or were terminated for not completing their inoculations, a spokesperson for Houston Methodist Hospital system told the Associated Press.

A federal judge threw out the lawsuit last week that had been filed by 117 employees over the requirement. Employees have appealed.

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