Florida Posts Record Deaths, Wins Mask Rule Freeze: Virus Update

Florida posted a record 2,448 additional Covid-19 deaths in its weekly report, which showed a 23% drop in cases. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis can enforce for now a ban on school mask mandates, a court ruled. 

President Joe Biden reprimanded GOP leaders for fighting rules on face coverings and other virus precautions in schools. Vaccines for younger children will be reviewed as quickly as possible, U.S. regulators said Friday.

Top health officials believe the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE shot could be approved for the 5-11 age group next month, Reuters reported. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that unvaccinated people are significantly more likely to contract Covid-19, become hospitalized and die.

Thailand plans to enforce pandemic curbs in local hotspots until at least the end of the month. Myanmar extended school closures until Sept. 24 to stem the spread of the virus.

Florida Sets Record for Deaths (6:00 a.m. HK)

Florida reported 2,448 additional Covid-19 deaths in its latest weekly report, the most ever in a similar period.

The daily average rose 4% to 350, according to calculations based on the report. That would surpass the high for the entire pandemic in Johns Hopkins University data. The state’s figures are based on when the death was reported, not when it occurred.

People 65-and-over accounted for 62% of the fatalities reported for the week ending Thursday. Over the entire pandemic, Florida seniors represent 78% of deaths.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. Cases among Florida residents fell 23% to 100,012 for the week, the report showed. The rate of positive tests fell in every age group, but it remains highest among 12-19 year-olds.

Shot for Kids 5-11 May Be Cleared Next Month (5:15 a.m. HK)

Top U.S. health officials believe the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BionTech SE could be approved for children 5 to 11 years old by the end of October, Reuters reported, citing two source familiar with the situation. 

That timeline is based on the expectation that Pfizer will have enough clinical trial data to seek emergency use authorization from regulators by the end of September. The Food and Drug Administration could make a decision within three weeks of the EUA submission, Reuters said.

Kentucky, Pennsylvania Lead U.S. in New Cases (2:55 p.m. NY)

Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Ohio led U.S. states in new cases during the week that ended Wednesday, even as the nationwide increase slowed, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Compared to the preceding seven-day period, Covid-19 deaths rose more than sixfold in Kentucky, almost quadrupled in New Mexico and more than doubled in Connecticut.

The number of intensive-care unit beds with Covid patients increased the most in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota during the week through Tuesday, followed by West Virginia, North Dakota and Kentucky, according to a CDC update published Friday.

Governor Andy Beshear called in another 310 Kentucky National Guard members to help with nonclinical duties at hospitals on top of more than 100 already deployed. “This shows that every hospital is bursting at the seams, that they desperately need help and that we are a state full of more desperately sick people than we have ever seen,” he said Thursday.

Florida Ban on School Mask Mandates Back On (2:45 p.m. NY)

A Florida appeals court said Friday that Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on school mask mandates can be enforced for now, even after a lower court judge ruled in favor of parents who had challenged the governor.

It’s the latest twist in an on-again, off-again saga with the ban. Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper ruled in favor of parents who challenged the ban; the state appealed, triggering an automatic stay; and on Wednesday, the circuit court judge vacated the automatic stay. Now, the pendulum has swung once again.

North Macedonia Health Minister Resigns (2:20 p.m. NY)

North Macedonia’s Health Minister Venko Filipche submitted his resignation after a fire in a Covid hospital killed 14 people in the city of Tetovo. “As a doctor and a minister I have integrity, this is why today I submit my resignation for moral reason,” Filipche said.

NYC School Chorus, Band Must Get Shots (1:55 p.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, during a radio interview with WNYC on Friday, said that a widespread vaccine mandate for public school students recently announced by Los Angeles is “not on the table.” He did, however, say that extracurricular activities that are considered high risk for the spread of Covid would require vaccines by students 12 and older. Activities include chorus, musical theater, dance, band and marching band, cheerleading. De Blasio said 66% of eligible kids are vaccinated in the city.

CDC Study Reinforces Vaccine (12:30 p.m. NY)

A CDC study set to be published on Friday finds that unvaccinated people are significantly more likely to contract Covid-19, become hospitalized and die, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a Friday briefing. She called the findings “further evidence of the power of vaccination.”

Unvaccinated people have about 4.5 times higher risk of contracting Covid, more than 10 times the risk of getting hospitalized and 11 times the risk of death, she said. The study was conducted in the spring and summer months when delta became widespread in the U.S. and tracked more than 600,000 Covid cases by immunization status.

“Vaccination works,” Walensky said. “The bottom line is this: we have the scientific tools we need to turn the corner on this pandemic.”

Welsh Cabinet to Discuss Passports (11:26 a.m. NY)

Vaccine passports will be discussed by the Welsh government’s cabinet next week, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced. Speaking at a press conference, Drakeford said there were not only practical and ethical issues, but legal considerations too.The First Minister stressed that vaccination certification would not be introduced for access to things where “people have no choice but to go,” but said there was a different case for voluntary settings, particularly ones vulnerable to promoting the spread of Covid.

FDA Vows Rapid Review (11:00 a.m. NY)

Covid-19 vaccines for younger children will be vetted as quickly as possible once drugmakers seek authorization for them, U.S. regulators said, vowing a swift review amid concern about the infection risks faced by kids.

Currently, Americans 12 and older are eligible to receive a vaccine. But the recent surge in infections fueled by the delta variant and the start of a new school year have increased calls for younger children to be immunized.

Biden Targets GOP Governors (10:59 a.m. NY)

President Joe Biden lambasted Republican governors for fighting mask mandates and other Covid-19 precautions in schools, accusing them of endangering children.

“I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids,” Biden said at a Washington, D.C., middle school on Friday.  “So cavalier with the health of their communities. We’re playing for real here. This isn’t a game.”

Republican governors including Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas have tried to prohibit schools in their states from requiring masks, calling it a personal decision for parents. The president said that both science and public opinion are on his side, noting polls that show strong support for mask mandates in schools.

Kentucky Mask Mandate Blocked (10:30 a.m. NY)

Kentucky’s Republican-controlled House and Senate held veto override votes that blocked Democratic Governor Andy Beshear from issuing statewide mask mandates, shifting that power to local government units, such as school boards.

The votes late Thursday capped a whirlwind three-day special session that Beshear called in order to continue dozens of pandemic-related executive orders and regulations that require legislative reauthorization.

House and Senate leaders voted to renew roughly 60 of Beshear’s actions. But they also revoked his ability to issue statewide masking mandates after the governor ordered masks in schools.

England-India Cricket Match Called Off (10:15 a.m. NY)

The fifth and final cricket Test match between England and India was canceled because India’s players were concerned about the potential for the virus to circulate through the squad, according to statements from the teams’ national governing bodies.

The head coach tested positive last weekend and an assistant coach tested positive yesterday, while the India players were deemed Covid safe by Public Health England. The Indian team and the support staff have been in England since June.

Travel Testing Is a Lottery: U.K Watchdog (7:42 a.m. NY)

The Covid travel testing market is a “lottery” which risks becoming a “race to the bottom” that greater competition alone won’t fix, the U.K.’s antitrust watchdog warned. 

The Competition and Markets Authority has been investigating firms that offer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for travel after concerns the market was riddled with high pricing, poor service, and failure to provide results on time, or in some cases, not at all. 

U.S. Covid-19 Hospitalizations at 13.2% (7:30 a.m. NY)

More than 13% of hospital beds in U.S. hospitals were occupied by Covid-19 patients on Sept. 9, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The hospitalization rate remained unchanged at 13.2% from the day before and hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients totaled 101,904.

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