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COVID-19 live updates: Hospitalizations at highest point in 6 months

(NEW YORK) — The United States is facing a COVID-19 surge this summer as the more contagious delta variant spreads.

More than 617,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and over 4.3 million people have died worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 58.7% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:

Aug 11, 1:15 pm
WHO announces trial to test 3 candidate drugs as potential COVID treatments

WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday announced Solidarity PLUS, a new trial involving thousands of researchers in 52 countries to test three drugs as potential COVID treatments: artesunate, a treatment for severe malaria; imatinib, a drug for certain cancers; and infliximab, a treatment for immune system disorders such as Crohn’s disease.

In October, the WHO reported results of the Solidarity Trial, which tested four drugs as potential COVID-19 treatments: remdesevir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon. The trial, which involved nearly 13,000 patients in 30 countries, showed all four drugs had little or no effect on hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Final results from the Solidarity Trial are expected next month.

Aug 11, 12:00 pm
CDC strengthens its recommendation for vaccines during pregnancy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday strengthened its recommendation for vaccines during pregnancy.

The CDC’s update is based on new evidence that the vaccine officially poses no safety concerns for pregnant people vaccinated late in pregnancy, or for their babies, and no increased risk for miscarriage. The CDC also found no increased risk of miscarriage among people who got vaccinated during the first trimester.

Pregnant people were not initially included in the clinical studies for the vaccines so the CDC couldn’t definitively say vaccines were safe and effective — though it’s long been recommended by officials. Last week, two of the nation’s leading women’s health organizations, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), came out in full support of vaccinations for pregnant people.

Just 23% of pregnant people received one dose of a vaccine during pregnancy as of July 31, according to CDC data.

Aug 11, 11:21 am
Hospitalizations at highest point in 6 months

The daily case average in the U.S. has surged to more than 110,000, a 25.5% jump in the last week, according to federal data.

The U.S. has reported over 770,000 cases in the last week, marking the highest weekly total in months.

Every state in the country is now reporting high (a seven-day new case rate ≥100) or substantial (a seven-day new case rate between 50-99.99) community transmission, according to federal data.

Hospitalizations in the U.S. have climbed to the highest point in six months. About 9,300 patients are being admitted each day, the highest number of patients seeking care since April.

Pediatric COVID-19-related admissions per capita are also at their highest point of the pandemic.

Aug 11, 11:06 am
Philadelphia city employees must get vaccinated or wear double masks

In Philadelphia, all city employees must be vaccinated or will be required to double-mask while working in enclosed spaces as of Sept. 1, Mayor Jim Kenney said.

The mayor on Wednesday also announced a new mask mandate that’ll go into effect Thursday for indoor places where vaccines aren’t required. The mandate also applies to non-seated outdoor events with over 1,000 people.

While COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia aren’t as severe as many other cities, acting Philadelphia health commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said over 100 COVID-19 patients are now in city hospitals, the highest number since early June.

Aug 11, 10:08 am
Hurricane evacuations could be complicated by COVID: Biden

For Americans in hurricane-prone states, “a vital part of preparing for hurricane season is to get vaccinated now,” President Joe Biden said Tuesday.

“If you wind up having to evacuate, if you wind up having to stay in a shelter, you don’t want to add COVID-19 to the list of dangers that you’re going to be confronting,” Biden warned at a briefing with FEMA and Homeland Security officials. “Get vaccinated now so you’re ready for whatever may come this month. And it’s likely that some serious hurricanes are going to come this month.”

Florida and Louisiana, two of the most hurricane-prone states, are leading the nation in cases. Alabama, Mississippi and Texas are also among the states with the highest case numbers.

There’s a 65% chance for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year.

Aug 11, 8:31 am
TSA sees its lowest checkpoint numbers in nearly 2 months

As COVID-19 surges, the Transportation Security Administration screened 1,727,075 travelers across the U.S. on Tuesday — the lowest number since June 15.

Aug 11, 3:25 am
Texas county will sue over state’s mask mandate ban

The largest county in Texas is set to file a lawsuit challenging the governor’s mask mandate ban.

The commissioner’s court of Harris County, which encompasses the city of Houston, had the county attorney file a lawsuit challenging Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that prohibits local governments in the state from requiring masks, ABC’s Houston station KTRK reported.

“First responders and school leaders are speaking out and standing up as Delta ravages our community. We have their back,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo wrote on Twitter. “Protecting the community during an emergency is a duty, not an option for government leaders.”

“It’s the job of local officials to protect our students, our vulnerable, our neighbors,” said Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee. “But [Abbott] has banned us from doing so during a pandemic. Tonight Commissioners Court authorized my office to take legal action against the governor’s overreach. Enough is enough.”

Aug 10, 8:51 pm
Hawaii reinstates capacity restrictions amid COVID-19 spike

Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced new capacity restrictions on businesses and limits on social gatherings Tuesday amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Effective immediately, bars, restaurants and gyms are limited to 50% capacity. Additionally, social gatherings are limited to 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors.

COVID-19 case counts doubled every seven to 10 days in July, and there have been record daily highs of over 600 cases in recent days, Ige said. Hospitalizations have also increased from 48 a month ago to 219 currently.

“We need to take action, and we need to take action now,” Ige said during a press briefing.

Aug 10, 7:43 pm
CDC advisory panel to discuss vaccine boosters on Friday

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel is expected to meet later this week to discuss the possibility of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for people who are severely immunocompromised.

The meeting of the CDC’s ACIP panel — scheduled for Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — will be closely watched as the nation awaits a decision by federal regulators on whether to authorize a booster shot for certain vulnerable groups.

If the Food and Drug Administration greenlights boosters, the ACIP panel would have to make its own recommendation on who should get the shot and what factors they might want to consider. Those recommendations are typically adopted by the CDC as nationwide public health guidance.

During a meeting last month, ACIP members agreed an extra shot probably does help protect immunocompromised people but that more research was needed*.*

Aug 10, 5:08 pm
At least 1 million people got unauthorized third booster shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 1 million people who have received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine have gone back for an unauthorized third booster shot.

Florida is among the states reporting the highest number of people opting for a booster shot, followed by Ohio, California, Illinois and Tennessee.

The estimated 1.1 million, included in an internal CDC briefing document reviewed by ABC News, likely is an undercount because although it counts Moderna and Pfizer shot recipients it ignores people who may have received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine and got another shot.

It’s also unclear whether people who received a third shot did so under the direction of a doctor. The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t authorized a third shot to boost immunity, although there are reports of some physicians encouraging severely immunocompromised patients to do so.

Boosters for the immunocompromised may be recommended by the FDA within weeks.

Aug 10, 3:23 pm
Hospitalizations among vaccinated on the rise

The proportion of hospitalized COVID-19 cases among vaccinated people has risen sharply since spring, coinciding with the sudden rise of the delta variant, according to the CDC’s internal briefing slides reviewed by ABC News.

The finding doesn’t mean the vaccines aren’t working. People are still considerably less likely to wind up in the hospital or die if they are vaccinated, health officials have said.

The reality of more breakthrough cases also could be tied to the larger number of Americans getting vaccinated. While breakthrough cases remain relatively uncommon, the more people in the U.S. who are vaccinated increases the chances for breakthrough cases to be counted.

According to the CDC, vaccinated individuals who end up hospitalized tend to be elderly, medically vulnerable or live in long-term care facilities. They also are more likely to be asymptomatic and are hospitalized for reasons other than COVID-19.

On July 17, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky estimated that 97% of hospitalizations were occurring among people who weren’t immunized.

Aug 10, 2:17 pm
Fauci says he supports vaccine mandates for teachers

Dr. Anthony Fauci supports a mask mandate for teachers, he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday.

“We are in a critical situation here. We’ve had 600,000+ deaths and we are in a major surge now as we’re going into the fall,” Fauci said. “I know people must like to have their individual freedom and not be told to do something, but I think we’re in such a serious situation now that, under certain circumstances, mandates should be done.”

Fauci said it’s only a matter of time until the FDA approves the vaccine and people shouldn’t use that as a reason to delay getting the shot.

“There’s no doubt that these vaccines are going to get fully approved,” he said. “You should consider this as good as fully approved and get vaccinated.”

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