US COVID-19 death toll surpasses 700,000

The COVID-19 pandemic is the deadliest in US history, with more than 700,000 Americans succumbing, and counting.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States has recorded 702,444 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began more than 18 months ago. The country has seen 43,799,517 COVID-19 cases in total.

Yesterday US officials reported 25,215 new COVID-19 cases and 237 deaths.

The 7-day average of new daily cases is 106,725, with 1,907 daily deaths, according to the Washington Post tracker. In the past week, new daily cases fell 9.6%, deaths fell 4.5%, and hospitalizations fell 11.2%.

Stressed hospitals in several states

Though the summer surge caused by the Delta (B1617. 2) variant seems to be officially dwindling, several states are still experiencing overcrowded hospitals.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and state health leaders warned late last week that hospital capacity in that state is reaching critical levels.

"The pressure on hospitals and clinics in both our urban and rural areas is reaching critical levels, and we all need to do our part to avoid hospitalization and prevent further strain on these facilities and their staff as we work through this incredibly challenging time," Burgum said.

North Dakota health officials are urging everyone to get flu shots as soon as possible, as well as COVID-19 vaccines.

And Alaska has now activated crisis standards of care for 20 healthcare facilities. State officials said oxygen supplies are limited, as well as medical staff.

Vaccine makers plan next steps for boosters

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Moderna have plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize booster does of the companies' COVID-19 vaccines.

J&J is planning to ask the FDA this week to authorize a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine, the New York Times reports, after data showed the single-dose vaccine is likely around 70% effective against hospitalization from COVID-19.

The FDA late last week scheduled a meeting to discuss a J&J booster on Oct 15, the Times reports, a decision that will affect the roughly 15 million Americans who have received that vaccine.

On Oct 14 and 15, the FDA's VRBPAC (Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee) will meet to consider a Moderna booster dose, as well as mixing and matching vaccine boosters.

VRBPAC will meet on Oct 26 to discuss the authorization of the Pfizer vaccine in kids ages 5 to 11, but Pfizer has not yet submitted data to the group.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker shows that 55.9% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 64.8% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 2.9% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster shot.

Other US developments

  • American Airlines, Alaska Air, and JetBlue announced new vaccine requirements for employees late last week, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • The federal government will not extend the shelf life of hundreds of thousands of unused J&J COVID-19 vaccines, but it may extend the life of millions of Moderna vaccine doses, according to NBC News

  • New York City's vaccine mandate for public school teachers and staff takes effect today, the Associated Press reported today. Mayor Bill DeBlasio said on Oct 1 that 90% of all Department of Education employees had received at least one dose of vaccine. 

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