CDC gives go-ahead to mix-and-match boosters, endorses second shot for J&J vaccine: COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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Starting Friday, clinics, doctors and pharmacies can begin giving out mix-and-match COVID-19 booster shots.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on the measure late Thursday following a CDC advisory committee’s recommendation that Americans be allowed to choose among the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as a COVID-19 booster shot. The committee said it could increase protection against the disease that is killing on average 1,093 Americans a day.

“The evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe – as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given. And, they are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. 

Walenskey also endorsed a second shot for all 15 million Americans who received the one-dose J&J vaccine, as well as a booster dose for certain groups of people who got the Moderna vaccine. Read more here.

— Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

Also in the news:

►Three African lions at the Indianapolis Zoo have tested positive for the delta variant and have been taken off exhibit, officials said Thursday.

►In Michigan, about 70 Beaumont Health workers resigned rather than take the COVID-19 vaccine and 370 have been suspended for failing to meet an Oct. 18 deadline for vaccination, the health system announced Thursday.  

►Restaurants, movie theaters and many retail stores in Moscow will be closed for 11 days starting Oct. 28, along with other new restrictions as Russia recorded the highest numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths since the pandemic began.

Ready for some sun? Hawaii’s governor welcomed back tourists as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations dropped.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 45 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 733,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 242 million cases and 4.9 million deaths. More than 189 million Americans — 57.2% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Many local health officials face a ‘miserable’ job of fighting COVID despite restrictive laws and abuse. Read more here.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Fully vaccinated people make up less than 1% of COVID deaths

Scientists knew the COVID-19 vaccines were highly effective at preventing severe disease and death, but they didn’t know exactly how effective until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing what experts called a “modern miracle.”

As of Oct. 12, the agency found only 7,178 deaths occurred among fully vaccinated people in the U.S. In a country that has reported more than 720,000 COVID-related deaths, the fully vaccinated make up less than 1%

“We were all hoping for something to help save our neighbors and our patients and certainly this data is tremendous,” said Dr. Joseph Teel, vice chair of clinical operations for the department of family medicine and community health at Penn Medicine. “It’s a modern miracle in many ways.”

The vaccine is not a miracle because it worked, health experts say. Scientists have been working on mRNA technology for more than 30 years for other diseases. The COVID-19 vaccine is a miracle because it worked so well despite the uncertainty of a new disease among a diverse population, an unprecedented scale-up and a lack of uptake.

— Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY

Florida military service members, contractors file suit to halt vaccine mandate

A lawsuit filed in Tampa and representing Southwest Florida asks for a temporary restraining order and injunction regarding service members and a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine order.

The suit, filed by the Liberty Counsel in Florida’s Middle District Court on Oct. 15, states that members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, and federal employees and federal civilian contractors, have been unlawfully mandated to get the COVID-19 vaccines or face dishonorable discharge from the military or termination from employment. 

“The Biden administration has no authority to require the COVID shots for the military or for federal employees or civilian contractors,” said Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver. “Nor can the Biden administration pretend that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment do not apply to its unlawful mandates.

— Rachel Heimann Mercader, Naples Daily News

CDC sending team to Guam to study COVID-19 deaths

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will send a team to Guam to investigate why so many COVID-19 patients arrive at the island’s hospitals dead.

Last month, the U.S. territory’s Department of Public Health and Social Services reported that “dead on arrival” cases made up about two-thirds of recent COVID-19 deaths on Guam.

The CDC team is coming at the request of Department of Public Health and Social Services Director Art San Agustin, the Pacific Daily News reported.

The team is expected to take a deep dive into the data, “to look at what actually happened” and analyze whether the patients had similar comorbidities, Chief Public Health Officer Chima Mbakwem said Thursday.

— The Associated Press

7-week-old baby dies from COVID-19 in Kentucky

A 7-week-old was among the 53 new COVID-related deaths reported in Kentucky on Thursday

The daily update shared to the state’s website included an additional death in the 0-9 age range, but didn’t include any details. Gov. Andy Beshear said on Twitter that the baby was 7 weeks old. 

In a midday new conference, Beshear said the infant was believed to have “multiple issues” and “complications” in addition to COVID-19. 

“It can impact anyone, whether or not it is the only cause of us losing someone,” he said. “If it’s what puts it over the edge, or even just contributes to that loss, there’s something that we can do about that, and that’s everybody getting vaccinated, doing what it takes, masking when it’s appropriate, to protect one another.” 

— Sarah Ladd, Louisville Courier Journal

Contributing: The Associated Press