CDC says delta variant is dominant in US; NYC hosts ticker tape parade for essential workers: Live COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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New York City, once the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., threw a ticker tape parade in lower Manhattan on Wednesday to honor the “hometown heroes” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Essential workers from the city’s hospitals, emergency departments, schools and hospitality sector rode more than a dozen floats led by Queens nurse Sandra Lindsay, who was named grand marshal. She was the first person in the U.S. to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials.

“We’ve got a lot to appreciate, because we’re well underway in our recovery. We’ve got a lot to celebrate,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who rode on a parade float with hospital employees.

The celebration in New York, however, comes as top U.S. health officials warn residents about the spread of COVID-19 variants, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects the highly transmissible delta variant, first identified in India, is now the dominant strain in the U.S. The variant makes up 51.7% of all new infections, according to CDC data.

It’s not just a problem in the U.S. Germany’s disease control center on Wednesday announced the delta variant has become dominant in the country, nearly doubling within one week. A French government spokesperson said cases increased by 20% from last week because of the variant. And in the United Kingdom, where the variant has also been circulating, officials reported more than 30,000 daily infections for the first time since January.

Also in the news:

►More than a hundred students and adults tested positive for the coronavirus after returning home from a Texas church’s summer camp last month.

►Trinity Health, one of the largest Catholic health care systems in the U.S., is requiring all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to help stop the spread and protect patients, staff and their communities.

►Illinois on Wednesday announced state employees who work in direct care facilities and receive at least dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be entered in a series of drawings with prizes that include $10,000 cash, museum passes, airline vouchers, Chicago Cubs tickets and more.

►Costco announced it will be ending its weekday senior hours, which have been in place since March 2020, and resuming regular hours of operation on July 26.

Smithsonian magazine is relaunching its annual Museum Day in September, following the event’s cancellation last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Over 1,000 museums, zoos and cultural centers across the U.S. will waive admission fees for visitors as part of the event.

►Summertime jobs for teens are on the rebound, according to the predictions of labor market experts: 31.5% of 16- to 19-year-olds will have jobs this summer.

►Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, New Hampshire’s only academic health system and the state’s largest private employer, is shifting to a “remote by design” approach, in which up to 2,000 employees will keep working remotely in some capacity even after the pandemic.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 606,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 184.8 million cases and more than 3.99 million deaths. More than 157.6 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 47.5% of the population, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: The Canadian and U.S. governments aren’t expected to reevaluate the border closure between the two countries until July 21, but the ongoing closure has both economic and human costs. Read here.

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

WHO head in Eastern Mediterranean concerned about spike due to variants

The head of the World Health Organization in the Eastern Mediterranean said COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the region after two months of steady declines.

“As we continue into the summer months, we are concerned about another spike in cases due to variants of concern and increased international travel, combined with low protection of people due to limited vaccination uptake and inadequate adherence to prevention measures,” Regional Director Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari said in a statement Wednesday. 

He said the highly transmissible delta variant, which has been detected in at least 98 countries, is contributing to the rise. Al-Mandhari said the region is also “far” from its goal of vaccinating at least 40% of the population of every country in the region by the end of the year.

“The situation is even more critical in a number of countries facing humanitarian emergencies, where people are already living under extremely challenges conditions, and yet need to be protected as equally as anyone else,” Al-Mandhari said. “We need higher income countries to finance the procurement of vaccines through the COVAX Facility, and to share vaccines with lower income countries.”

Chicago Public Schools to establish standing vaccination sites at schools

The nation’s third-largest school district announced plans Wednesday to open three school-based vaccination sites to students and families next week and establish standing sites at schools across Chicago starting in September, prioritizing neighborhoods with low vaccination rates.

“While more than 50,000 children under the age of 18 have been vaccinated in Chicago, this accomplishment has not been shared equally across all of our neighborhoods,” Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said in a statement.

Chicago Public Schools serves more than 340,000 students, and pproximately 78% of staff are fully or partially vaccinated, the district said, based on self-reported data. The district plans to offer full in-person instruction in the fall

US lawmakers urge President Joe Biden to reopen Canadian border

Seventy-five members of the U.S. House signed a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday saying it’s past time to reopen the border with Canada.

In the letter, members from both parties asked Biden “to begin taking science-based, data-driven steps to safely reopen international travel” to the U.S., including allowing freer access to Canada.

Pressure has been building on Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reopen the world’s largest land border between two nations, which has been closed since last year to all but essential travel because of concerns over COVID-19. But the Biden administration is not expected to take another look at reopening the border until July 21. Read more.

– Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press

Tokyo Olympics likely to open during COVID-19 ‘state of emergency’

Surging COVID-19 cases in Tokyo have hit a two-month high that almost guarantees the Japanese government will declare a new state of emergency to start next week and continue for the duration of the Tokyo Olympics.

The pandemic-delayed Olympics open in just over two weeks on July 23 and end on Aug. 8. The present quasi-state of emergency ends Sunday.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with key ministers to discuss virus measures and reportedly is considering reinstating a state of emergency in the capital until Aug. 22.

A new state of emergency could lead to a ban even on local fans. That decision on fans is expected Friday when local organizers meet with the International Olympic Committee and others. Read more.

CDC projects delta is dominant US variant

The delta variant has swept across the United States, becoming the predominant strain circulating in the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The CDC estimates delta represented about 51.7% of all new cases in late June and early July. Just six weeks earlier, in the middle of May, about 1 in 32 variant cases was delta, the CDC says.

The variant, first identified in India, has been blamed for a surge of cases in countries around the globe and led some areas to bring back some pandemic restrictions. Parts of Europe have reinstated travel quarantines and several Australian cities are in outbreak-sparked lockdowns.

Delta appears to be far more infectious than other strains, and there are reports it’s significantly better than other variants at dodging immunities. But the vaccines most used in Western countries still appear to offer strong protection against the delta variant, U.S. health officials say.

– Mike Stucka

Anti-mask protesters charged for disrupting school board meeting

Several anti-mask protesters who disrupted a school district board meeting in Utah earlier this year are facing criminal charges, officials said.

About 30 to 40 protesters disrupted the May 4 meeting amid news that Utah public schools would require masks through the end of the school year. After board members abruptly ended the meeting, the parents remained on the district’s campus and police were called. Video of the meeting was shared widely on social media.

Eleven protesters were charged with disorderly conduct and disrupting a public meeting last week. Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley said police are still searching for another person who was accused of being involved in the confrontation.

COVID-19 survivors struggle with reality of unending grief

With more than 605,000 dead of COVID-19 in the United States and nearly 4 million worldwide, thousands or more could be experiencing prolonged grief, the kind of mourning that experts say can prevent people from moving beyond a death and functioning normally again.

Natalia Skritskaya, an expert on grieving, said it’s too early to say whether prolonged grieving, also known as complicated grief, will be a major complication from the pandemic – it isn’t yet over, with thousands still dying daily worldwide, including hundreds in the United States. Many mourners have yet to pass the one-year anniversary of a loss, and few studies have been published so far on the psychiatric fallout, she said.

A study published in the fall predicted a likely increase in cases of prolonged grief linked to the pandemic. Skritskaya, a research scientist and clinical psychologist with the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University in New York, noted that prolonged grief can be treated with therapy in which participants talk through their experience and feelings.

Tigers, bears, mountain lions among animals vaccinated at Oakland Zoo

A San Francisco Bay Area zoo is inoculating its big cats, bears and ferrets against the coronavirus as part of a national effort to protect animal species using an experimental vaccine.

Alex Herman, vice president of veterinary services at the Oakland Zoo, said none of the animals has gotten the virus, but the zoo wanted to be proactive. The doses were donated and developed by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis in New Jersey. Tigers, black and grizzly bears, mountain lions and ferrets were the first to receive the first of two doses; next are primates and pigs.

Zoetis is donating more than 11,000 doses for animals living in nearly 70 zoos, as well as more than a dozen conservatories, sanctuaries, academic institutions and government organizations located in 27 states, according to the news release. Read more.

Contributing: Ryan Miller, USA TODAY; The Associated Press