Global death toll from coronavirus reaches 4 million; no fans for Tokyo Olympics amid emergency: Latest COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday the rise of the delta variant in the United States, while expected, has been “troubling.”

The CDC projects the highly transmissible variant, first identified in India, is now the dominant strain in the U.S, making up 51.7% of all new infections.

In some pockets of the country, such as the Midwest and upper Mountain States, that number is closer to 80%, Walensky said at a news conference Thursday.

Because the authorized vaccines largely protect against hospitalization and death from the delta variant, this trend has largely been driven in unvaccinated populations, she added.

Overall, cases and hospitalizations in the U.S. have risen by nearly 11% and 7%, respectively, in the past week while deaths have declined by 13%, according to CDC data.

“On the one hand we have seen the success of our vaccination programs over the last eight months … and yet on the other hand we are starting to see some new and concerning trends,” she said. 

The day before her comments, the global death toll from the coronavirus hit 4 million as the surge in variant cases threatens to overtake progress from the vaccines. 

According to a new study released by Yale University and the Commonwealth Fund, the United States’ vaccination program has prevented approximately 279,000 additional deaths and up to 1.25 million additional hospitalizations. Nearly 50% of all Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC data.

Also in the news:

►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.

►The Food and Drug Administration could fully approve the Pfizer vaccine this month, s, former White House senior advisor Andy Slavitt said on CNN Wednesday.

►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.

►It’s going to be a “Tubby hot summer.” The popular children’s TV program “Teletubbies” tweeted images of fictional COVID-19 vaccine cards in efforts to promote vaccinations. “We’re all vaxxed! Just in time for a Tubby hot summer,” the account tweeted. “Who’s ready to come out & play?”

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 606,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 185 million cases and more than 4 million deaths. More than 157.9 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 47.6% of the population, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: The pandemic upended parents’ relationships with school, but when learning moved online, parents also got a front-row seat to daily classroom life, providing many an unprecedented opportunity to partake in their children’s education. According to a new survey, close to 2 in 3 parents of school-aged children became more engaged than ever before in their kids’ learning, and roughly 8 in 10 respondents said the pandemic opened their eyes to the inner workings of America’s schools. Read more 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.

Tokyo Olympics to be held without fans amid COVID state of emergency

There will be no fans at the Tokyo Olympics, organizers said Thursday following the declaration of a new state of emergency in the host city.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the state of emergency for Tokyo is to take effect Monday and last through Aug. 22. The Games begin July 23 and end Aug. 8.

“The priority will be to determine safe and secure Games,” Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said at a news conference following a meeting with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the government of Japan, the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee.

“We wanted a full stadium so community people could get involved in welcoming the athletes so we could have a full presentation of the power of sports,” she added. “However, now faced with COVID-19 we have no other choice but to hold the Games in a limited way.”

Organizers had previously announced that foreign spectators would not be allowed at the Games, but until Thursday there was still hope Japanese fans could attend venues at partial capacity.

– Nancy Armour

States spend millions on lotteries to encourage vaccines. Is it working?

As COVID-19 vaccination rates fall, several states have spent millions of dollars on lottery prizes to encourage unvaccinated Americans to get their shots. However, public health experts say while lotteries may nudge some people to get vaccinated, most won’t be convinced.

The small chance of winning a big windfall isn’t enough to sway the majority of unvaccinated Americans who strongly oppose the vaccine, have safety concerns or don’t want their daily lives disrupted by the vaccine’s side effects, they said.

“For certain segments of the population, (lotteries) can be useful,” said Robert Bednarczyk, associate professor of global health and epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. “But it really comes down to, who are you trying to reach and how can you reach them.”

Some states already have declared their vaccination lotteries a success, including California and Ohio. But researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found Ohio’s lottery did not increase COVID-19 vaccination rates when compared to other states without lottery-based incentive systems, according to the study published Friday in JAMA Network.

– Adrianna Rodriguez

Despite worst-ever worker shortages, college grads struggle to find jobs

Millions of newly minted college graduates are looking for work after a year of virtual classes and the loss of an on-campus experience. And while U.S. businesses coping with the direst labor shortages on record need millions of workers, college students who graduated in May are having a hard time finding jobs.

Part of the struggle is driven by competition with both 2020 grads who deferred their job searches during the pandemic and the millions of Americans laid off in the health crisis, experts say. And many of the openings employers are scrambling to fill are lower-wage positions college grads aren’t seeking.

Other higher-skill, white-collar openings are also available but chiefly in certain industries, like technology and health care, college and staffing officials say.

More than half of college seniors and recent graduates — 55.6% — described their career outlook as pessimistic, according to a survey of about 1,000 recent and soon-to-be grads in February and March. The vast majority were looking for entry-level positions, and three out of four said they were struggling to find them.

– Paul Davidson

UK records another 30,000 daily coronavirus cases

The U.K. has recorded more than 30,000 new daily coronavirus infections for the first time since January, just as the British government prepares to lift most remaining lockdown restrictions in England on July 19.

Government figures showed another 32,548 confirmed cases Wednesday, the highest level since Jan. 23.

For much of the spring, infections were below the 5,000 mark. But the arrival of the more contagious delta variant, first identified in India, has likely caused cases to spike.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said cases could hit a daily high of 100,000 this summer, a level of infection not reached during previous waves of the virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is hoping the rapid rollout of vaccines has created a wall of immunity.

Federal surge response team heading to hard-hit southwest Missouri

The Biden administration will send a COVID-19 surge response team to provide public health support in southwest Missouri, CNN reported Wednesday. 

The “surge response teams,” announced in a White House press conference last week, will be dispatched to emerging COVID-19 hotspots around the country, where vaccination rates remain low. They’ll aim to boost testing and vaccination rates, as well as track down and treat those who have fallen ill from the virus.

Hospital leaders said Tuesday the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Springfield, Missouri, has tripled in the last month.

“99.5% of COVID deaths over a 6 month period are unvaccinated,” tweeted Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer of Mercy Springfield. “So if you’re vaccinated there is a light at the end of a tunnel. If you’re unvaccinated that’s probably a train.”

With low vaccination rates in southwest Missouri and the highly infectious delta variant of the virus taking hold, the situation is expected to get worse.

– Galen Bacharier and Harrison Keegan, Springfield News-Leader

Contributing: The Associated Press.