The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Thursday endorsed booster shots for millions of older and high-risk Americans, opening a major new phase in the U.S vaccination drive against COVID-19.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday, hours after the advisers said boosters for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.
But Walensky decided to make one recommendation that the panel had rejected.
The panel on Thursday voted against saying that people can get a booster if they are ages 18 to 64 years and are healthcare workers or have another job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus.
But Walensky disagreed and put that recommendation back in, noting that such a move aligns with an FDA booster authorization decision earlier this week.
People who have gotten two shots and decide not to get a third will still be considered fully vaccinated, the CDC said.
Also in the news:
►National Guard teams will be deployed Friday to Deaconess Midtown and Deaconess Gateway hospitals in Indiana for a week to support medical staff responding to COVID-19.
►A judge denied an injunction on Thursday that would force a Delaware hospital to use ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug, to treat a patient with COVID-19.
►More Iowans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any point earlier in 2021, according to data released by the Iowa Department of Public Health on Wednesday.
►With more than a week of reporting to go, September is already this year’s third-deadliest month for COVID-19 and the sixth-deadliest month for the entire pandemic, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.
?Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 42 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 684,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 230 million cases and 4.7 million deaths. More than 182 million Americans — 55% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
? What we’re reading: Booster shots to prevent COVID-19 infection will soon become a reality nearly 10 months after Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine was first authorized and rolled out to health care workers in the U.S. Here’s who federal health officials say are eligible for the shots. Read more.
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Wisconsin reports more COVID cases in children than any other age group
So far this week, more than 1,100 people under the age of 18 in Wisconsin have tested positive for COVID-19. That is more than any other age group, according to state Department of Health Services data.
Last week, 4,686 people under the age of 18 tested positive — more than double any other age group. In fact, since the week of Aug. 8, children have been diagnosed with more cases than every other group each week.
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin continues to see an increase in the number of kids in the hospital who test positive for COVID-19, but most are asymptomatic unless they have underlying health conditions.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Wisconsin has recorded three deaths in people age 19 and younger.
– Drake Bentley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Feds send money to Florida county punished for school mask mandate
Alachua County schools in north-central Florida are the first in the nation to receive federal money after state officials punished the district for defying them by requiring masks at schools.
The county, home to Gainesville and the University of Florida, received $148,000 under the new Project to Support America’s Families (Project SAFE), created earlier this month to help districts that were being penalized by the state’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of the governors most opposed to pandemic-related mandates, for instituting COVID-19 protocols.
On Aug. 26, the Florida Department of Education had started to withhold money equal to four of the Alachua school board members’ pay, after they voted unanimously for a mask policy.
In all, the Department of Education has $3.2 million to give to such school districts. Beyond offering districts financial cover, federal officials have little recourse if states ban schools from requiring masks.
The Biden administration is also investigating states with such bans, saying they are violating the civil rights of children with disabilities and underlying health conditions.
– Gershon Harrell, The Gainesville Sun
NY health commissioner submits resignation after Cuomo scandal
New York state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, a central figure in COVID-19-related scandals that plagued former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has submitted his resignation, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Zucker will remain as the top state health official until a replacement for the commissioner job is chosen, Hochul said Thursday during a media briefing in Manhattan, adding there are several candidates being considered for the job.
Hochul said she agreed with Zucker’s decision to resign, calling him a dedicated public servant.
Zucker was connected to several controversial COVID-19 policy decisions, including a measure that pressed nursing homes to accept COVID-positive residents at the height of the pandemic last year. Zucker was also connected to the Cuomo administration withholding the true COVID death toll for nursing homes for months.
Hochul on Thursday also urged health care workers to comply with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate requiring medical workers to receive the first dose by Monday, or lose their job.
“It does not have to happen, my friends. What is looming for Monday is completely avoidable and there’s no excuses,” she said, adding her administration will soon be revealing details of a plan to fill staffing gaps if thousands of workers currently refusing vaccination lose their jobs.
– David Robinson, Gannett’s New York State Team