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COVID-19 live updates: 24 states threaten legal action over Biden's vaccine mandate

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The United States is facing a COVID-19 surge this summer as the more contagious delta variant spreads.

More than 667,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.6 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 63.5% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Latest Developments

September 16, 2021

Seattle to require proof of vaccination or negative test for indoor recreation, large outdoor events

The most populous county in Washington state will implement COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements for indoor dining, large outdoor events and other activities. 

Starting Oct. 25, proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required for everyone ages 12 and up to enter indoor establishments, including restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theaters, and attend outdoor events with more than 500 people in King County, home to Seattle, officials announced Thursday.

Those who are not vaccinated must show proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours or take a rapid test on site prior to entry. 

"We are at a critical point in this pandemic, with high levels of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and no certainty as to what will follow the Delta variant," King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. "Vaccination is our best shield against this deadly virus." 

Over 85% of King County residents have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Constantine.

Lumen Field, home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, already required vaccination or a negative test, while the MLB's Seattle Mariners said last week they would institute the same guidelines should they make the playoffs.

 
September 16, 2021

24 state attorneys general warn Biden of potential legal action over vaccine mandate

Two dozen state attorneys general are threatening legal action against the federal government over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private businesses.

A week after President Joe Biden announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will create a rule that will require roughly 80 million workers nationwide to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, 24 Republican state attorneys general warned in a letter addressed to the president that they "will seek every available legal option" if the mandate is implemented.  

 MORE: Biden's new tougher tone on vaccine mandates triggers GOP backlash

The letter, which called the plan "disastrous and counterproductive" and debated its legality, was signed by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Earlier this week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy defended Biden's vaccine plan in an interview with "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos.

"The requirements that he announced are not sweeping requirements for the entire nation," Murthy said. "These are focused on areas where the federal government has legal authority to act."

 
September 16, 2021

CDC predicts hospitalizations will drop this month

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly ensemble forecast, an average of several models, predicts that the number of new daily hospital admissions will likely drop.

 

The ensemble forecast predicts "5,000 to 15,300 new confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions likely reported on October 11." The current seven-day average is 11,165 new hospitalizations per day.

 

-ABC News' Brian Hartman

 
September 16, 2021

Pfizer CEO pens letter making the case for boosters 

 

In an open letter, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is making the case for his company's vaccine booster shot, one day before an FDA advisory committee meets to debate and vote on the issue. 

 

Bourla underscored the "strong immune response after the booster dose" and vowed that Pfizer has "stayed true to our commitment of full transparency without selectively cherry-picking data."  

 

Bourla also addressed international concerns over boosters for all potentially detracting from access to first doses in developing countries. 

 

"Some people and organizations have raised concerns that the approval of boosters will divert doses dedicated to the low- and middle-income countries and redirect them to the high-income countries. And they use this argument to claim that boosters should not be approved. I disagree," Bourla wrote.  

 

"No commitments already made by Pfizer to a country will change if boosters are approved," he wrote. 

 

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

 
September 16, 2021

US reports highest daily death toll in nearly 7 months

 

The U.S. reported a staggering 2,000 COVID-19 related fatalities overnight, marking the highest single-day death total in nearly seven months, according to federal data. Although that large number could be partially due to data backlogs, it's still significant given that the pandemic has been ongoing for 18 months.

  a man wearing a uniform: Workers plant white flags as part of artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's temporary art installation, "In America: Remember" in remembrance of Americans who have died of COVID-19, on the National Mall in Washington, Sept. 15, 2021. © Patrick Semansky/AP Workers plant white flags as part of artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's temporary art installation, "In America: Remember" in remembrance of Americans who have died of COVID-19, on the National Mall in Washington, Sept. 15, 2021. a dog jumping to catch a frisbee: Workers plant white flags as part of artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's temporary art installation, "In America: Remember" in remembrance of Americans who have died of COVID-19, on the National Mall in Washington, Sept. 15, 2021. © Patrick Semansky/AP Workers plant white flags as part of artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's temporary art installation, "In America: Remember" in remembrance of Americans who have died of COVID-19, on the National Mall in Washington, Sept. 15, 2021.

In the last five weeks, the U.S. has not seen a single day with less than 100,000 new cases, according to federal data. This is a massive step back in the fight against COVID-19; between Feb. 7 and July 29, 2021, there was never a day with 100,000 or more new cases.

 MORE: How National Guard members are helping hospitals on the brink during delta surge 

Tennessee has the country's highest case rate followed by West Virginia, Wyoming, South Carolina, Alaska, Montana and Kentucky.

a person standing in a room: Sgt. Darrin Cushard and Sgt. Dennis McClarity walk with a cart of PPE supplies in St. Claire Regional Medical Center on Sept. 16, 2021, in Morehead, Ky. © Jon Cherry/Getty Images Sgt. Darrin Cushard and Sgt. Dennis McClarity walk with a cart of PPE supplies in St. Claire Regional Medical Center on Sept. 16, 2021, in Morehead, Ky. a man standing in front of a store: Sgt. Katrina Byrne of the Kentucky National Guard works as a pharmacy technician at St. Claire Regional Medical Center on Sept. 16, 2021, in Morehead, Ky. © Jon Cherry/Getty Images Sgt. Katrina Byrne of the Kentucky National Guard works as a pharmacy technician at St. Claire Regional Medical Center on Sept. 16, 2021, in Morehead, Ky.

Nine states now have more patients in hospitals than at any point in the pandemic: Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

 
September 16, 2021

Idaho expands crisis standards of care statewide

Idaho is expanding its crisis standards of care plan to the entire state due to a surge in hospitalized patients that's exhausting resources.

  a man standing in a room: A registered nurse attends to a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, Aug. 31, 2021. © Kyle Green/AP, FILE A registered nurse attends to a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, Aug. 31, 2021. a person sitting on a bed: A nurse holds the hand of a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, Aug. 31, 2021. © Kyle Green/AP, FILE A nurse holds the hand of a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, Aug. 31, 2021.

"The situation is dire," Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said in a statement Thursday. "We don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident."

  a sign in front of a building: An emergency department sign sits outside Kootenai Health, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Sept. 10, 2021. © Young Kwak/AP, FILE An emergency department sign sits outside Kootenai Health, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Sept. 10, 2021.

Crisis standards of care was first activated Sept. 6 in North Idaho.

 

"When crisis standards of care are in effect, people who need medical care may experience care that is different from what they expect," state officials said. "For example, patients admitted to the hospital may find that hospital beds are not available or are in repurposed rooms (such as a conference room) or that needed equipment is not available."

"Not all hospitals will move to that standard of care," state officials said Thursday. "Hospitals will implement as needed and according to their own CSC policies."

 
September 16, 2021

Italy votes to mandate COVID health pass for workplaces

 

A COVID Green Pass will be required for all workers in Italy, in both private and public sectors, beginning Oct. 15, the government announced Thursday.

  a hand holding a cellphone: An employee shows her "Green Pass", a document showing proof of Covid-19 immunity, in an office in Rome, Italy, Sept. 16, 2021. © Yara Nardi/Reuters An employee shows her "Green Pass", a document showing proof of Covid-19 immunity, in an office in Rome, Italy, Sept. 16, 2021. a person standing in front of a table: A teacher, left, has her so-called "Green Pass" checked by a school worker as she arrives at the "Isacco Newton" high school, in Rome, Sept. 13, 2021. © Andrew Medichini/AP A teacher, left, has her so-called "Green Pass" checked by a school worker as she arrives at the "Isacco Newton" high school, in Rome, Sept. 13, 2021.

The Green Pass proves a person is vaccinated, has recovered from COVID-19 or has had a negative test in the last two days.

Employees who go to work without the pass face a five-day suspension without pay.

 

-ABC News' Christine Theodorou

 
September 16, 2021

What to expect at Friday's panel on Pfizer booster shots

 

An FDA advisory panel will convene in open session Friday to debate the latest booster shot data submitted by Pfizer, and following a non-binding vote, the FDA is expected to formally amend its current vaccine approval for Pfizer.

  A syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is prepared in a mobile vaccine clinic operated by Families Together of Orange County in Santa Ana, Calif. © Jae C. Hong/AP A syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is prepared in a mobile vaccine clinic operated by Families Together of Orange County in Santa Ana, Calif.

Opening remarks are set for 8:30 a.m. ET. That's followed by introductions by the FDA, presentations from CDC representatives, discussion of booster protection and a presentation from Pfizer.

 

After a public hearing portion in the afternoon and a Q&A on the Pfizer and FDA presentations, the committee is expected to debate the issue for about two hours. A vote is expected at about 4:45 p.m. ET.

 

Next week, the matter heads to the CDC’s independent advisory panel whose members will discuss who should get a booster and when.

 

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

 
September 16, 2021

Booster shots begin in England

 

Booster shots are now being administered in England.

  a group of people on a sidewalk: People walk past a Covid vaccination sign outside a hospital in central London, Sept. 9, 2021. The UK government is expected to announce a decision on Covid vaccination boosters and vaccinations for children aged twelve to fifteen years of age. © ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock People walk past a Covid vaccination sign outside a hospital in central London, Sept. 9, 2021. The UK government is expected to announce a decision on Covid vaccination boosters and vaccinations for children aged twelve to fifteen years of age.

Eligible people must be six months out from their last shot and include: adults ages 50 and over; people in residential care homes; frontline health care workers; social workers; people who are immunocompromised; and caregivers for the immunocompromised.

 

About 4.5 million people will be eligible for a booster in the next few weeks.

-ABC News' Christine Theodorou

 
September 16, 2021

Pope Francis discusses vaccine hesitancy

Pope Francis said Wednesday he found it "ironic" that a cardinal who was not vaccinated against COVID-19 had been hospitalized with the virus.

Speaking to reporters on his plane while returning to Rome after visiting Hungary and Slovakia, Francis discussed the hesitancy against COVID-19 vaccines and how it has divided people.

"It's strange because humanity has a friendly relationship with vaccines," the pope said. "As children, we got them for measles, for other things, for polio. All the children were vaccinated, and no one said anything. Then this happened."

Pope Francis wearing a suit and tie: Pope Francis speaks with journalists on board an Alitalia aircraft en route from Bratislava back to Rome on Sept. 15, 2021, after a four-day pilgrimage to Hungary and Slovakia. © Tiziana Fabi, Pool via AP Pope Francis speaks with journalists on board an Alitalia aircraft en route from Bratislava back to Rome on Sept. 15, 2021, after a four-day pilgrimage to Hungary and Slovakia.

"Even in the College of Cardinals, there are some anti-vaxxers," he added, "and one of them, poor man, is in hospital with the virus. But life is ironic."

Although Francis didn't identify the man by name, it appeared he was referring to American Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the Catholic church's most outspoken conservatives who eschewed the COVID-19 vaccine and spent days on a ventilator after contracting the virus in August.

Francis noted that everyone in the Vatican, "except for a small group," has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

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