US opens more distance in worldwide race against coronavirus
The United States on Thursday put more distance between itself and much of the rest of the world, moving closer to the 200 millionth vaccine administered in a race to protect the population from COVID-19, even though other countries, rich and poor, grappling with persistently high infection rates and deaths.
Almost half of American adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 30% of adults in the United States have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, in parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, the picture is still relentless as variants of the virus lead to an increase in new cases and the global death toll stands at 3 million.
France recorded 100,000 virus deaths on Thursday, making it only the eighth country to do so.
India's two largest cities, New Delhi and Mumbai, imposed shop closings and strict movement restrictions as new infections shot over 200,000. Some hotels and banquet halls were ordered to convert their space into wards treating virus patients, and the surge forced India - a major vaccine maker - to delay exporting doses to other countries.
In Japan there was a rapid recurrence of the infections just three months before the planned location of the Olympic Games. The country's western metropolis, Osaka, reported over 1,200 new infections on Thursday, the highest since the pandemic began. A senior official from the ruling party suggested the possibility of canceling the games if the infections make them impossible.
Worrying signs have also surfaced in the U.S., despite the good news that more than 198 million coronavirus shots have been administered nationwide. The 7-day average of daily recordings reached 2.9 million last week.
New infections every day in the US have increased 11% in the past two weeks. Many US states have lifted mask mandates and restrictions on corporations and public gatherings. However, more and more sick people are being hospitalized in some states, including Michigan, where the country leads the way with nearly 8,000 new infections per day.
In a suburb of Detroit, Dr. Nick Gilpin of Beaumont Health is helping a growing number of coronavirus patients with a "runaway train". Staff used tents to cope with the influx of people seeking emergency care in Michigan's largest hospital system, which treated more than 800 patients for COVID-19 on Thursday. That's from about 500 two weeks ago.
"Our COVID-19 numbers are rising faster and faster and it is very worrying and alarming to see this," said John Fox, general manager of Beaumont Health, which operates eight hospitals.
Coronavirus patients across the state were near record numbers in Michigan, where 3,960 people with confirmed infections were hospitalized on Wednesday.
Although half of US adults are still completely unvaccinated, some hospitals in Alabama and Missouri have reported dwindling demand for coronavirus shots. Both states are already lagging behind the nation overall in vaccinating their populations.
In Alabama, only 37% of adults have even received one dose of vaccine. However, East Alabama Medical Center near Auburn University said it was preparing to end its vaccination program in a county where less than 18% are fully vaccinated.
"The number of vaccine requests has plateaued," hospital spokesman John Atkinson said in a statement.
The Cullman Regional Medical Center north of Birmingham also cited declining demand in a statement announcing the vaccination clinic would be moved to an emergency center. Hospital spokeswoman Lindsey Dossey later said the decline in demand was due to "better access to the vaccine" in other locations.
Missouri health officials also worry that not enough people are looking for gunshots. A large state-run vaccination facility in downtown St. Louis manages less than half its capacity of 3,000 shots per day. Missouri Department of Health spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the number of public health officials filing for a vaccine last week was down in half compared to a week earlier.
"Some of them feel like they really hit a wall as far as interests go," Cox said, adding that the state plans to launch a public awareness campaign soon.
In other developments, the U.S. government reported Thursday that some vaccinated people are expected to contract the coronavirus, although such cases are rare. The CDC said approximately 5,800 of the "breakthrough" infections have been confirmed. That's from roughly 75 million Americans who were fully vaccinated, but the agency warned that coverage of such cases is inconsistent and incomplete.
Serious illness among vaccinated Americans is even rarer: fewer than 400 were hospitalized and 74 died. As with the flu, people who get COVID-19 after vaccination are more likely to have a milder illness than people who are not vaccinated, according to the CDC.
More than a third of the world's deaths occurred in three countries - the United States, Mexico, and Brazil, which totaled more than 1.1 million people. The virus kills around 12,000 people every day.
The recent decision to suspend use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine based on preliminary reports of rare blood clots left South Africa unshot in its battle against an aggressive variant of the coronavirus. There are more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Africa, including at least 53,000 deaths, representing more than 30% of all confirmed cases in the 54 countries of Africa.
Meanwhile, the German Ministry of Health announced that the country administered a national record of more than 738,000 vaccination shots on Wednesday. However, authorities also warned that there was a dramatic increase in coronavirus patients in hospitals.
Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Contributors to this report were Associate Press Writer Ed White in Detroit, Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, Mike Stobbe in New York, and Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas.
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