Daily cases in India drop below 100K; CDC gives OK for vaccinated Americans to visit neighboring countries: Live COVID-19 updates

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in New England have been steadily dropping as more than 60% of residents in all six states have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

But the Deep South states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, in comparison, are the least vaccinated at around 35%, and new cases relative to the population are generally running higher there than in most of New England. Nationally, about 50% of Americans have received at least one shot.

In a series of tweets last weekend, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health in Providence, Rhode Island, contrasted the relatively low vaccination rates in Springfield, Massachusetts, one of the region’s largest, poorest and most racially diverse cities, with the near-complete vaccination of Newton, an affluent, largely white Boston suburb.

“So if you are in a high vaccination state, your job is not done,” Jha wrote. “Because across America, there are too many people and communities for whom vaccines still remain out of reach.”

The seven-day average of new, daily coronavirus cases dropped to 13,277, the first time it has fallen below 15,000 since the first weeks of the pandemic in March of 2020, top U.S. health officials said Tuesday.

Still, experts say a summer surge could emerge in states lifting restrictions despite lagging in vaccination rates.

“Threats remain,” warned Andy Slavitt, who on Wednesday leaves his post as White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response. “We must push harder so more Americans can return to normal life and the peace of mind that come with being vaccinated.”

Also in the news:

►India’s daily coronavirus infections have dropped below 100,000 for the first time in more than two months, as the monstrous surge that beset the country last month has receded. 

►The highly transmissible delta variant now makes up 6% of infections in the United States, the Biden administration said Tuesday.

►Coronavirus case counts have plummeted in Michigan to a level last seen in July 2020 as the percentage of Michiganders 16 and older who’ve gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine approaches 60%. Hospitalizations from the virus also have plunged — dropping 83% since the peak of the last surge in Michigan.

►More than half of all California residents are living in yellow-tier counties ahead of California’s reopening next week, the state’s department of health announced Tuesday. 

►Several dozen staffers at Houston Methodist Hospital, which became the first major health care system in the U.S. to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, were suspended without pay this week for not complying with the hospital’s full vaccination requirement. The staffers represent less than one percent of the hospital’s roughly 26,000 employee workforce.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.39 million confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 598,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 173.8 million cases and over 3.74 million deaths. Nearly 140.4 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 42.3% of the population, according to the CDC. 

📘 What we’re reading: Summer vacation season is underway without a key element this year: packed flights between the United States and London due to COVID travel restrictions.

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

Ohio reports 20,000 COVID-19 deaths since pandemic’s start – but also lowest number of hospitalizations to date

Ohio crossed two COVID-19 milestones on Tuesday, reporting more than 20,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic and reporting the fewest number of people currently hospitalized statewide.

Since the pandemic began, 20,021 people have died due to COVID-19, the Ohio Department of Health reported Tuesday.

December remains the deadliest month for the coronavirus in Ohio, with 5,520 deaths, according to state data. But deaths fell sharply in January and February, after older Ohioans and people living in nursing homes were able to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, only 503 COVID-19 positive patients were being treated in Ohio hospitals Tuesday, the lowest number seen since the Ohio Hospital Association began collecting data in March 2020. That’s down from a high of 5,308 on Dec. 15, 2020 and 1,058 just one month ago.

And as of Tuesday, nearly 5.4 million Ohioans (46.18% of the state’s population) had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 4.8 million people, or 41% of the population, had completed a vaccine regimen.

– Jackie Borchardt, Cincinnati Enquirer

CDC gives OK for vaccinated Americans to visit Canada, Mexico and 60 other nations

Federal authorities are giving their blessing for Americans to visit our neighboring countries to the north and south, as long as travelers are vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised travel health notices for dozens of nations to a lower-risk tier, adjusting travel guidance for vaccinated Americans in the process. Among the 62 destinations that dropped from “COVID-19 very high” Level 4 tier to “COVID-19 high” Level 3 tier are Canada, Mexico, Japan, Italy, France and Germany.

The CDC recommends avoiding countries at Level 4 and says visitors to Level 3 nations should be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. It discourages nonessential travel to the latter group by those who are not vaccinated.

– Bailey Schulz

Fake COVID-19 vaccination cards are circulating the internet, illegal selling and purchasing on sites like Amazon

Fake COVID-19 vaccination cards are being sold online across various platforms, from Amazon to Telegram. Amazon has since taken down the vendor, but photos shared on Twitter show what was once live – a 10-pack of blank vaccination cards for $12.99.

The cards were never meant to prove someone’s vaccination status in the long-term, the Federal Trade Commission said in a statement acknowledging the fraudulent cards. Some organizations and states created apps and digital passports to prove vaccination, but there is no widespread practice. Scammers are making use of the confusion to profit from the fake vaccination cards.

Scammers have also found space on Telegram, the messaging service and app, to sell fake COVID-19 vaccine cards, BuzzFeed News found.

The FBI shared a public service announcement in March saying that it is illegal to make or buy the vaccination cards because it is a misuse of the official government agency’s seal. They also shared that it puts others at risk of contracting COVID-19.

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