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An alarming rise in cases of the "delta plus" COVID-19 variant in the United Kingdom is unlikely to result in a ban on flights from Britain and Europe, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Sunday.
"We’re not anticipating that now," Walensky said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We're absolutely following the science very, very carefully, but we are not anticipating or looking into that right now."
The delta plus variant, identified by British scientists last month, is considered a relative of the delta variant that fueled a deadly surge across the U.S. this summer. Because it isn’t a variant of interest or concern, it has not yet been named after a letter of the Greek alphabet. The U.N. health agency is tracking about 20 variations of the delta variant.
'Delta plus' is 'not a problem': Everything to know about the subvariant and why experts aren't worried, yet
Walensky said the U.S. has had a "handful" of cases linked to delta plus, or the AY.4.2 sublineage of the delta variant, but that it has not "taken off" as it has in the UK. The strand has not yet been linked to increased transmissibility or to decreased effectiveness of vaccines or therapeutics, she said.
Also in the news:
► All Dartmouth employees, including those who have been approved for fully remote work, must submit proof of vaccination or be approved for a medical or religious exemption by Dec. 8, the New Hampshire school announced.
► The Navajo Nation reported 61 more COVID-19 cases Saturday, but no coronavirus-related deaths for the 17th time in the past 24 days. The nation covers about 27,000 square miles of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico in the United States
► Country musician Travis Tritt, who canceled shows at venues that required a COVID-19 vaccine or mask-wearing, sang the national anthem before Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday night.
► Unvaccinated people in Austria could face a lockdown if cases continue to climb and ICUs reach 25% of their capacity from COVID patients, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 45.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 735,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 243.2 million cases and 4.9 million deaths. More than 190,400 million Americans — 57.4% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we're reading: People with mental health disorders may qualify for booster shots, which are approved for just some groups of fully vaccinated Americans. Here's why.
Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY's Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
Anti-vaccination protestors storm Barclays Center at Nets home opener
A swarm of anti-vaccination protestors busted through barricades and swarmed the Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, on Sunday in support of unvaccinated NBA star Kyrie Irving.
Irving was banned from playing or practicing with the Nets unless he becomes vaccinated, due to a New York City vaccine mandate that states Nets and New York Knicks players must be vaccinated to play at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden.
A number of protestors gathered outside the downtown Brooklyn arena on Sunday, where the Nets play the Charlotte Hornets in the team's home opener. Some held signs that read "Stand with Kyrie," chanting to let the Nets star play on the court.
At one point during the demonstration, protestors broke through the security barricades and tried to rush into the arena. Security temporarily locked down the building to prevent fans from entering.
– Celina Tebor, USA TODAY
Native Hawaiian kids struggled with poor health. Then came COVID-19.
After American Indian and Alaska Native children, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander children had the highest rate of COVID-19 cases, at 585 per 10,000, according to an analysis of cases through Aug. 31 by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Hispanic children came next on the list. Among white children, the rate of infection was about 354 per 10,000.
Researchers say health data collection on Native Hawaiians is generally poor, and the rates could be underestimates. Extreme weight gain among Native Hawaiian children has been a major pandemic concern, along with depression and anxiety.
“It’s extraordinary, and I think the fallout is – we haven’t even seen the fallout yet,” said Dr. Vija Sehgal, pediatric director at Waianae Comprehensive Health Center.
– Nada Hassanein, USA TODAY
Fentanyl deaths have increased during the COVID pandemic
The amount of fentanyl seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection has increased by 51% in the first eight months of 2021 compared with 2020, according to data from the CBP. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more drugs have also been found contaminated with the deadly drug. Last month, 1,123 pounds of the drug were confiscated, compared with 702 pounds in August 2020.
"The COVID travel restrictions hindered some aspects of land-border drug trafficking, as there was less traffic and more time could be spent examining travelers, which increased drug seizures," Matthew Dyman, CBP public affairs officer, told USA TODAY in an email. "But with people staying home instead of going to work, there was an increased demand for drugs,"
It's not uncommon after disasters, such as the 9/11 attacks, to see a temporary increase reported in substance use.
"We see with other major events people are feeling traumatized and under stress," said Dr. Andrew Saxon, a member of the Council on Addiction Psychiatry at the American Psychiatric Association. "An easy and natural way to cope would be to take a substance, even though it usually makes it worse in the long run."
-Asha C. Gilbert, USA TODAY
Tennessee governor's mask opt-out order violates federal law, judge rules
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates violates federal law and will remain blocked in Williamson County, a federal judge ruled. Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw's ruling continues to prevent Lee's order, which the governor extended through Nov. 5, from taking effect in Williamson County's two public school systems. Two families of children with disabilities, one each in Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District, sued the school districts and the state over Lee's decision.
"Disabled students are at a significantly higher risk for severe infection and are exposed at a higher rate," Crenshaw said in his opinion, which mirrors those by federal judges in Memphis and Knoxville. That constitutes "an irreparable harm that justifies continued injunctive relief," he said.
-Mariah Timms, Meghan Mangrum, Duane W. Gang, The Nashville Tennessean
Florida's top doctor refused to wear a mask at meeting with legislator who has cancer
Florida’s top health official was asked to leave a meeting after refusing to wear a mask at the office of a state senator who told him she had a serious medical condition, officials have confirmed.
Florida Senate leader Wilton Simpson, a Republican, sent a memo to senators Saturday regarding the incident at the office of Democratic state Sen. Tina Polsky, asking visitors at the building to be respectful with social interactions. Polsky, who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, had not yet made public her breast cancer diagnosis.
Polsky told The Associated Press about the tense exchange with state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo that was first reported by the news site Florida Politics. She said Ladapo and two aides were offered masks and asked to wear them when they arrived for the Wednesday meeting. She did not tell him she had breast cancer, but said she had a serious condition.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cancer patients are at a higher risk to get severely ill from COVID-19 and may not build the same immunity to vaccines.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 updates: Europe air travel to US won't end, says CDC chief