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The rate of vaccinations around the country has sunk to new lows in recent weeks, threatening President Joe Biden's goal of 70% of American adults with at least one dose by July 4.
Trends over the past week, based on data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show the U.S. vaccinations are on track to reach only 67% of adults, a USA TODAY analysis shows.
The CDC reported last week that 63% of adults had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, up only slightly from the 62% the week before. Twelve states, including Utah, Oklahoma, Montana, the Dakotas and West Virginia, have seen vaccinations sink to 15 daily shots per 10,000 residents; Alabama had just four people per 10,000 residents get vaccinated last week, according to data from The Washington Post.
The “low-hanging fruit – those people who absolutely want to get vaccinated without you telling them anything” have already been vaccinated, which has led to the slowdown, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top expert on infectious diseases, said on a White House-organized call with community leaders last week, according to the Post.
The White House has already made plans to combat the slowdown. Biden announced last week a monthlong effort to encourage more Americans to roll up their sleeves for a shot.
Also in the news:
►Airline and airport executives from the US and UK are pushing for the lifting of restrictions that have limited travel between both countries, pointing out they're both among the world leaders in vaccination rates.
►Dr. Jeff Duchin, the chief health officer for Seattle and King County, told The Seattle Times that 97% of recent COVID-19 cases there have occurred in unvaccinated people.
►Carnival Cruise Line said it will require passengers to have completed their COVID vaccinations two weeks before boarding for the company's first U.S. trips after reopening, departing from Texas in July.
►Dr. Michael Ryan, the emergencies chief for the World Health Organization, says global vaccination coverage of more than 80% is needed to significantly lower the chance that an imported coronavirus case could generate new cases or spawn a wider outbreak.
►During the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents, weary of monitoring their children's online classes, yearned for schools to reopen. Then vaccines expanded, schools reopened in many cities, and teachers returned – but huge numbers of students didn't.
📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 597,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 173.3 million cases and over 3.73 million deaths. More than 138.9 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 41.9% of the population, according to the CDC.
📘 What we're reading: What does the end of COVID-19 in America look like? Perhaps no end at all, but a resigned acceptance of a bearable level of death. Read the full story.
UK may delay June 21 reopening as Delta variant fuels rise in infections
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Delta variant first identified in India is 40% more transmissible than the Alpha variant that it's on the way to replacing as the dominant strain in the U.K.
Hancock acknowledged Sunday that the rise in Delta variant cases may delay the government’s plan to lift most remaining lockdown restrictions on June 21. Coronavirus infections have doubled in the last week and there's some concern this could mark the beginning of a third wave of cases.
"It is more difficult to manage this virus with the new Delta variant,” said Hancock, adding that vaccines have proven effective against it.
Because of the U.K.'s high vaccination rate -- half of adults are fully inoculated and three-quarters have had at least one shot -- deaths and hospitalizations are not expected to rise dramatically. But with millions still unvaccinated, keeping some restrictions in place to avoid virus transmission may be necessary.
Moderna vaccine could be available for kids soon
Moderna said Monday it has requested authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents with Health Canada – and will file for emergency use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration "for this important, younger-age population." The FDA expanded its emergency use authorization for Pfizer's vaccine to include people 12 to 15 last month.
Moderna also said it has filed data for a conditional marketing approval in the 27-nation European Union to expand use of its vaccine to children. Last month, the European drug regulator approved the shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech for children 12 to 15.
New York state could drop most restrictions within days
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will lift its remaining COVID-19 restrictions in most settings when 70% of its adult population has been at least partially vaccinated, a benchmark that could be within reach in days. Currently, 68.6% of New Yorkers ages 18 and over have received at least one shot, an increase from 64.4% on Thursday.
Cuomo said that upon reaching the 70% figure, the state's emergency social distancing, health screening and cleaning mandates will be rescinded for most businesses and social situations. Businesses will have the option to keep the COVID protocols in place or remove them.
“We have never been in a better position vis-à-vis COVID-19 than we are today,” Cuomo said. “But we have to work to bring New York back. This is not an automatic recovery."
-- Sarah Taddeo, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
China locks down city of 18 million to combat outbreak
The southern Chinese city of Guanzhou was placed in lockdown Monday following an outbreak of coronavirus that has sickened dozens of people in recent days. Anyone who is given permission to leave must show a negative test for the virus taken in the previous 48 hours. The same rule applies to anyone seeking to leave the surrounding province of Guangdong. The city also is restricting indoor dining, conducting mass testing and banning residents in high-risk neighborhoods from leaving their homes. At least two districts in the city of 18 million people have been closed off entirely.
The variant causing the Guangzhou outbreak – the delta variant first identified in India – is reportedly more infectious because those who have it are slower to display symptoms while carrying more virus particles.
Fauci, first lady promote vaccinations at Harlem church
First lady Jill Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci toured a vaccination site at a historic Harlem church Sunday in a promotional appearance aimed at re-energizing the lagging national vaccination drive. Biden, Fauci and Sen Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, watched as people got their shots in the basement of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. The church first started offering vaccine doses in January in an effort to boost the vaccination rates in New York City’s Black and Hispanic communities.
Biden asked a teenager about to get his shot how old he was, and when he said he was 14, she responded, “You’re 14, that’s exactly what we want! Twelve and over.”
'No excuse': Mississippi last in nation for fully vaccinated people
For months, Mississippi Health Officer Thomas Dobbs has been pleading with Mississippians to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Mississippi is last in the nation for fully vaccinated people. As of Friday afternoon, over 911,000 people were fully vaccinated in Mississippi, or 29% of the population, lagging well behind the nation's average of 41%. For multiple weeks, Dobbs has reiterated it: Mississippians will either get vaccinated against the virus or they will suffer its effects.
“There’s no excuse for that,” Dobbs said during a livestreamed talk with the Mississippi State Medical Association. “I will personally drive up to your house to give you one.”
– Sarah Haselhorst, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger
Milwaukee college students working to overcome COVID-19 vaccine barriers
When Sarah Farhan walked up to people at Milwaukee's Eid al-Fitr festival following Ramadan last month and asked them whether they'd gotten the COVID-19 vaccine yet, many looked skeptical. Then Farhan switched to speaking Arabic.
"Then they just exploded with words," she said. "They were like, 'Oh, OK, so can you tell me this and that?'"
Farhan, who is set to attend the Medical College of Wisconsin in the fall, was working her new summer job as a vaccine educator for the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition. The coalition hired eight college students who speak languages common in Milwaukee's Muslim community, such as Arabic, Somali, Rohingya and Urdu, to encourage hesitant people to get the vaccine while dispelling fears and misinformation about it.
"When you’re able to communicate in the language that they’re most familiar with, there becomes a sense of comfort and familiarity, and I think that there's more confidence in going and getting the vaccine," women's coalition president Janan Najeeb said.
– Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Group effort in rural Georgia to help others get vaccinated
A growing group of volunteers in Randolph County, Georgia, is doing its part to reenergize the country's flagging vaccination effort, going door to door to help people get inoculated against COVID-19 and answering their questions. The four who began the effort built off their experience canvassing with the Randolph County Democratic Committee. What began as a focused effort to register seniors without Internet for the vaccine grew into a larger operation.
Located in southwest Georgia, Randolph is one of the state's poorest counties, and its rural location makes residents more vulnerable to the coronavirus. According to the CDC, people in rural areas are at a higher risk of hospitalization. In addition, those without a mode of transportation or Internet connections find it harder to access vaccines.
That's where the group that developed out of Neighbor 2 Neighbor steps in. Joyce Barlow told CNN that not only is it about helping people get inoculated, but it is also about listening to them and their concerns about COVID-19 and the vaccines.
"We want to get everyone protected,'' she said. "We are, after all, our brother's and sister's keepers."
Contributing: Janie Haseman, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID vaccine rates fall, putting Biden's July 4 goal in jeopardy