MONDAY, Oct. 4, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The United States has now surpassed 700,000 coronavirus deaths, as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to hold the country in its grip.
America continues to have more COVID-19 deaths than any other the country in the world, followed by Brazil with more than 597,000 deaths, and India with more than 448,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Exactly who is perishing to COVID-19 is changing, according to an analysis conducted by The New York Times. Most of the last 100,000 Americans to die from the disease did so in a period where vaccines were widely available, and most of the fatalities during this period have been in unvaccinated people, statistics show.
A disproportionate amount of deaths also occurred in the South -- especially Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas -- where vaccination rates are particularly low, the Times said.
Fatal COVID-19 cases also appear to be occurring in younger people: In August, people in age groups under 55 saw the highest death tolls to date in the pandemic, the Times said.
Convincing more Americans to get immunized is key to turning these trends around, and national and local leaders, along with businesses across the country, have worked to issue vaccine mandates to help curb another surge of cases in the coming months. And while governors across the nation have begun reporting encouraging signs of slowing cases and hospitalizations, they stress the most powerful tool to keep those numbers from ticking back up are vaccinations, CNN reported.
To that end, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Friday that his state will become the nation's first to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all public school students.
"The state already requires that students are vaccinated against viruses that cause measles, mumps, and rubella -- there's no reason why we wouldn't do the same for COVID-19. Today's measure, just like our first-in-the-nation school masking and staff vaccination requirements, is about protecting our children and school staff, and keeping them in the classroom," Newsom said in a news release. "Vaccines work. It's why California leads the country in preventing school closures and has the lowest case rates. We encourage other states to follow our lead to keep our kids safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19."
California's mandate will be a condition of in-person attendance for the 6 million students in the state's public schools. Independent study is an option for those who are unvaccinated, Newsom's office said. In August, the state required all school staff to either show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing.
"This will accelerate our effort to get this pandemic behind us," Newsom told CNN after announcing the mandate.
Meanwhile, a new study has found that an antiviral pill developed to fight the infection cut the risk of death and hospitalization in half, Merck & Co. announced Friday.
If approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under emergency use authorization, the drug molnupiravir would be the first oral medicine for COVID.
It would join antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for COVID patients. While remdesivir is an intravenous drug for patients who are in the hospital, molnupiravir is a short-term regimen of daily pills designed to prevent symptoms shortly after exposure.
The U.S. Centers for Disease COntrol and Prevention has more on COVID vaccines.
SOURCE: CNN, The New York Times
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