Pfizer CEO urges FDA to approve booster dose; Florida makes death data public after secrecy: COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

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The amount of time that passed since vaccination appears to be a “significant factor” in so-called breakthrough cases of the coronavirus, a finding that supports the important role booster shots can play in helping curb the pandemic, Pfizer’s CEO says.

Dr. Albert Bourla, in an open letter released Thursday, made the pitch for the Pfizer/BioNTech booster shot in advance of an FDA advisory committee meeting that will make a recommendation on the third jabs.

Bourla said evidence collected from Pfizer’s clinical trial up through six months after the second dose shows that the vaccine “continues to be safe, well tolerated, and highly effective in preventing COVID-19, despite the appearance of different variants.”

He said researchers compared cases in participants who received the vaccine at the beginning of the study to those in participants who received a placebo but were later fully vaccinated. The researchers found those who were vaccinated later in the trial experienced 26% higher efficacy as compared to those people who were vaccinated early on as part of the original group.

Pfizer has a “robust” booster research program, Bourla wrote.

“I am pleased to say that the data from the program have shown that the virus is not winning,” he wrote. “We observed a strong immune response after the booster dose.”

Also in the news:

►Nursing home aides are the most likely staffers to have direct contact with residents but were the least likely workers at the homes to be vaccinated in a July survey, a new study shows

►A federal judge in Florida denied a request by parents of disabled children for a preliminary injunction to block Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on school mask mandates.

►All workers at child-care centers in New York state now must wear face coverings under a plan announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

►Texas health data showed the number of hospital patients for COVID-19 in the state was declining, despite seeing thousands of new cases every day.

►New Mexico is extending its mask mandate for indoor public settings at least through mid-October as state health officials reported hopeful developments in daily cases, testing and hospitalizations. 

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 41 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 666,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 226 million cases and 4.6 million deaths. More than 179 million Americans — 54% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘What we’re reading: The costs of long-haul COVID-19 care and government aid are unknown but experts warn of potential economic woes and long-term financial ramifications. Read more

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.

Gov. Kristi Noem has her say in opinion piece for USA TODAY

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem provided an opinion piece on vaccination requirement to USA TODAY. Some highlights are below, you can read the entire piece here.

  • We will not be mandating COVID-19 vaccinations in South Dakota. The Biden administration has no business forcing vaccinations on the American people through executive decree or rule. Biden has no constitutional authority to do so.”
  • “We will continue to make the vaccine available to everyone in the state and work with our health care experts to take care of the people who live here.”
  • “I’d encourage Americans to get vaccinated, as I did. But that choice is theirs to make – not the federal government’s to make for them. President Biden, if you take this unprecedented action and overstep your constitutional authority, we will defend our people and see you in court.”

Unvaccinated TikTok users prefer ‘pureblood’ in nod to Harry Potter

Some TikTok users are asking to be called “pureblood” instead of unvaccinated in a reference to characters in the “Harry Potter” series who deemed themselves superior to those with bloodlines mixed with non-wizards. It’s the latest anti-vaxx or un-vaxx trend on social media exalting the status of the unvaccinated even after more than 660,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. 

In J.K. Rowling’s magical world of “Harry Potter” books, a “pureblood” comes from a family tree of only wizards. Their family tree doesn’t include muggles — or humans without powers.

– Asha C. Gilbert

Alaska’s largest hospital enacts crisis standards of care

Overwhelmed by a surge in COVID-19 patients, Alaska’s largest hospital implemented crisis standards of care, prioritizing resources and treatments to those patients who have the potential to benefit the most. 

“While we are doing our utmost, we are no longer able to provide the standard of care to each and every patient who needs our help,” Dr. Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, chief of staff at Providence Alaska Medical Center, wrote in a letter addressed to Alaskans. “The acuity and number of patients now exceeds our resources and our ability to staff beds with skilled caregivers, like nurses and respiratory therapists. We have been forced within our hospital to implement crisis standards of care.”

Alaska, like many places across the country, has seen a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant. Idaho activated crisis standards of care in the northern part of the state last week because of a “severe shortage of staffing and available beds” along with “a massive increase in patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization,” the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said. 

Hospital sponsors college football team, coach rejects vaccine

Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich declined to discuss his vaccination status this week – at a press conference with a backdrop of advertisements for a prominent local hospital. Rolovich previously has said he won’t get vaccinated. A state mandate requires him to get the shot or get an exemption based on medical or religious reasons.

“I’m not going to talk about that,” Rolovich said Monday.

Pullman Regional Hospital is an official sponsor of WSU athletics and has invested in having its name attached to the program. The hospital, which requires vaccination for its employees, confirmed it has had to turn away transfer patients because of a lack of availability.

“At a time when hospital workers across the country are begging American’s to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of COVID, the stance taken by Nick Rolovich is a huge embarrassment for Washington State University,” said Kelly O’Keefe, a corporate brand strategist and CEO of the Brand Federation marketing consultancy in Virginia. 

Brent Schrotenboer

Los Angeles County to require vaccine proof for indoor bars, nightclubs

Public health officials in Los Angeles County will begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for patrons and workers at indoor bars, wineries, breweries and nightclubs next month. The new initiative in the nation’s most populous county begins Oct. 7, with proof of at least one vaccine dose required. By Nov. 4, proof of full vaccination will be mandatory, according to the county’s Department of Public Health.

The new restrictions come ahead of the holiday season, which brought a massive surge to Los Angeles last year. More than 25,000 people have died of the virus countywide and the toll continues to climb amid the contagious delta variant.

“This is a reasonable path forward that will position us to be better able to break the cycle of surges,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, told the Board of Supervisors during a Wednesday meeting.

CDC, FDA plan meetings on who should get booster shots

Federal health officials plan several meetings this month that will determine who should receive a booster shot. President Joe Biden had said a third shot – booster dose – for people with healthy immune systems would be offered beginning Sept. 20 to anyone who’d gotten their second shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least eight months ago, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. But the administration walked that back over concerns the announcement got ahead of recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committees.

The FDA committee will meets Friday to discuss booster recommendations; the CDC announced Wednesday their advisory committee would meet on Sept. 22 and 23rd. 

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is where the FDA goes for outside advice on whether the data for drugs and vaccines shows they will be safe and effective. The committee also can grill the agency on questions it feels haven’t yet been answered. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices develops recommendations for who should get vaccines and on what schedule. Here’s more information on boosters and what to expect. 

Florida’s county-level COVID death data public for first time in months

Figures on COVID-19 deaths in Florida’s counties quietly rematerialized this week on a federal website tracking the pandemic, more than three months after state officials stopped publicly reporting the information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now shows seven-day mortality figures for counties, but only for a recent week. For months, the CDC site showed zero deaths for all counties in Florida, though aggregate death numbers for the state were available.

The new data appeared one week after a USA TODAY Network – Florida report on the lack of accessible county death data. The state of Florida stopped reporting county-level data in early June. 

Florida has not said why it’s not displaying the data itself, and Health Department spokeswoman Weesam Khoury gave no indication the department intends to return those local death statistics to its weekly reports despite Gov. Ron DeSantis saying that releasing local death totals would be “appropriate.” Read more on the data.

— Frank Gluck and Chris Persaud, Fort Myers News-Press