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Coronavirus update: Cases hit levels seen in early 2021, United employees get a mandate

Some high-profile athletes are saying no to the vaccine

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Coronavirus‌ ‌(COVID-19)‌ ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌ 

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 35,453,516 (35,347,582)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 615,393 (614,858)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 201,172,398 (200,485,291)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,272,432 (4,261,527)‌

Infections hit 100,000 per day

Doctors and nurses can be forgiven if they are feeling a little deja vu. Thanks to the highly transmissible Delta variant, the U.S. is reporting 100,000 new cases of the virus every day, a pace last seen in early 2021. Health officials blame the rise not just on the variant, but on the millions of Americans who refuse to be vaccinated. 

In Houston, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo took to Twitter where she said the trends at local hospitals are terrifying. "At this point, if you're unvaccinated by choice you're complicit in this crisis," she wrote.

At the White House, COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that the states with some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates -- Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi -- account for half of the country's new cases and hospitalizations in the last week.

United Airlines mandates employee vaccinations

In a sign that more businesses are overcoming their hesitancy to mandate vaccinations, United Airlines has announced that it will require its 67,000 employees to get inoculated. Employees who are not yet vaccinated have until Oct. 25 to do so or they risk being fired.

United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart jointly issued a memo to employees announcing the mandate. The two executives said they understood that some would disagree with the requirement.

“But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated,” they wrote.

High-profile athletes who refuse to be vaccinated

Star athletes are often role models, so health officials are concerned that some of the people refusing to be vaccinated are star athletes. In Tokyo, 100 members of the U.S. Olympic team are unvaccinated, where an outbreak of the virus could derail the games.

With the NFL season about to begin, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley has said he doesn’t plan to get vaccinated. Neither does Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who said he would rather be surrounded by plexiglass in the quarterbacks’ room. Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannahill said he would be vaccinated only if forced to do so.

Former NBA star Charles Barkley, never shy about venturing an opinion, recently had choice words for the holdouts. “Yes, I’m vaccinated,” Barkley told CNBC last week. “Everybody should be vaccinated. Period.”

Around the nation

  • Florida: A revolt is brewing in the Sunshine State. Gov. Ron DeSantis steadfastly opposes any kind of mandate associated with COVID-19, but a growing number of school districts are requiring masks when classrooms reopen. DeSantis says districts that require masks will lose state funding.

  • Vermont: More businesses over the last week have reinstituted mask requirements for employees and customers because of the spread of the Delta variant. But officials say Vermont's high vaccination rate is preventing the variant from causing more serious illness or death.

  • Missouri: The vaccination rate has begun to inch higher in Missouri, a state with a low rate of vaccinations and a high number of cases of the virus. State health officials say 59.6% of adults in the state have at least one dose of the vaccine.

  • Virginia: Children and teens are among the latest victims of the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the state. In Scott County, twin 16-year-old boys have been hospitalized and put on ventilators after contracting the virus.

  • Tennessee: The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the government’s latest ban on rental evictions does not apply to renters in the state. It points to an appeals court ruling last month that found the CDC lacks jurisdiction to extend the eviction moratorium.

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