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Coronavirus update: Delta variant rapidly spreading, July 4 vaccination goal not within reach

U.S. officials have broken up an illicit treatment drug smuggling operation

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Photo (c) jarun011 - Getty Images
Coronavirus‌ ‌(COVID-19)‌ ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌ ‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 33,567,044 (33,555,657)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 602,504 (602,143)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 179,261,894 ‌(178,‌881,598)‌

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 3,884,666 (3,875,176)‌

Researchers warn the Delta virus may be dominant in the U.S.

U.S. coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all declining as vaccination numbers rise. But people who aren’t vaccinated are still at risk, and researchers say that risk may be increasing. In a new study, they say it’s likely that the Delta variant of the virus, first discovered in India, may account for a majority of U.S. cases by next month.

That’s a concern because the Delta variant spreads much more easily than the original strain of the virus. While people who have been vaccinated have a high level of protection, the variant has caused severe illness in the unvaccinated population, particularly among young people.

U.S. health officials agree. At a briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, warned that the Delta variant is “currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19.” 

July 4 vaccination goal probably not attainable

With less than two weeks to go, the White House has conceded the inevitable. The nation will not achieve President Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by the Independence Day holiday, although it will come close.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeffrey Zients said age appears to be a factor. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a high vaccination rate among older people. Zients says that after age 30, the numbers aren’t as good.

“The reality is, many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them and have been less eager to get the shot,” he said.

U.S. agents reportedly have seized unapproved treatment drugs

Federal agents have seized unapproved and counterfeit versions of the COVID-19 treatment drug remdesivir, breaking up what appears to be a highly sophisticated smuggling ring.

The Wall Street Journal quotes sources as saying the drugs were apparently produced in Bangladesh and India and then shipped to the U.S., where smugglers picked them up and moved them across the border to Mexico, apparently for distribution there.

According to the Journal, the Mexican market for the illicit drug is huge. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have reportedly captured more than 100 shipments.

Around the nation

  • Texas: More than 150 employees at Houston Methodist Hospital have been fired or have resigned because they refused to accept the hospital’s requirement that all employees be vaccinated. Some nurses had sued the hospital over the policy, but the judge dismissed the case earlier this month.

  • Massachusetts: State health officials report that they reached their goal this week of vaccinating more than 4 million residents. “This is thanks to the hard work of health care workers and vaccine clinic volunteers, and to the people of Massachusetts for getting vaccinated,” said Gov. Charlie Baker.

  • Virginia: Cases of the virus continue to slow in the state, and health officials attribute that to a high vaccination rate. Seventy percent of Virginians aged 18 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 60.5% are fully vaccinated.

  • Indiana: Eight students at Indiana University have filed suit against the university, challenging its requirement for all students returning in the fall to be vaccinated. The suit is asking a judge at the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis to prevent the school from enforcing the policy, saying it is in violation of the 14th Amendment and state law.

  • Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown set a 70% vaccination rate as the threshold for lifting all COVID-19 restrictions. With that goal still in the distance, the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association is calling on the governor to reopen the state on June 30, regardless of how many people have been vaccinated.

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