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Coronavirus update: Over 700,000 dead in U.S., FDA to consider Johnson & Johnson booster

It may be hard to tell COVID-19 from the flu

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 43,694,842 (43,607,242)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 701,312 (700,418)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 235,058,353 (234,914,862)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,804,273 (4,795,272)‌

U.S. deaths exceed 700,000

The latest wave of COVID-19 cases has begun to recede, but U.S. deaths crossed a milestone over the weekend. Officials have now attributed more than 700,000 deaths to the virus. The U.S. remains the world leader in COVID-19 deaths, with Brazil being the next-closest country.

Because it is so contagious, the Delta variant is responsible for the latest surge in cases. But frustrated health officials say the latest increase in deaths is largely due to many people refusing to be vaccinated. Research suggests that vaccination reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms or death.

"If you're not vaccinated or have protection from natural infection, this virus will find you," warned Mike Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told NPR.

Johnson & Johnson reportedly wants booster approval

Johnson & Johnson may be the next vaccine maker to ask for approval of its booster shot. The New York Times reports that the drug company will ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for booster shot approval later this week.

The FDA has scheduled a meeting of its advisory committee next week to discuss whether it should authorize the Johnson & Johnson booster. The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only U.S. vaccine approved for booster shots for certain individuals.

Johnson & Johnson has previously released its own research that shows the second shot of its vaccine increases effectiveness against the virus to 94%, compared to 70% for the single dose.

Doctors say it may be hard to tell COVID-19 from the flu

The 2020-2021 flu season was almost non-existent, thanks to social distancing, masks, and other virus mitigation measures. But health experts say this flu season is likely to be much worse, and you may have trouble distinguishing the seasonal sickness from the coronavirus.

That’s because so many people have now been vaccinated. Even though they can still get COVID-19, the symptoms among vaccinated people are relatively mild and very similar to the flu.

Doctors suggest that people seek testing if they develop symptoms that could be either flu or COVID-19. A PCR test -- the kind you get at a pharmacy or doctor’s office and is processed by a lab -- is still the most sensitive and accurate way to detect the virus. 

Around the nation

  • Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear says the latest numbers suggest that the COVID-19 situation in the state is improving. Cases of the virus surged during the month of September in Kentucky, especially in rural areas that have resisted vaccination and virus mitigation measures.

  • Pennsylvania: Schools in Eastern Pennsylvania have grappled with COVID-19 outbreaks since children returned to the classroom. Administrators say it’s changed how they function. “We are educators by trade. Essentially now, we’re health care workers, contact tracers and health care educators,” Jim Thorpe Area Superintendent John Rushefski told the Lehighton Times-News.

  • New Jersey: New Jersey is having better luck with its health care workers than neighboring New York. Health officials say hospitals have received far fewer resignations from employees who refuse to be vaccinated. They say New Jersey’s more accommodating rules, such as allowing unvaccinated employees to stay on the job if they submit to frequent testing, may be partly responsible.

  • Idaho: State health officials say the latest surge in severe COVID-19 cases is targeting children who are not yet eligible for vaccination. Many of the cases are severe, with pediatric intensive care units (ICU) approaching capacity. 

  • Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown faces a growing rebellion among Josephine County officials who are seeking to block her mandate that health workers be vaccinated. The county commission is considering a resolution that declares Brown’s mandate “the direct enemy of liberty.” 

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