Coronavirus update: This year’s COVID-19 death toll higher than 2020

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Disney World has paused its vaccination mandate

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 47,773,956 (47,623,460)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 771,513 (770,880)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 257,896,250 (256,835,906)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,155,288 (5,139,223)‌

2021 death toll higher than 2020

With another month to go in the year, the death toll from COVID-19 in 2021 has exceeded deaths in 2020, before there was an available vaccine. Over the weekend, the COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University put the number of U.S. deaths since the pandemic began at 770,800.

Health officials point to the rapid spread of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in some states and communities as factors that increased the death toll. Most recently, serious cases and deaths have increased in northern states -- even in states with high vaccination rates. Epidemiologists say the medical community failed to persuade enough Americans to get vaccinated. 

“Heading into this year, we knew what we needed to do, but it was a failure of getting it done,” Dr. Abraar Karan, an infectious-diseases specialist at Stanford University, told the Wall Street Journal.

Disney pauses vaccine mandate

An Orlando TV station reports that Disney World has told employees that it is putting its vaccination mandate on hold. Previously, the theme park and resort had set a deadline for employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The station reports that Nick Caturano, who runs the website, confirmed that employees received an internal memo notifying them that the mandate is being suspended for the time being.

"We all want to go back to a sense of normalcy,” Caturano told the station. “We all hoped the vaccine would do the trick. And it seemed like it was starting to work but people are getting the COVID. To separate them it doesn't make sense."

Pfizer reports complete protection for kids

Pfizer and BioNTech, makers of one of the three vaccines being used in the U.S., have announced that their vaccine was 100% effective in preventing infections in 12- to 15-year-olds. They say no child got sick during a period of seven days to four months after getting the second shot.

The new report is part of a more extensive analysis of a Phase 3 trial conducted among 2,228 participants. The companies plan to use the data to bolster their application to extend their license to vaccinate children in that age group.

“These are the first and only disclosed longer-term data demonstrating the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine in individuals 12 to 15 years of age,” Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, said in a statement. “The growing body of data we have compiled from clinical trials and real-world surveillance to date strengthen the base of evidence supporting the strong efficacy and favorable safety profile of our Covid-19 vaccine across adolescent and adult populations.”

Around the nation

  • Arizona: Brian Argo of Scottsdale has been reunited with his family after spending weeks in a coma and 41 days on a ventilator. At one point, doctors gave Argo only a 5% chance of surviving COVID-19.

  • Oregon: Howard Breidenbach of Myrtle Creek said he never took the coronavirus seriously until he was infected with the virus. After 100 days in the hospital and the loss of his business, Breidenbach admits that he was wrong and has urged other skeptics to get the shot.

  • New Jersey: State health officials are dealing with another rise in COVID-19 cases despite a high vaccination rate, and they now worry about what the Thanksgiving holiday may bring. On Sunday, the state health department reported another 1,482 COVID-19 cases and four confirmed deaths as the statewide rate of transmission continued to increase.

  • Louisiana: The state health department has proposed a vaccination mandate that would require children to get the shot as a requirement for attending school. The rule would affect all elementary and secondary schools, kindergartens, colleges, universities, proprietary schools, vocation schools, and licensed daycare centers. 

  • Alaska: For a while, Alaska led the nation in COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Now it leads in a more positive category. State health officials say about 51% of vaccinated Alaskans age 65 and older have received a dose of the COVID-19 booster, which puts the state ahead of the national average.

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