COVID-19 Live Updates: FDA Set to Approve Booster Shots, U.S. Hospitals Scramble for Staff and Equipment

Live Updates

The Delta variant continues to run rampant across the U.S., increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that 90 percent of counties across the U.S. are experiencing "substantial or high transmission" of coronavirus. Those at the highest risk for serious illness remain those who are not vaccinated.

The surge in hospitalizations has overwhelmed hospitals and medical staff in several states. Health officials in Mississippi fear that the state's hospital system will fail as they struggle with packed ICUs and staff shortages.

In Florida alone, around one in 1,400 people have been hospitalized with the virus. Political clashes over COVID restrictions continue as state officials in Florida, Missouri and Texas fight government mandates.

School districts across the country continue to require students and staff wear masks amid mask mandate bans from governors and protest from parents.

During a press conference Thursday, President Joe Biden applauded "the mayors, school superintendents, educators, local leaders, who are standing up to the governors politicizing masks protection for our kids."

Elsewhere, officials in Australia continue their struggle to contain a cluster of Delta variant cases, shutting down capital city Canberra after just one case, while New Zealand fears its zero-COVID approach may soon be compromised.

The updates for this blog have ended.

KEY MOMENTS

Louisiana COVID-19 Testing
A Louisiana Army National Guard soldier waits to collect a swab from a driver at a COVID-19 drive-through testing site operated by the National Guard on August 11, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Louisiana Department of Health today reported 3,930 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 42 additional deaths. 2,895 COVID-19 patients are now hospitalized in Louisiana, a new daily record. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Some colleges will charge unvaccinated students a COVID-19 testing fee

Many colleges and universities across the country are implementing vaccine, mask and testing requirements as students return to campus this fall.

While there is no vaccine mandate at Wesleyan College in West Virginia, unvaccinated students must pay a "COVID fee" of $750 to cover weekly testing.

"We're looking to just make sure our costs are recovered," President Joel Thierstein told CNN's New Day. "But if we find alternative sources of support for the testing, we'll go with those and the fee will go away."

Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennesee has implemented a similar policy. The school is charging unvaccinated students $1,500 to cover weekly testing.

A spokesperson for Rhodes College previously told Newsweek the school didn't want to ask vaccinated students to pay for testing for unvaccinated students since vaccines are widely available.

READ MORE: "Weekly Testing, Vaccine Mandates and Fines: How Some Colleges Are Combating COVID Surge"

Largest teachers union in the U.S. supports vaccine requirements

The largest teachers union in the U.S. supports vaccine mandates for teachers as the new school year begins.

The National Education Association (NEA) called vaccine requirements an "appropriate" step as coronavirus cases surge across the country.

"As we enter a new school year amidst a rapidly spreading Delta variant and lagging public vaccination rates, it is clear that the vaccination of those eligible is one of the most effective ways to keep schools safe, and they must be coupled with other proven mitigation strategies," NEA President Becky Pringle said in a statement Thursday.

The union said that nearly 90 percent of its members report being fully inoculated against the virus.

READ MORE: "Largest Teachers Union in U.S. Reverses Course on Vaccines, Now Says They're 'Necessary'"

President Biden slams governors "politicizing" mask mandates

President Joe Biden applauded local officials who are issuing mask mandates despite politicians who are "trying to turn a public safety measure into a political dispute."

"This isn't about politics — this is about keeping our children safe," he said during remarks from the White House East Room Thursday.

Biden thanked "the mayors, school superintendents, educators, local leaders, who are standing up to the governors politicizing masks protection for our kids."

"Thank you, I stand with you all, and America should as well," he said.

Biden also vocalized his support for health care workers treating unvaccinated people hospitalized with COVID-19.

"You know, our healthcare workers are heroes. They were the heroes when there was no vaccine. And they're heroes again with a vaccine," he said.

"They're doing their best to care for the people refusing to get vaccinated, and unvaccinated folks are being hospitalized and dying as a result of not being vaccinated," Biden added.

San Francisco will require full vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, gyms

San Francisco will require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 in order to enter indoor facilities such as restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms, Mayor London Breed announced Thursday.

"Many San Francisco businesses are already leading the way by requiring proof of vaccination for their customers because they care about the health of their employees, their customers and this city," Breed said in a statement. "This order builds on their leadership and will help us weather the challenges ahead and keep our businesses open. Vaccines are our way out of the pandemic, and our way back to a life where we can be together safely."

This order will go into effect on August 20 and will not apply to those under the age of 12 who are ineligible to get a vaccine.

"The fact that many people are not eligible for vaccination makes it even more important for people who are eligible to do their part to protect the community," Breed said.

Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic. They're how we can live our lives together, safely.

San Francisco will be requiring proof of vaccination for patrons and employees in a number of indoor settings, including bars, restaurants, gyms, and large events.

— London Breed (@LondonBreed) August 12, 2021

CDC: COVID-19 vaccine booster would apply to a small population of immunocompromised people

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to authorize a booster shot for immunocompromised people.

However, this additional vaccine would apply to a small segment of the population, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday.

"Emerging data show that certain people who are immune compromised, such as people who have had an organ transplant and some cancer patients, may not have had an adequate immune response to just two doses of the COVID vaccine," Walensky said during the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing. "To be clear, this is a very small population. We estimate it to be less than 3 percent of adults."

Walensky said the FDA is working with Pfizer and Moderna to work on a booster for vulnerable people and the CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices will meet Friday to discuss the issue.

New York COVID-19 hospitalizations increase despite high vaccination rate

New York COVID-19 hospitalizations have quadrupled in the past month, despite the state's high vaccination rate.

On Tuesday, New York recorded 1,367 hospitalizations, 288 of which are in ICU. That is the highest figure since May. On July 10, there were 339 people in hospital with COVID.

The number of hospitalizations rose from 788 on August 1 to 1,162 on August 7.

Vaccination Update:

76.8% of adult New Yorkers have received at least one vaccine dose and 69.4% have completed their vaccine series (Per CDC).

-42,956 doses were administered over past 24 hours
-22,702,548 doses administered to date pic.twitter.com/2ivEgehzuf

— NYSDOH (@HealthNYGov) August 11, 2021

"In our recent analyses of our local health system samples, the Delta variant has completely taken over the hospitalized COVID patient population," Dr. David Reich, president of Mount Sinai Hospital, told WNYW.

According to the New York Department of Health, 78.8 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while just under 70 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.

READ MORE: "New York, Despite High Vaccine Uptake, Sees COVID Hospitalizations Quadruple in a Month"

70% of Minnesotans ages 16 and older have received a COVID-19 vaccine

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced that 70 percent of residents aged 16 and older have received at least one dose of the CVOID-19 vaccine.

The number of first doses administered per week is up 129 percent from last month, according to data from the governor's office. This comes after Walz started a $100 rewards program for those who get their first shot between August 4 and August 15.

Over six million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across the state.

"Minnesotans are continuing to answer the urgent call and do their part to end this pandemic," Walz said in a news release. "The data is clear: vaccines are our key to fighting COVID-19 and the delta variant, and millions of Minnesotans rolled up their sleeves to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. While we are making progress, there is no time to waste in making sure every Minnesotan who can get the shot does so. It will save lives."

Big news:

→ Over 70% of Minnesotans 16+ has a vaccine
→ More than 6 million doses have been administered in MN
→ The number of first doses per week is up 129%

Let’s keep it going – roll up your sleeves and tell a loved one to do the same!

— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) August 12, 2021

5 of the 10 biggest school districts in Texas now require masks

Five out of Texas' 10 largest school districts are now requiring masks for students and staff.

The Dallas Independent School District, Austin Independent School District, Forth Worth Independent School District, Northeast Independent School District and Houston Independent School District have all defied Governor Greg Abbott's executive order banning mask mandates in schools.

"I am responsible for the safety, health and welfare of each and every one of our students and our staff. If I err, I must err on the side of ensuring that we've been overly cautious, not that we have fallen short," Austin Independent School District Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde said in an update on its website.

READ MORE: "5 of the 10 Biggest School Districts in Texas Now Require Masks, Defying Greg Abbott's Ban"

Health and Human Services orders over 25,000 employees to get COVID vaccine

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will require its health care staff and volunteers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Requiring our HHS health care workforce to get vaccinated will protect our federal workers, as well as the patients and people they serve," Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement Thursday.

The vaccine mandate will apply to more than 25,00 "employees, contractors, trainees, and volunteers whose duties put them in contact or potential contact with patients at an HHS medical or clinical research facility."

READ MORE: "Health and Human Services Orders Over 25,000 Employees to Get COVID Vaccine"

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott files appeal against Dallas mask mandate

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an appeal to the court to strike down the mask mandate issued by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

"Under Executive Order GA-38, no governmental entity can require or mandate the wearing of masks," Abbott said in a statement. "The path forward relies on personal responsibility—not government mandates. The State of Texas will continue to vigorously fight the temporary restraining order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans."

Paxton called Jenkins an "attention-grabbing" judge and said he was confident that courts will be on the side of "liberty and individual choice, not mandates and government overreach."

Any school district, public university, or local government official that decides to defy GA-38—which prohibits gov't entities from mandating masks—will be taken to court.

The path forward relies on personal responsibility—not government mandates.https://t.co/Qn9SmIOO8g pic.twitter.com/GBi0HiH0Sc

— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 11, 2021

Over 4,000 students in Mississippi quarantining due to COVID-19 exposure

More than 4,400 students in Mississippi are quarantining after being exposed to COVID-19 during the week of August 2.

According to data from the 43 counties reporting to the Mississippi State Department of Health, 943 students and 296 teachers and staff tested positive for COVID-19 between August 2 and August 6. There are 82 counties in the state.

The report showed 382 teachers and 4,435 students are currently in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure

While there is no statewide school mask mandate, many districts require students and staff to wear face coverings.

Today MSDH is reporting 4,412 more cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi, 20 deaths, and 162 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities. State #covid19 totals: 376,124 cases, 7,730 deaths, and 1,062,396 persons fully vaccinated. Full information: https://t.co/YCv9xPyJDk pic.twitter.com/DWOJwyEgfw

— MS Dept of Health (@msdh) August 12, 2021

Texas deployed out-of-state medical help to assist hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has instructed the Texas Department of State Health Services to recruit more than 2,500 out-of-state medical personnel to assist Texas hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19.

The state reported over 14,000 new COVID-19 cases and 112 new COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Texas is taking action to ensure that our hospitals are properly staffed and supported in the fight against COVID-19.

More than 2,500 medical personnel are being deployed to help hospitals care for COVID-19 patients across Texas.https://t.co/SkBnjB155f pic.twitter.com/HHG118CaDd

— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 11, 2021

In a testimony before the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services Tuesday, Dr. Esmaeil Porsa said he was "frightened by what is coming."

"If this continues, and I have no reason to believe that it will not, there is no way my hospital is going to be able to handle this," Porsa, the president and CEO of the Harris County Health System, said. "There is no way the region is going to be able to handle this."

Mississippi hospital system on the brink of failure, health officials warn

Mississippi health official Jim Craig asked the federal government to send a military hospital ship to help hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, as other medical officials predict the state hospital system will fail within 10 days.

"If we continue that trajectory within the next five to seven to 10 days, I think we're going to see failure of the hospital system in Mississippi," University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs Dr. Alan Jones said at a press conference Wednesday.

As COVID-19 hospitalizations increase, Jones added that the hospital teams are "stretched very thin" due to staff shortages. The Mississippi State Department of Health, along with UMMC and the Governor's office, asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to send federal employees to assists state medical staff.

UMMC also announced it will set up a temporary 50-bed field hospital in its parking garage Friday to accommodate the growing number of COVID-19 patients.

The hospital recorded 127 COVID-19 patients, including 26 children, as of Wednesday.

There were ZERO available ICU beds in Mississippi as of early this morning. None.
That means hospitals across the state may not be able to provide the level of care needed to you or your loved one. Not just for COVID-19 but FOR ANY EMERGENCY CARE.

— LouAnn Woodward M.D. (@LAWoodwardMD) August 9, 2021

Parents protest school mask mandate in Tennessee

A protest of angry parents erupted in Franklin, Tennessee after the Williamson County Board of Education reinstates a mask mandate for elementary school students Tuesday night.

People opposed to the mandate gathered outside the meeting chanting, "We will not comply."

One video shows a man yelling at a person wearing a mask, "We will find you, we know who you are" while another yelled, "You'll never be allowed in public again."

Anti-mask demonstrators heckle masked people (some of whom are Drs/nurses) leaving 08/10/21 #Williamsoncountytn #schoolboardmeeting following one man to his car and shouting “we will find you” & “we know who you are” @WilliamsonHmPg 1/2 pic.twitter.com/u8wbdfr3Xj

— Matt Masters (@formvscontent) August 11, 2021

Wuhan lab worker 'probably' patient zero after being infected by bat - WHO official

The World Health Organization's top COVID official has claimed a researcher in a lab in Wuhan, China is the most likely cause of the outbreak.

Peter Ben Embarek, who led a mission to investigate the origins of COVID, said:

An employee who was infected in the field by taking samples falls under one of the probable hypotheses. This is where the virus jumps directly from a bat to a human. In that case, it would then be a laboratory worker instead of a random villager or other person who has regular contact with bats. So it is actually in the probable category.

READ MORE: "Wuhan lab worker bat infection a probable COVID origin theory—WHO official"

One in 1,400 in hospitalized by COVID in Florida right now

The Delta variant has hit the state hard, with new figures showing that thousands of adults and hundreds of children are currently being treated.

CDC data shows Florida reported a new daily case record on Monday, with 24,753 positive tests.

READ MORE: One in Every 1,400 People in Florida Hospitalized with COVID Right Now

Tokyo reports 4,989 new COVID cases in 24 hours

It is the second-highest daily count in the Japanese capital - and recent Olympic hosts - prompting calls for tighter restrictions and an expansion of the state of emergency already in place.

The country's top health adviser Shigeru Omi says he will request stricter emergency measures for around two weeks to flatten the curve, which began around the same time as the Tokyo 2020 began.

Why has Canberra locked down after just one COVID case?

Australia's capital will go into lockdown for a week from Thursday after a single case of COVID-19 was detected and the virus was discovered in wastewater.

Canberra residents can only leave home for essential reasons from 5 p.m. on Thursday, general retail stores will be closed and hospitality venues will only to able to sell takeout, an Australian Capital Territory government statement said.

The infection is the first local case in the city since July 10 last year.

Australian regions scramble for extra COVID shots

Queensland has announced it has obtained an extra 112,000 doses of the vaccine - to be handed out over eight days - amid spiralling demand.

Many are looking at neighboring region New South Wales, where hundreds are now being infected with COVID each day.

How many people will the FDA's booster jab decision affect?

The FDA action will mostly affect organ transplant patients who take immune-suppressing drugs, as well as others with diseases, including blood cancers, which weaken the immune system.

Totalling around 3 percent of U.S. adults, top doctors have told the FDA that making the immunocompromised eligible for an booster shot is preferable to having worried patients seek out illicit medication.

New Zealand to open borders from early 2022

The country, which prides itself on having a relatively low number of cases compared to most others, will take the bold step of allowing tourists into the country for the first time in almost 18 months.

As plans stand, fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries would not be required to quarantine but those arriving from medium-risk countries would need to complete some form of quarantine. Those arriving from high-risk countries or those who were unvaccinated, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, would need to stay 14 days in a quarantine hotel run by the military.

For now, the rush is on to get as many Kiwis vaccinated before the end of the year.

Good morning and welcome to Newsweek's liveblog

A growing number of hospitals are reporting critical staff shortages and a worsening situation overnight as the Delta variant rips through states.

Later we will find out if the FDA will approve booster jabs for the most vulnerable and be able to report the latest as the U.S. wakes up.

Eyes are also on Australia and New Zealand amid fears the zero-COVID strategy could succumb to Delta's infectiousness.

Stick with Newsweek's liveblog throughout Thursday for all the latest on COVID in the U.S. and around the world.