COVID-19 Live Updates: California Ready For COVID Vaccine Boosters When FDA Gives OK, Newsom Says

Live Updates

The Biden administration has pledged to purchase over one billion COVID vaccines for poorer countries amid criticism from the World Health Organization and the United Nations that richer nations were not doing enough to support their allies.

A round of Pfizer booster vaccinations will be offered to seniors and the most vulnerable Americans after the Food and Drug Administration signed off plans for the extended rollout. It follows a series of heated discussions among top U.S. scientists over whether a booster shot is necessary and who should be allowed to get it.

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California to begin COVID-19 vaccine booster shot rollout

California will begin administering COVID-19 booster shots for vulnerable residents and people over the age of 65, according to Governor Gavin Newsom's new COVID-19 vaccine action plan.

"We fully support our federal partners' determination to provide boosters, and California has built the necessary infrastructure to mobilize such vaccine distribution – all to help protect the health and well-being of Californians," Newsom said in a statement.

"Vaccines work," he added. "They are safe, effective, and are how we end this pandemic."

The action plan will ensure state officials can meet the demand for boosters and will be able to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for residents under the age of 12, which the state expects to begin as early as next month.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for boosters for those over the age of 65 and other high-risk individuals.

California -- we’re ready for boosters.

If you’re 65+ or eligible under the new FDA rules, CA has you covered.

Our new Vaccine Action Plan will expand operations as more folks become eligible for boosters so CA can remain a safe, healthy place to be.

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 23, 2021

Pennsylvania's Thursday COVID infections nearly 1,000 above daily average

The number of new COVID-19 infections reported Thursday in Pennsylvania were nearly 1,000 above the daily average.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 5,498 new COVID cases Thursday. Average daily cases in Pennsylvania are currently at 4,756, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Thursday's new cases also marked a steep increase from the 4,394 cases documented on Wednesday. There were 32 new confirmed deaths in the state Thursday, bringing the death total to 29,030, according to the Pennsylvania death registry.

Portugal has the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the world

Portugal has emerged as a leader in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Almost 85 percent of Portugal's population is vaccinated against COVID-19, the highest rate in the world, according to Our World in Data.

The government announced Thursday that it will remove COVID-19 capacity restrictions for restaurants, bars, weddings, concerts and theaters.

READ MORE: "Portugal Closing in on COVID Vaccines for 85 Percent of Population, Highest Rate in World"

New York announces new incentive to get sports fans vaccinated

New York State has a new initiative aimed at getting more sports fans vaccinated this fall.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced Thursday that people who get vaccinated between now and October 24 can enter to win football tickets and other prizes from the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants and New York Jets.

Currently, 62.7 percent of the state population is fully vaccinated and 70.2 percent of the population has received at least one shot, according to state data.

This new batch of incentives could be a push to get younger New Yorkers vaccinated. About 59 percent of 12-15-year-olds and about 70 percent of 16-25 and 26-34-year-olds have received one dose.

Any New Yorker age 12 and up who receives their vaccine between 9/9-10/24 can win:

🏈Game tickets
🏈FaceTime calls with alumni players
🏈VIP in-game experiences
🏈Signed gear from your favorite players

Visit to learn more and enter!

— Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) September 23, 2021

Alaska reports highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the country

Alaska has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the country.

As of Tuesday, the state is reporting an average of 117 new COVID-19 cases a day for every 100,000 people, according to data from the New York Times.

Alaska achieved a new single-day record for most resident cases with 1,224, according to state data. Cases have increased 29 percent from last week.

"We are on top of this. We've always been on top of this," Governor Mike Dunleavy said in a press conference Wednesday. Dunleavy said he did not see a need to implement COVID-19 restrictions in the state.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalization has rapidly increased since July. There are currently 200 people hospitalized with coronavirus, with 34 currently on ventilators.

"When we look at our hospital capacity and we look at our number of hospitalizations, we see more people in Alaska being hospitalized right now than we've ever seen before in the pandemic," Alaska's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said during a press conference Wednesday.

One child in South Carolina is on life support after contracting COVID-19

There are currently 24 children in South Carolina hospitalized with COVID-19, with one currently on life support, according to the South Carolina Children's Hospital Collaborative.

With this is a slight uptick in the past few days, the figure has decreased from 38 hospitalizations last Friday.

Beds in pediatric intensive-care units across the state are currently operating between 79 and 100 percent capacity.

Overall, there were 3,165 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 44 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths reported Wednesday, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Weekly cases have decreased over the month of September, dropping from 30,937 the week of September 11 to 27,868 last week, according to state data.

Health expert warns of COVID-19 spike in coming weeks

While COVID-19 cases have declined in recent days, one health expert warns that a new spike is weeks away.

"We are not out of the woods, and I fully expect case counts to go up again across the country over the weeks and months to come," Dr. Megan Ranney, the associate dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, told CNN.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day average for new cases has declined by more than 20,000 to about 130,000 cases a day.

Ranney said this decline comes as states that saw a surge of Delta cases are coming down off their peaks.

"Public health is not politics, it is helping people," Missouri's new health director says

Missouri's new health director expressed his frustration with the politicization of public health after a hearing with state lawmakers last week.

In a press conference Thursday, Donald Kauerauf, who started in his new role at the beginning of the month, said he is haunted by the state law that restricts local health departments from extending public COVID-19 safety orders.

"This is one that haunts me, this is one I worry about," Kauerauf said. "Public health is not politics, it is helping people. And the damage that is being done not only across Missouri but across the country where there are oppositions to views, the quarreling, the lack of respect to knowledge and outright meanness to each other in the public health field."

The law in question prevents health orders issued during a state of emergency order from lasting more than 30 days within a 180-day period. Those issued outside a state of emergency can only last 21 days within a 180-day period.

"If we've lost that local respect from the system, how are we going to recover from that?" Kauerauf said.

"Let's set the rhetoric behind, let's focus on issues of public health and understand that it's about people," he added. "What we're doing is to protect people, and that's job number one."

COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Washington, New York face legal challenges

Hundreds in Washington have joined a lawsuit to challenge the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The state mandate requires health care workers, educators and state employees to be fully vaccinated by October 18 or they will lose their job. Medical and religious exemptions are including in the order.

Governor Jay Inslee is confident that his mandate is "legally sound."

"We hope that public servants and those who have made their careers around protecting the health and safety of the public will choose to do the right thing and get vaccinated. As for the lawsuit, we are confident that the governor's proclamations are legally sound," Tara Lee, spokesperson for Inslee, told KING-TV.

New York state is also battling a lawsuit that is urging the state to include a religious exemption for its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

The NY State Attorney General's office argues that there is no constitutional obligation to include such an exemption because health care workers in the state are already required to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella without exemption.

The mandate was set to take effect next Monday, but it is currently on hold while this case makes its way through the courts.

CDC is expected to vote on COVID-19 booster shots this afternoon

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is scheduled to vote on COVID-19 booster shots Thursday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is meeting Thursday to discuss the benefits and risks of COVID-19 booster shots and assess other evidence in order to make a recommendation on a third dose.

And it's official: @CDCgov agenda for ACIP meeting today now lists a vote at 3:00 PM ET on

"COVID-19 vaccine booster doses"

— Alexander Tin (@Alexander_Tin) September 23, 2021

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced Thursday that it expects to make a decision on a booster dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by early October.

"Studies in immunocompromised people show that an additional dose of mRNA vaccines can increase the level of protection," Dr. Marco Cavaleri, the head of anti-infectives and vaccines at the EMA, said during a press briefing.

Teachers in New York City union do not approve of mayor's COVID-19 plan

A new survey suggests most teachers in New York City's biggest union do not approve of Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 safety plan.

In an internal poll among teachers in the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), 98 percent said they believe neither the mayor nor the Department of Education has a proper COVID-19 safety plan.

Over 90 percent said teachers and students are not able to maintain a three-foot distance throughout the day and 89 percent said students are not following mask protocols.

This comes after a judge ruled Wednesday that New York City can proceed with a mandate requiring teachers to get vaccinated by next Monday or lose their job. A lawsuit from the city unions placed a temporary restraining order on the mandate.

The UFT estimates about 90 percent of its teachers have already received the shot.

Alabama about to overtake New York for highest deaths per capita

The state had the highest COVID death toll per capita in the past week, according to the New York Times tracker - equal to one in every 5,600 residents.

It will soon overtake New York state, notably one of the most impacted states for deaths in the whole of the country.

Alabama has the highest COVID per capita death toll reported in the past week, per NYT tracker.

🔥1 out of every ~5,600 residents dead

One week

The worst lottery

Alabama about to pass *New York* for TOTAL per capita deaths (MS, LA already have)

— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) September 23, 2021

Top hospitalist says 'biggest barrier' to COVID vaccine uptake 'is socioeconomic vulnerability'

Dr. John Ross, in Boston, compared vaccination data from Springfield and Nantucket - poorer and wealthier respectively - suggesting the unequal uptake will result in an even wider health gap.

Future waves of COVID are even more likely to disproportionately affect the economically disadvantaged unless vigorous attempts are made to reach out to vulnerable communities.

Daily reminder that the biggest barrier to COVID vaccination in the US is socioeconomic vulnerability. For example: in Springfield, MA, which has a poverty rate of 29%, only 48% of the eligible are fully vaccinated, vs 89% in affluent Nantucket. (1/4)

— John Ross (@JohnRossMD) September 23, 2021

Could llamas be the answer to calls for a COVID nasal spray?

Scientists have found that a unique type of antibody produced by llamas can effectively target the virus.

The authors of a study documenting the findings, which were published in the journal Nature Communications, said the research could lead to the development of new frontline treatments against the disease that can be administered in the form of a simple nasal spray.

An international team of researchers, led by scientists from the U.K. government-supported Rosalind Franklin Institute in England, found that short chains of molecules known as nanobodies effectively neutralized the SARS-CoV-2 virus in infected hamsters, which were being used as a model for the human immune system.

FULL STORY: How Llama Antibodies Could Be Used As a New COVID Treatment

WHO drops three COVID variants from watchlist

Eta, Iota, and Kappa were reclassified as "former variants of interest" on Monday and no longer present a significant threat, according to the WHO.

All three were put on the variants of interest list because of their potential ability to easily spread and cause severe disease, but their presence around the world and in various countries dwindled to the point that the WHO's COVID chief Maria Van Kerkhove believes they present a diminished public health risk.

The variants of interest are just outcompeted by the variants of concern. They're just not taking hold.

FULL STORY: WHO Drops 3 COVID Mutations From Variants of Interest List After They Fail to Take Hold

New data reveals the uneven distribution of COVID vaccines

Over half of Europe has been fully vaccinated, the graphic created by Statista shows, while only 4 percent of Africa has achieved the same.

It follows criticism from UN and WHO leaders over the poor progress made in the Covax scheme, where richer nations buy and supply poorer regions with COVID jabs.

Map reveals a uneven COVID vaccine rollout
A Newsweek/Statista map shows the uneven rollout of COVID-19 vaccine across the world, with wealthier nations faring much better than others Newsweek/Statista

UN chief joins WHO to condemn richer countries over vaccine donations

António Guterres slammed the "obscenity" that while most wealthy nations are almost fully vaccinated against COVID, around 90 percent of Africa is still waiting for a first dose.

"We need a global vaccination plan to at least double production & ensure vaccines reach 70% of the world's population in the first half of 2022," he said in opening remarks to the 76th UN General Assembly.

It follows similar remarks from World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom, who said earlier this month he was "appalled" by the lack of progress.

A majority of the wealthier world is vaccinated while 90% of Africans are still waiting for their first dose.

This is an obscenity.

We need a global vaccination plan to at least double production & ensure vaccines reach 70% of the world’s population in the first half of 2022.

— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) September 21, 2021

FDA authorization for booster shots 'major step forward' - White House

Under the FDA authorization, Americans who are already fully vaccinated will be eligible for a third dose six months after receiving their second Pfizer shot - different from the rejected Biden proposal which called for boosters after eight months.

FDA acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement that the authorization would allow booster shots for healthcare workers, teachers, grocery workers, and those in homeless shelters or prisons.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the decision a "major step forward" for the U.S. vaccine rollout in a tweet last night.

Today’s FDA decision is a major step forward in our effort to provide Americans with additional protection from COVID-19. We have been preparing for weeks to administer booster shots to eligible Americans and are ready to do so following CDC’s final recommendation later this week

— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) September 23, 2021

R.1 variant 'contains five mutations' seen in 'variants of concern'

An "escape mutation" named E484K has been found in the R.1 variant, which researchers believe gives it an "increased resistance" to antibodies created by current vaccines.

R.1 also shares the D614G - found in all other variants that have overtaken the novel Alpha strain - which has been shown to significantly increase infectiousness.

Writing in Forbes, scientist William A. Haseltine describes how all five mutations could spell for a dangerous variant emerging in the U.S.

R.1 variant detected in 47 states

After spreading through 45 residents and staff at Kentucky nursing home earlier this year, it has been revealed that nearly all U.S. states have had cases of the variant, which is suspected to be able to bypass the antibody protection provided by current vaccines.

Over 2,200 Americans have been found with the R.1 strain so far, with the latest case detected on August 6 and representing at least 0.5 percent of all new cases last month.

Maryland was found to have the highest number of cases, with 399 cases being detected since it was first found in the country.

CDC forecasts up to 18,000 COVID deaths a week in October

The Centers for Disease Control has released its predictions for next month, showing a dire peak of COVID deaths before an expected drop, following a slowing in the number of infections in the past two weeks.

As of September 20, national forecasts predict 6,300–18,000 new #COVID19 deaths will likely be reported during the week ending October 16. That would bring the projected total number of U.S. deaths to 709,000–736,000. More:

— CDC (@CDCgov) September 22, 2021

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