Severe breakthrough infections mostly on elderly, sick; WHO calls for moratorium on booster shots: COVID-19 updates

The head of the World Health Organization called Wednesday for a moratorium on using coronavirus booster shots until the end of the year — or longer.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that low- and lower-middle income countries cannot be “the second or third priority” for COVID-19 vaccines, saying their health workers, older people and other at-risk groups have the same right to be protected as those in wealthier countries. “I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers,” Tedros said.

He acknowledged that third doses may be necessary for the most at-risk populations, where there’s evidence of waning immunity – such as immunocompromised people who didn’t respond sufficiently to their initial doses or are no longer producing antibodies. “But for now, we do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated,” Tedros said.

Severe breakthrough infections happen mostly among the elderly, infirm, study

Severe coronavirus breakthrough infections are not only rare, they mostly happen on older people with other underlying health conditions, a new Yale University study reveals. Yale researchers looking into nearly 1,000 cases of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between March 23 and July 1 of this year found 54 were fully vaccinated, and 14 had severe or critical illness (almost half had no symptoms and went to the hospital for an unrelated condition).

The median age among the group of 14 was 80.5, and 12 of them had heart disease. Other comorbidities among them included excess weight, diabetes and lung disease. Three of the patients died. The analysis was conducted while the delta variant circulated in the U.S. but before it became the dominant strain.“The majority of fully vaccinated patients experience mild or no symptoms if infected with SARS-CoV-2,” Hyung Chun, a Yale associate professor and senior author of the study, told Yale News. “This research identifies those who suffered more severe disease, and we need a better understanding of how to best manage these patients.”

Florida judge rejects ban on school mask mandates

A Florida judge ruled Wednesday that the state cannot enforce a ban on public schools mandating the use of masks to guard against the coronavirus – at least while an appeals court sorts out whether the ban is ultimately legal. Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper said the overwhelming evidence before him in a lawsuit by parents challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban is that wearing masks does provide some protection for children in crowded school settings, particularly those under 12 for whom no vaccine has been authorized.“We’re not in normal times. We are in a pandemic,” Cooper said during a hearing held remotely.


13 staffers at Miami-Dade schools have died since mid-August

Thirteen school staffers in Florida’s Miami-Dade County have died in the last three weeks, none of them vaccinated, school authorities say. The deaths come as almost all schools across the nation have returned for the 2021-22 school year. Classrooms and hallways are packed with students and staff, often without mask or vaccination mandates.

In Miami-Dade, fatalities include four teachers, one security monitor, one cafeteria worker and seven school bus drivers, United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats told CNN on Tuesday. It was not clear how the staffers became infected. New teachers began reporting to county schools Aug. 11; classes began Aug. 23.

All of the staffers who died were Black, and Hernandez-Mats said only 30% of African Americans in the county are vaccinated. “The loss of any of our employees is one that is always profoundly felt as every member of this organization is considered a part of Miami-Dade County Public Schools family,” the district said in a statement.


Proud Boys rallying again after quiet months since Jan. 6

After staying under the radar for months since the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, members of the far-right street gang the Proud Boys have been showing up at protests against mask mandates and coronavirus vaccine requirements. In recent weeks, Proud Boys have been spotted at rallies against masks and vaccines in at least five states. From Los Angeles to Columbus, Ohio, members have scrapped with counterprotesters after gathering for events branded as pro-freedom, pro-patriot or anti-COVID restrictions. “They’ve been piggybacking on other people’s events,” said Jared Holt, a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

Texas district reopens after 2 teacher deaths – but with mask mandate

A Texas school district that shut its doors after two teachers died has reopened this week with a mask mandate. The Connally Independent School District in and around Waco said it will provide masks to students who do not have one when they arrive at school. The first day of school was Aug. 13. David McCormick, a seventh-grade social studies teacher, died 11 days later. Natalia Chansler, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at the same school, died Aug. 28, according to the school district. Campuses were closed Aug. 31 for “deep cleaning,” the district said. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has banned mask mandates despite a surge in new cases. Efforts to enforce the ban with other districts requiring masks have been hung up in litigation.

Hundreds of websites spread debunked COVID claims

More than 500 websites have promoted misinformation about the coronavirus, including debunked claims about vaccines, according to a firm that rates the credibility of sites. NewsGuard announced Wednesday that, of the more than 6,700 websites it has analyzed, 519 have published false information about COVID-19. Some of the sites publish dubious health information or political conspiracy theories, while others were “created specifically to spread misinformation about COVID-19,” the company says on its website.

“It’s become virtually impossible for people to tell the difference between a generally reliable site and an untrustworthy site,” Gordon Crovitz, co-founder of NewsGuard, told USA TODAY. “And that is why there is such a big business in publishing this information.”

Idaho to ration health care; hospitals overwhelmed amid surge

Idaho is allowing health care facilities to ration care due to the surge of COVID-19 cases that has more people needing treatment than institutions can handle.