Jesse Jackson released after breakthrough infection; Americans are dying at almost 10 times the rate of July: COVID-19 updates

The United States is again reporting more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths per day, a level not seen in more than six months.

Johns Hopkins University data shows the nation reported 14,220 deaths in the week ending Tuesday. At this pace, an American dies of COVID-19 every 43 seconds.

In July, deaths were as low as 1,525 per week, or a little more than 200 per day, meaning they're almost 10 times higher now. Put another way, as many Americans are now dying every 18 hours of COVID-19 as were dying in a full week just a few months ago.

Deaths are rising because America is still in a delta variant-fueled surge. Case counts are still about 12 times higher than they were in the last relative lull a few months ago but have been falling. Deaths are likely to peak in the coming weeks.

But the pace of deaths remains below that seen in some weeks of January, when about 3,400 Americans were reported dead in a typical day.

Mike Stucka

Also in the news:

►The Rev. Jesse Jackson, 79, was released Wednesday from a Chicago facility a month after he was hospitalized for a breakthrough COVID-19 infection and for Parkinson’s disease. His wife Jacqueline, 77, was also infected but was not vaccinated. She required oxygen and a brief intensive care unit stay and was released this month.

►Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis named Dr. Joseph Ladapo – who said he doesn’t believe in school closures, lockdowns or vaccine mandates – as the state’s surgeon general.

►United Airlines says more than 97% of its U.S.-based employees are fully vaccinated, less than a week before a deadline to get the shots or get fired.

►New Britain High in Connecticut, which recently resumed full in-person learning, is temporarily returning to remote learning. Mayor Erin Stewart said the school cited difficulties controlling vandalism and student fighting.

►Nearly 1 in 5 Americans are consuming an unhealthy amount of alcohol, a new survey suggests. Several previous studies have suggested Americans are buying more alcohol and drinking more frequently during the coronavirus pandemic.

►Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga, in New York at the United Nations General Assembly, said he has tested positive and will quarantine in the U.S. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who spoke to the assembly Tuesday, suffered a mild case last year and has said he doesn't need to be vaccinated.

📈Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 42.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 678,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 229.7 million cases and 4.7 million deaths. More than 182 million Americans – 54.8% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we're reading: Parents of young children woke up Monday morning to the news that COVID-19 vaccines for their little ones may be just around the corner. So, when can kids get the vaccine? We answered your questions.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY's Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Acute teacher shortage put strain on pandemic learning

The pandemic has triggered a spike in teacher retirements and resignations at a time when schools need more staff to make up for learning losses and to run online learning for those not ready to return. The lack of teachers is “really a nationwide issue and definitely a statewide issue,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of California’s State Board of Education.

In Michigan, Eastpointe Community Schools moved its middle school back to remote learning this week because it doesn’t have enough teachers. The small district north of Detroit has 43 positions vacant – a quarter of its teaching staff. 

“You don’t want just an adult who can pass a background check, you want a teacher in front of your kids,” spokeswoman Caitlyn Kienitz said.

Who gets booster shots? This panel will decide

A committee of top vaccine experts was kicking off 10 hours of meeting Wednesday to decide who should be eligible for a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shot. A vote is expected Thursday. A different federal advisory committee on Friday recommended a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine six months after full vaccination for people age 65 and older and those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

The FDA has not yet issued an approval for the booster doses, so while the CDC's committee can meet, it cannot vote on recommendations until it receives that sign-off,  said Dr. Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a health-focused nonprofit. 

Elizabeth Weise and Karen Weintraub

Doctor accused of stealing vaccine sues bosses, accuses them of bias

A Houston-area doctor who was fired after public health officials accused him of stealing vials of COVID-19 vaccine to administer to family and friends is suing Harris County, accusing it of discriminating against South Asians. Dr. Hasan Gokal said his supervisors accused him of giving the vaccine to too many people of South Asian descent late the first night of the Moderna vaccine rollout. All those present had been vaccinated, and there were 10 doses left. No volunteers nor police officers at the rollout wanted them, Gokal said, so he made late-night calls to people he knew, and even his wife. Gokal said his boss told him he didn’t give out the shots equitably.

"I asked him, ‘Equitably? What do you mean equitably? Are you saying there’s too many Indian names in the group?’" Gokal said. "He looks at me and says, ‘Exactly.’”

The county attorney’s office did not immediately return a message seeking  comment.

Biden to announce 500M more vaccines for lower-income countries 

President Joe Biden is set to announce that the United States is doubling its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world – 1 billion doses – as he embraces the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year.

The additional vaccines are part of an agreement with the U.S. government to supply doses to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and 55 member states of the African Union, areas that don’t have widespread access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Pfizer said the doses will be provided at a not-for-profit price. Deliveries of the vaccine to these areas started in August and the total 1 billion doses are expected to be delivered to these areas by September 2022, the company said, adding that the first doses as part of this program arrived in Rwanda on Aug. 18. Since that time, more than 30 million had been shipped to 22 countries.

– Christal Hayes

California has best handle on COVID-19 transmission

California is now the state with the lowest transmission of COVID-19 in the country, according to data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state is reporting transmission levels considered "substantial" by the CDC, along with the territory Puerto Rico. All other states currently have "high" levels of transmission." High transmission consists of 100 or more cases per 100,000 people in the last week. 

California's rate is 94 cases per 100,000. By comparison, Texas is 386 and Florida is 296. About 70% of eligible Californians – those 12 and up – are fully vaccinated, according to state data. That's compared to the national average of about 64%.

Art installation in nation's capital commemorates COVID-19 deaths

An installation of more than 660,000 white flags on the National Mall was on display, beginning this weekend, to represent lives lost during the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. The temporary art installation, called "In America: Remember," was created by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg. It will be available to view for two weeks. Many of the flags include personal tributes to people who have died.

There have been more than 678,000 COVID-19 deaths in the country since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Shortage of monoclonal antibody drugs hits states

A shortage of monoclonal antibody drugs, used to fight infection and shown to reduce hospitalization and deaths if administered early, is impacting states amid rising cases of unvaccinated people.

In Tennessee, the state government is now recommending nearly all vaccinated residents be denied access to monoclonal antibody treatment to preserve the limited supply for non-vaccinated patients.

Hawaii's health centers are receiving just half of the amount of monoclonal antibody treatments they are requesting to treat patients. The weekly supply for the state has been capped at 680 treatments by the federal government. 

'Worried about her fertility': Unvaccinated bride-to-be dies

The family of an unvaccinated Kentucky woman who died from COVID-19 just days after she was supposed to get married is sharing her story in the hopes of encouraging others to get vaccinated.

Samantha Wendell, a 29-year-old surgical technician in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, became engaged to her longtime boyfriend in 2019, her family has told national media outlets. She spent much of the late summer in the hospital and ended up on a ventilator, according to family. Her funeral was held at that same church days after her Sept. 10 death. 

"She was worried about her fertility," a cousin wrote in a Facebook group for COVID-19 survivors and loved ones of those who've died from the virus. "Misinformation killed her."

– Mary Ramsey, The Courier-Journal

Contributing: The Associated Press