President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted a party Sunday on the South Lawn of the White House to celebrate progress made during the coronavirus pandemic and the Fourth of July holiday.
Biden highlighted in his remarks the country’s falling coronavirus case numbers and widespread vaccination uptake, while taking time to recognize the more than 600,000 Americans who’ve died from coronavirus during the pandemic.
“Today we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus. That’s not to say the battle against COVID-19 is over. We’ve got a lot more work to do,” he said.
The holiday came as the delta variant is overtaking much of the country. The infectious strain now accounts for 25% of cases in the U.S., according to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Southwest Missouri has emerged in recent weeks as a hotspot for the variant, which has strained hospitals, made national headlines and frustrated health care leaders. Less than 40% of Missouri’s population has been fully vaccinated and the figure is less than 20% in some rural counties.
In California, new data from the California Department of Public Health found that 35.6% of coronavirus variants analyzed in June have been delta variant, up from 5.6% in May and making the delta variant the dominant in the state.
“The rapid increase in the delta variant suggests that this strain is more easily transmitted between people than other strains circulating in California,” the state Department of Public Health told the Los Angeles Times.
“Nevertheless, there is evidence that vaccines available in the U.S. are effective against the Delta variant,” state officials added. 61% of the state has received one dose, reported the CDC.
Also in the news:
►Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas said Sunday that his state’s inoculation campaign was lagging because of young people’s hesitancy to get vaccinated. The state has given 28% of residents at least one dose as of June 29.
►The number of travelers through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints Thursday and Friday exceeded travelers in 2019 and 2020, the agency reported.
►Iran announced Sunday it was reimposing coronavirus restrictions on major cities, as the spread of the highly contagious delta variant spurs fears of another devastating surge in the nation.
►Six people from a task force working at the scene of a Miami-area condo building collapse have tested positive for COVID-19, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky said.
►The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the case of a 13-year-old Saginaw County boy who died in his sleep three days after getting his second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in mid-June.
►Russia on Sunday reported more than 25,000 new coronavirus cases, the largest number since January, as the country faces a sharp surge over the past month. The national coronavirus task force said 663 patients died, down from the previous day’s 697, which was a record high.
►A bipartisan proposal in the U.S. House would ban the farming of mink fur in the United States in an effort to stem possible mutations of the coronavirus, something researchers have said can be accelerated when the virus spreads among animals.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 605,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 183.9 million cases and more than 3.9 million deaths. More than 157 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 47.8% of the population, according to the CDC.
📘What we’re reading: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the case of a 13-year-old Saginaw County boy who died in his sleep three days after getting his second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in mid-June. Read the full story.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will provide an update Monday on plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions in England, amid speculation that he will scrap rules that require people to wear masks in many public settings.
Johnson is scheduled to hold a press conference on the government’s current outlook for “freedom day’’ — the plan to end the remaining coronavirus restrictions on business and social interactions on July 19. A final decision will be announced on July 12 based on a series of tests, including vaccination rates and the risks posed by new virus variants.
The British government, which put into place one of the longest lockdowns in the world, has lifted restrictions in a series of steps that began with reopening schools in March. The fourth and final stage was delayed last month to provide time for more people to be vaccinated amid concerns about the rapid spread of the delta variant, which was first discovered in India.
“Today we will set out how we can restore people’s freedoms when we reach step four,’’ Johnson said in a statement ahead of his news conference. “But I must stress that the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks.’’
About 99.2% of recent COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. involved unvaccinated people, a “tragic” situation that could easily be remedied, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.
The top infectious disease expert said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he was frustrated at a situation in which “you have a formidable enemy” – and “yet we do have a countermeasure that’s highly, highly effective. And that’s the reason why it’s all the more sad and all the more tragic why it isn’t being completely implemented in this country.”
Fauci cited several reasons for opposition to the vaccine by some Americans: “ideological” or some people “are just fundamentally anti-vax or anti-science.”
The U.S. is “very fortunate” that it has “enough vaccines to vaccinate essentially everybody in the country,” Fauci said. “And there are people throughout the world who would do anything to get vaccines.”
– Susan Miller, USA TODAY
Contributing: Associated Press