U.S. CDC advisers recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for ages 65 and older, those at high risk

By Michael Erman and Manojna Maddipatla

(Reuters) – A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel on Thursday recommended a booster shot of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for Americans aged 65 and older and some adults with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk of severe disease.

The panel declined to recommend boosters for adults ages 18 to 64 who live or work in institutions with high risk of contracting COVID-19, based on individual risk, such as healthcare workers, teachers and residents of homeless shelters and prisons. Some panel members cited the difficulty of implementing such a proposal.

Still, the vote by the group, following U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorization, clears the way for a booster rollout to begin as soon as this week for millions of people who had their second dose of the Pfizer shot at least six months ago.

The CDC said that some 26 million people in the United States received the second Pfizer/BioNTech shot at least six months ago, including 13 million age 65 or older.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New Jersey; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

For asylum advocates, border expulsions strain faith in Biden

By Mica Rosenberg and Kristina Cooke

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Confused and tired-looking toddlers clung to their parents at Port-au-Prince airport in Haiti on Tuesday, among the 360 family members rapidly expelled from the U.S. over the past three days.

These scenes came after U.S. border agents on horseback on Sunday used whip-like reins to block Haitian migrants wading across the Rio Grande with food and supplies from Mexico to a squalid encampment with nearly 10,000 people on the Texas side.

The images triggered anguish among some current U.S. officials interviewed by Reuters who said they once had high hopes that U.S. President Joe Biden would quickly reverse the hardline immigration policies of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump and, as he promised, “restore humanity and American values” to the immigration system.

Outside the government, disillusioned immigration advocates point to Biden’s refusal to repeal Trump’s most sweeping policy known as Title 42 – that allows border agents to quickly expel most migrants to Mexico or their home countries without a chance to apply for asylum.

Biden extended the March 2020 policy put in place by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, arguing it remained necessary as a public health measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These deterrence (and) expulsion measures deny due process to asylum seekers and place them in harm’s way. That is a human rights violation,” Michael Knowles, president of AFGE Local 1924, the union that represents the asylum officers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) told Reuters.

“Our members are outraged by the mistreatment of migrants and the refusal of our border authorities to allow them to have their asylum claims heard.”

Three other USCIS employees expressed similar concerns to Reuters, as did an official at another government agency.

Asylum officers interview migrants and refugees to determine if they need protection in the United States, while Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents oversee border security and detention.

Top Democratic lawmakers joined in the criticism. The dwindling goodwill among allies comes as Biden’s immigration agenda was dealt a blow on Sunday when the Senate parliamentarian ruled Democratic proposals to give legal status to millions of immigrants in the United States could not be included in a budget reconciliation bill.

‘WHAT DO THEY BELIEVE IN?’

Biden did exempt unaccompanied children from Title 42 expulsions early in his presidency. But he has included families, even after a federal judge on Thursday ordered the government to stop expelling them. The administration is appealing the order.

A two-week stay on the order was “to allow the government time to organize itself,” said Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union suing the administration over the policy, “not to round up as many people as possible to expel them, and certainly not to expel desperate Haitian asylum seekers.”

The Trump administration argued many asylum claims were false and issued a flurry of policies to limit protections, moves that were often criticized by the USCIS’ union headed by Knowles.

One of the USCIS officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press said it was understood it would take time to roll back the Trump-era measures, but that some are now losing patience in the face of slow reform.

“It’s appalling, disgusting,” the official said. “What do they believe in, if this is acceptable?” Some colleagues were considering whether to leave their jobs, the official said.

Another USCIS official spoke of being “personally mortified.”

USCIS referred a request for comment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who did not immediately respond.

RECORD CROSSINGS

On Tuesday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Title 42 was being applied to the fullest extent possible, while at the same time condemning the actions of the agents on horseback saying the incident was being investigated and those involved had been assigned administrative duties.

As Biden is facing criticism from the left, Republicans say he has encouraged illegal migration by moving too fast to reverse other Trump-era immigration reforms.

In recent months, the number of crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border increased to 20-year highs with close to 200,000 encounters in August alone, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, though that is counting individuals who may have crossed multiple times.

Early in his presidency, Biden took several executive actions cheered by immigration groups – such as ending Trump’s travel bans on several Muslim-majority countries and scrapping a policy that sent asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. court hearings. He also exempted unaccompanied minors from Title 42 expulsions and reduced the number of families being expelled.

In a letter to Congress, retired Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott said Biden’s reversals created a crisis at the border and constituted “a national security threat.” Unlike the USCIS union, the unions representing border and ICE agents have been vocal Trump backers.

Earlier this year, Biden also extended deportation relief to around 150,000 Haitians already living in the United States with Temporary Protected Status, though the benefits do not apply to anyone who arrived after July 29.

Biden acknowledged conditions are dire in the Caribbean country that has long struggled with violence and recently suffered a presidential assassination and a major earthquake.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; Additional reporting by Kristina Cooke in San Francisco; Editing by Donna Bryson and Aurora Ellis)

Here’s what we know about how U.S. will lift travel restrictions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s administration plans to ease in early November COVID-19 pandemic-related travel restrictions that have barred people from much of the world from entering the United States starting in early 2020.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still must issue a formal order that will provide details on the new rules and when they will begin.

Here is a look at the U.S. travel restriction policy.

WHO CAN TRAVEL TO THE UNITED STATES?

– The United States will lift travel restrictions on 33 countries including China, India, Brazil, Iran, South Africa and most of Europe for travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 that were imposed starting in early 2020.

– Travelers will still need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of departing for the United States.

– Until the new rules take effect, most foreign nationals who have been in the 33 countries for 14 days prior to departure cannot travel to the United States.

– Foreign nationals from all countries, with few exceptions, will need vaccinations to travel to the United States by air.

– The CDC has not yet said whether foreign nationals who recently had COVID-19 and are not currently eligible to be vaccinated will be allowed to travel to the United States.

WHAT VACCINES WILL BE ACCEPTED?

– It is not certain what vaccines the CDC will accept beyond the three already authorized in the United States – those from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – or what proof must be presented. The Biden administration told airlines on Tuesday that it was still deciding what vaccines will be accepted.

– The CDC pointed to its prior guidance when asked by Reuters what vaccines it will accept. “The CDC considers someone fully vaccinated with any FDA-authorized or approved vaccines and any vaccines that (the World Health Organization) has authorized,” spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said.

WHAT ROLES WILL AIRLINES PLAY?

– It is expected that travelers will need to sign a form attesting to their vaccination and airlines will check passengers’ documents to certify compliance with the vaccine rules.

– Airlines currently check for proof of a negative COVID-19 test before travelers depart.

– The CDC will also issue new contact-tracing rules before the restrictions are lifted that will require international passengers to give email and phone contact information so public health authorities can reach them if needed, including if they are seated near someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

WHAT HAPPENS TO UNVACCINATED AMERICAN TRAVELERS?

– Americans traveling from abroad who are not vaccinated will face tougher rules than those who are vaccinated, including needing to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within a day of travel and proof of purchasing a viral test to be taken after arrival. Vaccinated Americans must show proof of a negative test within three days of returning to the United States.

– Exceptions from the vaccine requirements include children not yet eligible for shots.

– The Biden administration expects humanitarian exemptions will be granted for certain foreign nationals who agree to be vaccinated upon arrival in the United States, according to a White House official and a document seen by Reuters. The Biden administration expects such exemptions will be very limited.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. data show rising ‘breakthrough’ infections among fully vaccinated

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Some 25% of SARS-CoV-2 infections among Los Angeles County residents occurred in fully vaccinated residents from May through July 25, a period that includes the impact of the highly transmissible Delta variant, U.S. officials reported on Tuesday.

The data, published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly report on death and disease, shows an increase in so-called “breakthrough” infections among fully vaccinated individuals.

The CDC is relying on data from cohorts, such as the Los Angeles County study, to determine whether Americans need a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines to increase protection. Government scientists last week laid out a strategy for booster doses beginning on Sept. 20, pending reviews from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC.

The new data released on Tuesday involved more than 43,000 reported infections among Los Angeles County residents aged 16 and older. Of them, 10,895, or 25.3%, occurred in fully vaccinated persons, 1,431, or 3.3%, were in partially vaccinated persons, and 30,801, or 71.4%, were in unvaccinated individuals.

The vaccines did, however, protect individuals from more severe cases. According to the study, 3.2% of fully vaccinated individuals who were infected with the virus were hospitalized, just 0.05% were admitted to an intensive care unit and 0.25% were placed on a ventilator.

Among the unvaccinated who fell ill, 7.5% were hospitalized, 1.5% were admitted to an intensive care unit and 0.5% required breathing support with a mechanical ventilator.

In addition to the LA County data, the CDC on Tuesday released an update on the HEROES cohort study among healthcare workers that showed a significant drop in vaccine effectiveness among vaccinated frontline workers in eight states who became infected with the coronavirus.

Vaccine efficacy during the period of the study when Delta was predominant fell to 66% from 91% prior to the arrival of the Delta variant, according to the report.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen, Editing by Mark Porter)

New studies on vaccine efficacy against Delta, kids’ noses have more immunity

By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – Here is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that have yet to be certified by peer review.

Vaccines’ efficacy against infection weakens

The COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are still highly effective at preventing hospitalization but their effectiveness against new infections has decreased as the Delta variant spread, according to new studies published on Wednesday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. None of the studies could tell whether the breakthrough infections were due to waning immunity, reduced protection against the Delta variant, or a combination of factors. Still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Wednesday that COVID-19 booster shots would be made available to all Americans beginning in September. The new studies found:

– Vaccine effectiveness against any SARS-CoV-2 infection – mild or severe – dropped to 53.1% in late June to early August, from 74.7% before Delta became predominant, according to a study of U.S. long-term care facilities.

– Vaccine efficacy for preventing new infections dropped from 91.7% to 79.8% between early May and late July, though efficacy at preventing hospitalization remained above 90%, according to a study by New York State health officials.

– Protection from hospitalization lasts at least six months, according to a study in 18 U.S. states. It found that 24 weeks after full vaccination with an mRNA vaccine, efficacy was 84%, and it was 90% among adults without immunocompromising conditions.

Children’s noses are “pre-activated” to fight the virus

Children’s noses may be better than adults’ at defending against infection because of “pre-activated” immunity against the coronavirus, a new study suggests. Researchers analyzed nasal swabs from 45 infected patients, including 24 children, and from 42 healthy individuals, including 18 children. In nasal-lining cells and immune cells from the children’s swab samples, they saw higher levels of genetic material that can sense the presence of the virus and trigger the immune system to defend against it. Higher amounts of these sensors result in stronger early immune responses in children than in adults, according to a report published on Wednesday in Nature Biotechnology. The nasal samples from the children were also more likely than adult samples to contain immune cells known as T cells that play roles in fighting infection and in developing long-lasting immunity, the researchers found. Ultimately, the authors concluded, the effects may lead to a reduction in the ability of the virus to reproduce and help children to clear it from the body faster. “In fact,” they added, “several studies already showed that children are much quicker in eliminating SARS-CoV-2 compared to adults, consistent with the concept that they shut down viral replication earlier.”

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

U.S. to begin offering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots in September

By Carl O’Donnell and Ahmed Aboulenein

(Reuters) -The U.S. government said on Wednesday it plans to make COVID-19 vaccine booster shots widely available starting on Sept. 20 as infections rise from the coronavirus Delta variant, citing data indicating diminishing protection from the vaccines over time.

U.S. officials are prepared to offer a third shot to Americans who completed their initial inoculation in two-dose COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna Inc and by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech AG at least eight months ago, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Initial booster doses will be given to Americans who received the two-dose vaccines, but U.S. health officials said they anticipate that people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, the other COVID-19 vaccine approved in the United States, will also need boosters. The United States did not begin administering J&J shots until March.

The booster shots initially will focus upon healthcare workers, nursing home residents and older people, among the first groups to be vaccinated in late 2020 and early 2021, top U.S. health officials said in a joint statement.

There is mounting evidence that protection from the vaccines wanes after six or more months, particularly in older people with underlying health conditions. The officials cited this in their decision on boosters, but stressed that the U.S.-approved shots have proven “remarkably effective” in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths.

The officials included President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci as well as the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health.

“The available data make very clear that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time … and in association with the dominance of the Delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease,” the officials said.

“We conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability,” they added.

U.S. officials previously authorized a third dose of the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna for people with weak immune systems.

In recent weeks, several other countries also have decided to offer booster shots to older adults as well as people with weak immune systems, including Israel, France and Germany.

DELTA VARIANT CONCERNS

Vaccinations have been widely available in the United States, unlike many other countries, but the highly infectious Delta variant has caused what experts describe as a pandemic of the unvaccinated as a significant number of people choose not to get inoculated.

The United States leads the world in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths. Daily U.S. cases soared from fewer than 10,000 in early July to more than 150,000 in August as the Delta variant took hold. The new cases include some vaccinated people, though they are far less likely to experience severe disease or death than the unvaccinated.

According to CDC data, more than 72% of Americans 18 and older have received at least one vaccine dose and nearly 62% are fully vaccinated. Of the total population, the CDC said 59.9% have received at least one dose and 50.9% are fully vaccinated.

More than a million Americans independently sought an extra vaccine dose before the official decision on boosters was announced, according to federal data.

A study by an Israeli healthcare provider released on Wednesday found that a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot is 86% effective in people over age 60.

It followed another Israeli study released this week that showed evidence of waning immunity from COVID-19 vaccines in the months after inoculation, raising the risk of serious infection among the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

“The surprise factor is the vaccine vulnerability – people who are vaccinated became vulnerable much earlier than expected,” Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California, said about the study.

“The whole dynamic of boosters is being rewritten,” Topol added.

The U.S. announcement goes against guidance from the World Health Organization, whose chief scientist said on Wednesday current data does not indicate the need for booster shots. A WHO adviser said vaccine doses should first go to people in poorer countries who have not yet received an initial inoculation.

The decision represented a shift from the optimism of U.S. health authorities in May in curbing the pandemic when Biden set a goal to vaccinate 70% of American adults with at least one dose by July 4. That goal was achieved about a month late.

The U.S. booster plan is dependent on the FDA determining that a third dose of the two-dose vaccines is safe and effective, and a favorable recommendation from CDC advisers.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell in New York and Ahmed Aboulenein in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and Grant McCool)

U.S. plans to double number of asylum officers in Biden border overhaul

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s administration will unveil a major overhaul of the U.S. asylum system on Wednesday, including a plan to double staff, in an effort to speed processing at the U.S.-Mexico border where migrant arrests have soared to 20-year highs this year.

The new proposed rule would authorize asylum officers to decide whether or not to approve a claim for protection at the Mexico border, bypassing backlogged immigration courts where cases can often take years to be resolved by judges, according to a summary of the regulation and Reuters interviews with U.S. officials.

The Biden administration aims to hire an additional 1,000 asylum officers and another 1,000 support staff, said a senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official, who declined to be named ahead of an official announcement. The hiring spree would more than double the current crop of about 800 asylum officers and would be funded either by Congress or immigration application fee hikes.

“We hope that we will be able to assess claims within three months of arrival,” the senior official said. “A lot of that will depend on the number of asylum officers that are hired.”

The new process is the biggest proposed change to the asylum system since Biden took office in January, and a key part of a 21-point immigration plan unveiled in July.

The proposal for the reworked asylum process comes as arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border have risen to the highest monthly levels in two decades, giving opposition Republicans ammunition to hammer Biden, a Democrat, for rolling back many of former President Donald Trump’s restrictive immigration policies.

“If we can determine who is a legitimate asylum seeker and who is not earlier in the process, I think that drives down some of the incentives for irregular migration,” the official said.

Biden’s asylum overhaul is overshadowed by his decision to keep in place a Trump-era border expulsion policy known as Title 42, which the administration says is needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Title 42, issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), blocks most migrants caught at the border from even being considered for asylum.

‘EXPEDITED REMOVAL’

The proposal will go through a 60-day period of public comment, followed by a government review. The process to finalize it could stretch into early 2022, the DHS official said.

The regulation would apply to immigrants who are placed in fast-track deportation proceedings known as “expedited removal” on or after the rule’s effect date.

The changes could enable more migrants in the expedited removal program to be released from custody, with the possibility of being enrolled in an alternative form of monitoring as their cases are processed.

Currently, expedited removal is typically only applied to immigrants in detention. That greatly limits its application, particularly for families, due to limited space for family detention, the official said.

The expedited removal provision could trigger backlash both among immigration hardliners and liberals, since it would allow immigrants to be released from custody while also expanding the use of the fast-track deportation process.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Mica Rosenberg, Aurora Ellis and Ross Colvin)

Children hospitalized with COVID-19 in U.S. hits record number

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) -The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States hit a record high of just over 1,900 on Saturday, as hospitals across the South were stretched to capacity fighting outbreaks caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The Delta variant, which is rapidly spreading among mostly the unvaccinated portion of the U.S. population, has caused hospitalizations to spike in recent weeks, driving up the number of confirmed and suspected pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations to 1,902 on Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Reuters includes confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases for hospitalization, case and death data.

Children currently make up about 2.4% of the nation’s COVID-19 hospitalizations. Kids under 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine, leaving them more vulnerable to infection from the new, highly transmissible variant.

“This is not last year’s COVID. This one is worse and our children are the ones that are going to be affected by it the most,” Sally Goza, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CNN on Saturday.

The numbers of newly hospitalized COVID-19 patients aged 18-29, 30-39 and 40-49 also hit record highs this week, according to data from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The spike in new cases has ramped up tension between conservative state leaders and local districts over whether school children should be required to wear masks as they head back to the classroom this month.

School districts in Florida, Texas and Arizona have mandated that masks be worn in schools, defying orders from their Republican state governors that ban districts from imposing such rules. The administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold funding from districts that impose mask requirements, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott is appealing to the state Supreme Court to overturn Dallas County’s mask mandate, the Dallas Morning News reported on Friday.

A fifth of the nation’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are in Florida, where the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients hit a record 16,100 on Saturday, according to a Reuters tally. More than 90% of the state’s intensive care beds are filled, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

INCREASED HOSPITALIZATIONS

The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, came out in support of mandatory vaccination for its members this week. NEA President Becky Pringle said on Saturday that schools should employ every mitigation strategy, from vaccines to masks, to ensure that students can come back to their classrooms safely this school year.

“Our students under 12 can’t get vaccinated. It’s our responsibility to keep them safe. Keeping them safe means that everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated,” Pringle told CNN.

The U.S. now has an average of about 129,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, a rate that has doubled in a little over two weeks, according to a Reuters tally. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is at a six-month high, and an average of 600 people are dying each day of COVID-19, double the death rate seen in late July.

Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oregon have reported record numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations this month, according to a Reuters tally, pushing healthcare systems to operate beyond their capacity.

“Our hospitals are working to maximize their available staff and beds, including the use of conference rooms and cafeterias,” Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew said in a statement on Friday.

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown said on Friday that she was sending 500 National Guard members to assist overwhelmed hospitals, with 1,500 members in total available to help.

In Jackson, Mississippi, federal medical workers are assisting understaffed local teams at a 20-bed triage center in the parking garage of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) to accommodate the overflow of COVID-19 patients.

Fifteen children and 99 adults were hospitalized with COVID-19 at UMMC as of Saturday morning, the hospital said. More than 77% of those patients were unvaccinated.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Lisa Shumaker; editing by Diane Craft and Aurora Ellis)

U.S. judge will not block CDC’s new COVID-19 residential eviction ban

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A U.S. judge on Friday rejected a bid to block a residential eviction moratorium put in place last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), despite raising questions about the new order’s legality.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich on procedural grounds is a win for the Biden administration. She said the realtor groups must go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to challenge the new 60-day CDC moratorium set to expire on Oct. 3.

Under heavy political pressure, the CDC reversed course on Aug. 3 and issued a slightly narrower eviction moratorium just three days after the prior one expired. The current moratorium covers nearly 92% of U.S. counties, but that could change based on COVID-19 conditions.

More than 15 million people in 6.5 million U.S. households are currently behind on rental payments, according to a study, and collectively owe more than $20 billion to landlords.

Friedrich in May declared the CDC eviction moratorium, which was first issued in September 2020, unlawful but delayed her ruling from immediately taking effect.

In June, a divided Supreme Court agreed to let the CDC moratorium remain in effect after the agency announced it would allow the ban to expire on July 31.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a concurring opinion saying that in his view extending the CDC moratorium past July 31 would need “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation).”

Before that, the appeals court had issued a ruling upholding a decision to put Friedrich’s ruling on hold.

Landlord groups argued Kavanaugh’s ruling meant Friedrich should immediately block the new moratorium.

Friedrich said she would have blocked the eviction order but for the appeals court ruling.

“The court’s hands are tied. The Supreme Court did not issue a controlling opinion in this case, and circuit precedent provides that the votes of dissenting justices may not be combined with that of a concurring justice to create binding law,” she wrote.

The CDC declined to comment on Friday and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

U.S. plans to give extra COVID-19 shots to at-risk Americans – Fauci

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Carl O’Donnell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is working to give additional COVID-19 booster shots to Americans with compromised immune systems as quickly as possible, as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise, top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.

The United States is joining Germany, France and Israel in giving booster shots, ignoring a plea by the World Health Organization to hold off until more people around the world can get their first shot.

U.S. regulators need to fully authorize the COVID-19 vaccines or amend their emergency use authorizations before officials can recommend additional shots, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to make third doses available sooner under certain circumstances, officials said at a July meeting.

“It is extremely important for us to move to get those individuals their boosters and we are now working on that,” Fauci said on a press call, adding that immunocompromised people may not be sufficiently protected by their existing COVID-19 vaccinations.

Fauci said rising cases resulting from the spread of the contagious Delta variant in the United States can be turned around with additional vaccinations.

The Biden administration has been eager to thaw opposition by some Americans, including those who distrust the government, to taking the vaccine as the highly infectious Delta variant sweeps the country.

Seven U.S. states with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates account for half of the country’s new cases and hospitalizations in the last week, the White House said on Thursday.

The states are Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, according to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 coordinator, Jeff Zients, who spoke at the press briefing

Of those, Florida and Texas account for about a third of new coronavirus cases and an even higher share of hospitalizations in the country.

COVID cases are up about 43% over the previous week and daily deaths are up more than 39%, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who also spoke on the call.

The United States hit a six-month high for new COVID cases with over 100,000 infections reported on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally.

Some 864,000 vaccinations have been given in the past 24 hours, the highest since early July, the White House said.

Zients said the Biden administration supports U.S. businesses and other institutions requiring that their employees get vaccinated.

He added that the White House is considering requiring foreign visitors to be vaccinated as it plans to eventually reopen international travel but said it had made no final decision.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Susan Heavey, Carl O’Donnell and Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)