Biden says Republican governors are undermining COVID safety response

By Nandita Bose

(Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday directed his ire at the governors of Florida and Texas, accusing the Republican leaders of “doing everything they can to undermine the life-saving requirements” he proposed to counter the spread of COVID-19.

Some Republican governors, including Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, have vowed to fight the vaccine mandate for big companies that Biden rolled out last week in the face of surging U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, mostly among the unvaccinated.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves earlier this week likened Biden’s mandate to tyranny.

“I propose a requirement for COVID vaccines, and the governor of that state calls it a ‘tyrannical-type move?'” said Biden, noting that the pandemic has killed over 660,000 people in the United States.

“This is the worst type of politics…and I refuse to give in to it,” Biden said, adding that the policies rolled out by the White House are “what the science tells us to do.”

Some Republican-led states and a sizable minority of Americans have defied vaccine recommendations from health officials, arguing that mandates infringe on their personal freedoms.

With just 63% of the eligible U.S. population having received at least one vaccine dose, the U.S. vaccination rate now lags most developed economies.

Biden’s vaccine policy is expected to face a string of legal challenges from Republicans, including Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who became the first to file a lawsuit against it on Tuesday.

DeSantis has threatened fines for cities and counties that require employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying they violate Florida state law.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose; Writing by Tyler Clifford; Editing by Heather Timmons and Bill Berkrot)

As COVID surges, more Florida school districts revolt against governor’s mask ban

By Saundra Amrhein and James Oliphant

TAVARES, Fla. (Reuters) – In a scene replayed across the United States, angry parents and activists streamed into a meeting of the Florida’s Lake County school board on Thursday where it considered whether to mandate mask-wearing for students and staff due to COVID.

Some opponents of the mask proposal brandished signs that read “Let Our Children Breathe.” Even with Florida seeing a record number of coronavirus cases, one attendee called the pandemic “overblown.” Another was escorted out by deputies after yelling at board members.

The proposal would require staff and students to wear masks for 14 days at schools with COVID positivity rates at or above 5%. But Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, effectively banned similar mandates in July.

Since DeSantis’ order, more than a dozen Florida counties have rebelled and voted to require masks to protect students and teachers as the Delta variant sweeps across the state. This week, the state’s Department of Education sanctioned two counties that passed school mask requirements.

The battle between DeSantis and the state’s school systems echoes larger fights across the country. Other Republican-run states such as Arizona and Texas have also banned mask mandates in schools even as COVID cases have soared in their states, as parents and voters are sharply divided over safety measures and personal freedoms.

The pushback in Florida against the Republican governor initially was led by large urban school districts run by Democrats. But this week saw more conservative counties that backed Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election also defying DeSantis and instituting their own mandates.

Earlier this week, populous Brevard County along Florida’s east coast, which went for Trump over President Joe Biden by more than 16 percentage points in November, narrowly voted to approve a 30-day school mask mandate.

A day later, Hernando County, which supported Trump over Biden by almost 30 points, also passed a mandate, but one that allows parents to opt out.

In Lake County near Orlando, which also strongly backed Trump, a school official said on Thursday that more than 1,000 students of the 36,000 in the district had tested positive for the virus.

The board listened to more than three hours of public comment on the mask proposal then postponed a decision. Some 280 people spoke or sent emails on the issue, and two-thirds of them supported the idea, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Still, proponents of a mask mandate were booed and heckled by the crowd in attendance.

“This topic has completely polarized communities,” said Andrea Messina, president of the Florida School Boards Association.

‘ABSOLUTE CRISIS’

While the conflict centers on whether state or local governments are best equipped to make decisions on health and safety, it also has become a political challenge for DeSantis, whose state has once again become a COVID-19 hotbed.

After being widely praised last year when cases declined and the state’s economy seemed revived, DeSantis has faced renewed criticism for his opposition to masks and employer vaccine mandates. Florida on Aug. 26 saw a single-day record number of new cases of the virus – almost 28,000 – since the pandemic began.

A spokesperson for DeSantis, Christina Pushaw, defended the ban on school mandates, saying the governor is “protecting the rights of families and children from all levels of government overreach.”

At the Brevard County meeting on Monday, Misty Belford, the chair of the school board who a month earlier had opposed a mask mandate, switched her vote and gave proponents a 3-2 majority.

Belford changed her mind, she told Reuters, after watching the district’s caseload spike, including a 49% increase in student cases from one week to the next. One school was closed for two days after most of its students were quarantined.

“We are at an absolute crisis point,” Belford said.

But board member Katye Campbell, who voted against the mandate, said she worries about negative effects on students from requiring masks, such as asthma flare-ups, suicidal ideation and panic attacks.

“There is nothing easy about this decision because our community is so divided,” Campbell said.

Belford said she was relying on a decision from a Florida court last week that declared the DeSantis ban illegal. DeSantis on Thursday appealed the ruling. Earlier this week, the Florida Board of Education said it would penalize two counties that voted for mask mandates without providing a parental opt-out, Alachua and Broward, by withholding funds from the districts for the board members’ salaries.

Leanetta McNealy, chair of the Alachua County school board, said her board voted for the mask mandate last month based on scientific evidence that it would help mitigate the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

“I’d rather have a decrease in my compensation than have a death under my watch,” she said.

(Reporting by Saundra Amrhein in Tavares, Florida and James Oliphant in Washington; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Cynthia Osterman)

U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations hit eight-month high over 100,000

By Anurag Maan

(Reuters) -The number of coronavirus patients in U.S. hospitals has breached 100,000, the highest level in eight months, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, as a resurgence of COVID-19 spurred by the highly contagious Delta variant strains the nation’s health care system.

A total of 101,433 COVID patients were hospitalized, according to data published on Friday morning.

U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled in the past month. Over the past week, more than 500 people with COVID were admitted to hospitals each hour on average, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The United States reached its all-time peak for hospitalizations on Jan. 14 when there were over 142,000 coronavirus-infected patients in hospital beds, according to HHS.

As the vaccination campaign expanded in early 2021, hospitalizations fell and hit a 2021 low of 16,000 on in late June.

However, COVID-19 admissions rose suddenly in July as the Delta variant became the dominant strain. The U.S. South is the epicenter of the latest outbreak but hospitalizations are rising nationwide.

Florida has the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients, followed by Texas and California, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than 95% of intensive care beds are currently occupied in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

The Delta variant, which is rapidly spreading among mostly the unvaccinated U.S. population, has also sent a record number of children to hospital. There are currently over 2,000 confirmed and suspected pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to HHS.

Three states – California, Florida and Texas – amount to about 32% of the total confirmed and suspected pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States.

Children currently make up about 2.3% of the nation’s COVID-19 hospitalizations. Kids under 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine.

The country is hoping for vaccine authorization for younger children by autumn with the Pfizer Inc vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said this week that the nation could get COVID-19 under control by early next year if vaccinations ramp up.

The United States has given at least one dose of vaccine to about 61% of its population, according to the CDC.

The United States, which leads the world in the most deaths and cases, has reported 38.5 million infections and over 634,000 deaths since the pandemic began last year, according to a Reuters tally.

(Reporting by Anurag Maan in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Michael Perry)

Tropical Storm Fred takes aim at Florida with dangerous surges

(Reuters) -Tropical Storm Fred gained momentum on Monday as it barreled toward the Florida Panhandle, closing some schools amid forecasts of “very dangerous” surges of 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water.

By early afternoon, the storm was 50 miles (80 km) south of Apalachicola, Florida, said Robbie Berg, hurricane specialist at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

It was expected to make landfall in the eastern Florida Panhandle area later on Monday.

Winds strengthened to 60 miles per hour (97 kph) but were not expected to reach hurricane levels of 74 miles per hour (119 kph).

“We’re not currently forecasting it to reach hurricane strength. It’s running out of time because we do think it will reach the coast later today,” Berg said.

“We do think we could get storm surge as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) above ground level, so if you were to stay in those areas, it would be very dangerous,” Berg said.

Additionally, heavy rainfall of up to 12 inches (30 cm) in some isolated spots in Florida was forecast, as well as drenching downpours in southeastern Alabama, Georgia and the western Carolinas, said senior hurricane specialist Richard Tasch.

But after landfall, the storm was expected to weaken quickly, Tasch said.

By midmorning on Monday, the storm was about 80 miles (130 km) southwest of Apalachicola and was moving northward at about 10 miles per hour (16 km per hour), according NHC.

Fred was expected to pick up strength as it tracked through warm Gulf of Mexico waters.

But after landfall, the storm was expected to weaken quickly, Tasch said.

Several school districts in western Florida closed for the day, promising to reopen on Tuesday.

“Buses cannot safely transport students at winds greater than 35 mph and current information indicates that we may experience 35 mph wind gusts beginning around 1 p.m.,” the Santa Rosa County school district said on its website.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)

Florida, Texas schools defy governors’ bans on mask mandates as COVID cases soar

By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) – School districts in Florida and Texas are bucking their Republican governors’ bans on requiring masks for children and teachers as coronavirus cases soar in conservative areas with low vaccination rates.

The Broward County school board in Florida on Tuesday became the latest major district to flout an order by Republican Governor Rick DeSantis outlawing mask requirements in that state. The Dallas Independent School District said late Monday that it would also require masks, despite an order banning such mandates from Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

The acts of rebellion by school officials come as these states — along with Louisiana, Arkansas and others — are flooded with new cases after people resisted vaccines and mask mandates. Teachers and administrators are seeking to protect students, many of whom are under 12 years old and cannot get vaccinated.

Fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, U.S. cases and hospitalizations have soared to six-month highs with no flattening of the curve in sight.

Based on population, Florida, Louisiana and Arkansas are leading the nation with new cases and how many COVID patients fill their hospitals. Texas is not far behind.

In Arkansas, where only eight intensive care beds were available for COVID patients on Monday, Republican Governor Asa Hutchison said he regrets supporting a ban on mask mandates in his state.

In Florida, where nearly one out of every three hospital beds are occupied by a coronavirus patient, a surgeon in Orlando said hospitals in the area were “overflowing” with the unvaccinated.

“We need a field hospital. Please help us,” Sam Atallah, a surgeon at AdventHealth wrote on Twitter on Monday. “We are in a state of emergency in Orlando.”

In Dallas, where some staff had threatened to quit if masks were not mandated to protect children, teachers and others, school district officials said they did not believe the governor’s order should be applied to them. Schools in Austin also plan to require masks.

“Governor Abbott’s order does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and student,” the Dallas district said on its website.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county’s top executive, said late on Monday that he asked a district court to block Governor Greg Abbott’s July order that prevents local governments from implementing mask mandates.

“The enemy is not each other,” Jenkins said in a statement. “The enemy is the virus, and we must all do all that we can to protect public health.”

In Florida, where lawsuits have also been filed challenging the anti-mask order, DeSantis has threatened to withhold salaries from school district officials who flout his ban.

The threat prompted a response from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, which is considering reimbursing school officials who lose their pay if DeSantis follows through on his threat.

“We’re continuing to look into what our options are to help protect and help support these teachers and administrators who are taking steps to protect the people in their communities,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.

DeSantis stood by his statewide order banning mask mandates on Tuesday, saying it would allow parents to decide whether to mask their children for class.

“It’s about parental choice, not government mandate, and I think ultimately, parents will be able to exercise the choices that they deem appropriate for their kids,” DeSantis said at a briefing.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani and Peter Szekely in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Delta variant pushes U.S. cases, hospitalizations to 6-month high

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the United States are at a six-month high, fueled by the rapid spread of the Delta variant across swathes of the country grappling with low vaccination rates.

Nationwide, COVID-19 cases have averaged 100,000 for three days in a row, up 35% over the past week, according to a Reuters tally of public health data. The surge of the disease was strongest in Louisiana, Florida and Arkansas.

Hospitalizations rose 40% and deaths, a lagging indicator, registered an 18% uptick in the past week with the most fatalities by population in Arkansas.

The intensifying spread of the pandemic has led to cancellation of some large high-profile events. One notable exception is an annual motorcycle rally in South Dakota which has been proceeding as planned.

Florida set records for hospitalizations for eight days in a row, according to the analysis. In that state, most students are due back in the classroom this week as some school districts debate whether to require masks for pupils.

The head of the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union on Sunday announced a shift in course by backing mandated vaccinations for U.S. teachers in an effort to protect students who are too young to be inoculated.

The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 is rising across the country, a trend health experts attribute to the Delta variant being more likely to infect children than the original Alpha strain.

With the virus once again upending Americans’ lives after a brief summer lull, the push to vaccinate those still reluctant has gained fresh momentum.

States including California, New York and Virginia have mandated vaccinations or weekly testing for state employees, as well as several cities.

The administration of President Joe Biden set new rules late last month requiring federal workers to provide proof of vaccination or face regular testing, mask mandates and travel restrictions.

In the private sector, a growing number of companies are also mandating COVID-19 vaccinations. United Airlines, meatpacker Tyson Foods Inc and Microsoft are requiring employees get vaccinated.

STURGIS CROWDS

The evolving pandemic and the rapid community spread spurred by the Delta variant have already prompted the cancellation of some large-scale events. Last week, organizers canceled the New York Auto Show that had been set for later this month.

The New Orleans Jazz Fest was canceled for the second straight year as Louisiana fights a severe outbreak.

But fears about the Delta variant seem to not have dampened the mood in Sturgis, a small town in South Dakota that welcomes hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

This year’s gathering, taking place Aug. 6-15, might already be attracting record crowds.

“It is one of the biggest crowds I have seen,” Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin said in an email. “I think there will definitely be some spread.”

The city of Sturgis has partnered with health officials to provide COVID-19 self-test kits to rally-goes but the event does not require proof of vaccination or mask-wearing.

Last year, the rally became the super-spreader event that many feared it would become.

While cases and hospitalizations were relatively low in South Dakota when the event started on Aug. 7, 2020, three months later the state set a record for hospitalized COVID-19 patients and new infections.

In the month of November alone, the state lost 521 people to COVID-19, nearly three times the number of deaths reported in October, according to a Reuters tally.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by David Gregorio)

U.S. COVID-19 cases hit six-month high, Florida grapples with surge

By Roshan Abraham and Maria Caspani

(Reuters) -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, as the Delta variant ravages areas where people did not get vaccinated.

The country is reporting over 94,819 cases on a seven-day average, a five-fold increase in less than a month, Reuters data through Wednesday showed. The seven-day average provides the most accurate picture of how fast cases are rising since some states only report infections once a week or only on weekdays.

Seven U.S. states with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates – Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi – account for half of the country’s new cases and hospitalizations in the last week, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters on Thursday.

In the coming weeks, cases could double to 200,000 per day due to the highly contagious Delta variant, said top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday.

“If another one comes along that has an equally high capability of transmitting but also is much more severe, then we could really be in trouble,” Fauci said in an interview with McClatchy. “People who are not getting vaccinated mistakenly think it’s only about them. But it isn’t. It’s about everybody else, also.”

To combat the Delta surge, the United States plans to give booster shots to Americans with compromised immune systems, 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.

FLORIDA SURGE

Southern states, which have some of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates, are reporting the most COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Florida, Texas and Louisiana were reporting the highest total number of new cases in the region over the last week, according to a Reuters analysis.

Florida, which has emerged as the nationwide hotbed of new infections, set yet another grim hospitalization record on Thursday with 12,373 confirmed COVID-19 patients in its hospitals, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

More children are hospitalized with the virus in Florida than in any other U.S. state, HHS data shows.

“23% of new COVID hospitalizations in the U.S are in Florida, and their hospitals are being overwhelmed again,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday. Psaki urged the state’s governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, to “join us in this fight” after DeSantis accused Biden of singling out his state.

Louisiana and Arkansas are also grappling with record or near-record numbers of coronavirus patients occupying beds, according to a Reuters tally.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Republican leaders in Florida and Texas – home to roughly a third of all new U.S. COVID-19 cases – to follow public health guidelines on the pandemic or “get out of the way.”

To try to halt the spread of the virus, New York City will require proof of vaccination at restaurants, gyms and other businesses.

Some private companies are also mandating vaccines for employees and customers.

As Delta spreads, some companies are delaying plans for workers to return to the office. Amazon.com, which had originally set Sept. 7 as the comeback date, on Thursday said it would not expect U.S. corporate employees to return to the office until next year, according to an internal note seen by Reuters.

(Reporting by Roshan Abraham in Bengaluru and Maria Caspani in New York; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Susan Heavey, Carl O’Donnell and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Florida COVID hospitalizations surge, New York urges business push on vaccines

(Reuters) – New York’s governor on Monday urged businesses to turn away unvaccinated customers while Florida is grappling with a surge in hospitalized COVID patients, both sparked by rising cases of the Delta variant that could result in new restrictions on daily life.

Florida, whose governor has resisted mask or vaccine mandates, has one of the worst outbreaks in the nation and about one-quarter of the country’s hospitalized COVID patients, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The head of Florida’s hospital association said the current surge sent COVID hospitalizations skyrocketing to 10,000 from 2,000 in less than 30 days, although deaths have remained well below the previous peak.

“It is a much younger population that is being hospitalized today,” Mary Mayhew told MSNBC on Monday. At one Jacksonville hospital, the average age is 42, she said. “We have 25-year-olds in the hospital in intensive care on ventilators,” she told the cable network. “We’ve got to convince 25-year-olds, 30-year-olds, that this is now life-threatening for them.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also sounded the alarm, urging but not mandating bars, restaurants and other private businesses to require all customers be vaccinated before entering. The Democratic governor also said that vaccines could become mandatory for nursing home workers, teachers and healthcare workers if case numbers do not improve.

“Private businesses – I am asking them and suggesting to them to go to vaccine-only admission,” Cuomo told a briefing Monday. “I believe it’s in your best business interest. If I go to a bar and I want to have a drink and I want to talk to the person next to me, I want to know that that person is vaccinated.”

Cuomo also announced that all employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the trains and subways, and all the workers from his state for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the region’s bridges, airports, and tunnels, would need to be vaccinated by Labor Day on Sept. 6 or submit to weekly testing.

“If you are unvaccinated the Delta variant should be a major concern to you and you should be worried about it,” Cuomo said.

The push by Cuomo marks the latest attempt by government leaders to spur reluctant Americans to get vaccinated as the Delta variant of the coronavirus surges nationwide, infecting mostly unvaccinated people.

Cuomo’s announcement comes on the heels of a decision by President Joe Biden to require millions of federal workers and contractors to show proof of vaccination or be subject to weekly or twice-weekly COVID-19 tests.

Even as cases have exploded, Governor Ron DeSantis has resisted mask mandates. Earlier this year, he and the Republican-controlled state legislature limited local officials’ ability to impose COVID-19 restrictions, and on Friday he issued an executive order barring schools from requiring face coverings when classes resume this month.

That order came days after the Broward County school board voted to require masks for students and staff. The superintendent of Miami-Dade schools had also said the district would reconsider whether to require masks in light of the surge.

Some local governments have also sought to impose public health measures despite DeSantis’ opposition. The village of Key Biscayne began requiring masks on Monday for all employees as well as any visitors to government buildings.

Both Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties last week said that all adults would be required to wear masks when inside county facilities. Orange County, home to Disney World, has ordered all employees to get vaccinated, with an Aug. 31 deadline for the first dose.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Florida governor to order schools to allow parents to decide on masks

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said on Friday he planned to issue an executive order giving parents the right to decide whether their children will wear a mask at school, a move that would thwart mandates put in place in two of the state’s counties.

School districts in Broward and Gadsden counties said recently students would have to cover their faces when classes start next month, setting up a clash with the governor, who has taken a hard line stance against vaccine and mask requirements.

“In Florida, there will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures, there will be no restrictions and no mandates in the state of Florida,” the Republican governor said on Friday during a speech in Cape Coral announcing the executive order.

The mandates in Broward and Gadsden countries follow the recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all students, teachers and staff wear masks regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.

DeSantis did not say when he would sign the order, and the governor’s office did not immediately respond to inquiries.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; editing by Diane Craft and Steve Orlofsky)

Delta COVID variant now dominant strain worldwide; U.S. deaths surge -officials

By Carl O’Donnell and Jeff Mason

(Reuters) -The Delta variant of COVID-19 is now the dominant strain worldwide, accompanied by a surge of deaths around the United States almost entirely among unvaccinated people, U.S. officials said Friday.

U.S. cases of COVID-19 are up 70% over the previous week and deaths are up 26%, with outbreaks occurring in parts of the country with low vaccination rates, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during a press briefing.

The seven-day-average number of daily cases is now more than 26,000, more than twice its June low of around 11,000 cases, according to CDC data.

“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” she said, adding that 97% of people entering hospitals in the United States with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Walensky said an increasing number of counties around the United States now exhibit a high risk of COVID-19 transmission, reversing significant declines in transmission risk in recent months.

Around 1 in five new cases have occurred in Florida, said White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients.

The Delta variant, which is significantly more contagious than the original variant of COVID-19, has been detected around 100 countries globally and is now the dominant variant worldwide, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said.

“We are dealing with a formidable variant” of COVID-19, Fauci said during the call.

Walensky urged unvaccinated Americans to get COVID-19 shots, and said Pfizer Inc’s and Moderna Inc’s vaccines have proven to be especially effective against the Delta variant.

She said people should get the second dose of vaccine even if they have passed the recommended window of time for receiving it.

Around 5 million people have been vaccinated in the United States in the past 10 days, Zients said, including many in states that so far have had lower vaccination rates.

He added that the United States has enough vaccines on hand to give booster vaccines but is still working to determine if boosters are needed.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell, Jeff Mason and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Dan Grebler)