This article was updated Sept. 19, 2021, at 11:20 a.m. ET.
The United States leads the world in cases of COVID-19. We'll provide the latest updates on coronavirus cases, government response, impacts to our daily life, and more.
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American Samoa Reports First COVID-19 Case
Sept. 19, 11:20 a.m.
American Samoa reported its first COVID-19 case on Friday, prompting a reminder of safety measures for residents on the island, according to The Associated Press.
The case was detected Thursday among 43 travelers who were quarantined at the Sadies by the Sea hotel in the village of Utulei. The positive case was a resident returning to American Samoa from Hawaii.
“The discovery of this positive case during quarantine highlights the importance of why our process is critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Lemanu Mauga said in a statement.
Mauga was among the passengers on the flight from Hawaii and is now in quarantine, the AP reported.
“It further highlights the importance of maintaining our current quarantine protocols,” he said.
American Samoa requires all travelers to be vaccinated and to quarantine upon arrival.
The traveler arrived on Monday, which was the first day of resumed commercial flights from Honolulu to Pago Pago. The route had been suspended since March 2020, the AP reported.
The resident was fully vaccinated and tested negative for COVID-19 before boarding the flight. After landing in American Samoa, however, the traveler tested positive on the third day of quarantine. The person doesn’t have any symptoms and has been transported to an isolation facility. The rest of the passengers are still in quarantine.
After the case was confirmed, officials tested 217 other travelers who were on the same flight and quarantined at the nearby Tradewinds Hotel. No additional positive cases were reported.
Mauga and public health officials called on the island nation to follow physical distancing protocols, maintain good hygiene, and stay vigilant.
American Samoa remains at code blue status, which means there is minimal social disruption to society such as quarantine or isolation measures, according to The Hill.
However, all flights have been suspended until further notice. As of Saturday, all sales and ticketing at Samoa Airways in New Zealand and Australia were closed, according to CBS News.
Last year, the U.S. territory identified positive cases on a cargo ship docked at a port, the AP reported. The crew didn’t leave the ship, and officials didn’t include the infections in an official count for the island.
The territory has been closed since March last year, according to Honolulu Civil Beat. It resumed twice-monthly flights on Monday with several protocols for travelers, including mandatory vaccination, three negative COVID-19 tests and a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
About half of American Samoa’s population is vaccinated, and residents are being offered $100 per dose until Oct. 15 to get a shot. So far, the territory has resisted a vaccine mandate, the news outlet reported.
CDC Study Says Moderna Vaccine More Effective Than Pfizer and J&J
Sept. 18, 2021, 10:20 a.m. ET.
A nationwide study of more than 3,600 adults found the Moderna vaccine does a better job at preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations than the two other vaccines being used in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection said Friday.
“Among U.S. adults without immunocompromising conditions, vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 hospitalization during March 11–August 15, 2021, was higher for the Moderna vaccine (93%) than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (88%) and the Janssen vaccine (71%),” the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said. Jansen refers to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The CDC said the data could help people make informed decisions.
“Understanding differences in VE (vaccine effectiveness) by vaccine product can guide individual choices and policy recommendations regarding vaccine boosters. All FDA-approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide substantial protection against COVID-19 hospitalization,” the report said.
The study also broke down effectiveness for longer periods. Moderna came out on top again.
After 120 days, the Modern vaccine provided 92% effectiveness against hospitalization, whereas the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness dropped to 77%, the CDC said. There was no similar calculation for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The CDC studied 3,689 adults at 21 hospitals in 18 states who got the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine between March and August.
The agency noted some factors that could have come into play.
"Differences in vaccine effectiveness between the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine might be due to higher mRNA content in the Moderna vaccine, differences in timing between doses (3 weeks for Pfizer-BioNTech versus 4 weeks for Moderna), or possible differences between groups that received each vaccine that were not accounted for in the analysis," the report said.
The CDC noted limitations in the findings. Children, immunocompromised adults, and vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 that did not result in hospitalization were not studied.
Other studies have shown all three U.S. vaccines provide a high rate of protection against coronavirus.
U.S. Customs Has Seized More Than 6,000 Fake COVID-19 Vaccine Cards
Sept. 17, 5:20 p.m.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have seized more than 6,000 counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards across the country, according to KDKA, a CBS affiliate in Pennsylvania.
Two international mail packages from China with 70 fake cards were stopped in Pittsburgh last week, the news outlet reported. Both packages were intended for the same address, and an investigation is underway.
“Coronavirus and its variants continues to pose a serious health and safety threat to American citizens, and so do unscrupulous vendors who peddle counterfeit COVID vaccination cards,” William Fitting, the Pittsburgh port director, said in a statement.
“Customs and Border Protection will continue to intercept counterfeit goods, such as these fake vaccine cards, that threaten our nation, our people and our economy,” he said.
Customs officers screen international travelers, cargo, and shipments for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, and prohibited agriculture.
Since mid-August, officers have seized thousands of fake COVID-19 cards at airports and shipping ports, including hubs in Anchorage, Alaska; Chicago; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Memphis, Tennessee.
At the Port of Cincinnati, officers have seized shipments with nearly 1,700 fake vaccine cards and more than 2,000 fake Pfizer stickers. The vaccine cards displayed a CDC logo but had substandard printing and misspelled words. The shipments originated in China and were being sent to non-medical people at private residences in Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New York, and Texas.
“Creating or buying a fake COVID-19 vaccination card is illegal, not to mention dangerous,” Richard Gillespie, the Cincinnati port director, said in a statement.
The FBI has warned that buying, selling, or using counterfeit COVID-19 vaccine cards is illegal and breaks federal laws.
“Purchasing counterfeit cards supports criminals whose only concern is their bank account, not American security or the health of our citizens,” Gillespie said. “Counterfeiters will try to replicate anything to benefit themselves, with no thought to the innocent victims that may suffer from their actions.”
Arkansas Hospital Requires Staff to Stop Using Several Medications to Get Religious Vaccine Exemption
Sept. 17, 5:10 p.m.
A hospital system in Arkansas is requiring employees to confirm that they won’t use common medications — such as Tylenol, Tums, and Preparation H — to receive a religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.
The Conway Regional Health System has required the flu shot annually as part of employment, but managers saw a spike in vaccine exemption requests for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This was significantly disproportionate to what we’ve seen with the influenza vaccine,” Matt Troup, president and CEO of the health system, told Becker’s.
The majority of requests cited the use of fetal cell lines in the development of vaccines as part of the religious exemption. The practice uses cells grown in labs to test many new vaccines and drugs, including common antacids and cold medications.
“Thus we provided a religious attestation form for those individuals requesting a religious exemption,” Troup said.
The hospital’s form includes a list of 30 common medications that used fetal cell lines during research and development. The list includes acetaminophen, albuterol, aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Tums, Lipitor, Senokot, Motrin, Maalox, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, Sudafed, Preparation H, Claritin, Prilosec, and Zoloft.
Employees are asked to attest that they “truthfully acknowledge and affirm that my sincerely held religious belief is consistent and true” and that they won’t use the medications listed.
Health system administrators want to “educate staff who might have requested an exemption without understanding the full scope of how fetal cells are used in testing and development in common medicines,” Troup said.
Employees who don’t sign the form will be given a temporary exemption, he said. If they don’t receive a vaccine or full exemption, they can face disciplinary action, including termination.
About 5% of the hospital system’s 1,830 employees have filed for a religious or medical exemption, Troup told KARK, an NBC affiliate in Arkansas. The rest of the employees are partially or fully vaccinated.
“A lot of this, I believe, is a hesitancy about the vaccine,” he said. “That’s a separate issue than a religious exemption.”
Army Sets Deadlines for Soldiers to Be Vaccinated
Sept. 15, 4:35 p.m.
The U.S. Army says all active-duty soldiers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 15 and all Reserve and National Guard units must reach that status by June 30, 2022.
Soldiers who don’t get vaccinated will be counseled by their superiors and could face administrative or non-judicial punishment, including being discharged or relieved of duties, the army said in a news release.
“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our Soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live,” Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the U.S. Army surgeon general, said in the release.
“Case counts and deaths continue to be concerning as the Delta variant spreads, which makes protecting the force through mandatory vaccination a health and readiness priority for the total Army.”
There are 485,000 active-duty service members in the U.S. Army, 189,500 in the Reserve, and 336,000 in the National Guard, NBC News says.
Soldiers can seek administrative and medical exemptions. They will be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after completion of a two-dose vaccine or a single-dose vaccine.
In August, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin added the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for service members.
Antivaxxers Gargling With the Antiseptic Betadine
Sept. 15, 4:26 p.m.
The idea that gargling with the common antiseptic Betadine will prevent COVID-19 is finding a home in corners of social media, but there’s no evidence it works. Even the manufacturer says so.
Betadine, the brand name for povidone-iodine, is a topical medication used to treat cuts, scrapes, and burns and to help prevent or treat mild skin infections. Betadine makes a sore throat gargle but that doesn’t fight coronavirus either, the company said.
"Betadine Antiseptic First Aid products have not been approved to treat coronavirus," reads an official statement on the company website. "Products should only be used to help prevent infection in minor cuts, scrapes and burns. Betadine Antiseptic products have not been demonstrated to be effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 or any other viruses."
But a person purporting to be a physician posted a video on Facebook and Twitter with a caption, in Thai, that says "doctor suggests boosting immunity to prevent Covid-19 by gargling povidone-iodine, protecting the virus from entering the lungs #TokMaiTiang," Newsweek reported.
The video caught on with antivaxxers and other people suspicious of vaccines and other standard COVID treatments, It’s been viewed more than 150,000 times and Newsweek said a number of people posted comments on social media saying Betadine helped.
Newsweek says the immediate side effects of ingesting any povidone-iodine antiseptic include nausea, vomiting, general weakness, and diarrhea. In severe cases, people can suffer acute renal failure, cardiovascular collapse, liver function impairment, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and even death.
A similar social media push occurred for the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin.
The CDC is warning physicians to be on the lookout for cases of ivermectin overdose, as people increasingly self-prescribe the drug in an effort to prevent or treat COVID-19.
The drug is used to treat river blindness and intestinal roundworm infection in humans and to de-worm pets and livestock. Lotions and creams containing ivermectin are also used to treat head lice and rosacea.
QAnon Activist Dies as Followers Demand She Be Given Ivermectin
Sept. 14, 6:54 p.m.
A prominent figure in the QAnon movement died in a Chicago hospital after followers demanded doctors give her ivermectin, a controversial medication that far-right media figures say is effective in treating COVID-19, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Veronica Wolski, 64, died in the intensive care unit of AMITA Health Resurrection Medical Center early Monday, a hospital spokeswoman told The Tribune.
The hospital didn’t say why she died and the Cook County medical examiner didn’t list a cause of death, but Wolski’s social media followers said she was being treated for COVID-19, The Tribune said.
Last week her supporters went on social media and urged the hospital to give her ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug that is used to treat river blindness and intestinal roundworm infection in humans and to de-worm pets and livestock. Lotions and creams containing ivermectin are also used to treat head lice and rosacea.
The hospital said doctors there don’t use ivermectin to treat COVID-19, in accordance with FDA and CDC guidance, The Tribune said. Mainstream medical authorities and even the manufacturer of ivermectin say it doesn’t help treat coronavirus.
Wolski was well-known in the Chicago area for her political activism, first for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and then for QAnon conspiracy theories.
Her Telegram account questioned the effectiveness of masking, vaccines, and other methods for avoiding COVID-19, The Tribune said.
Last weekend, Wolski’s supporters became more aggressive. A video posted Sunday to the Telegram channel of Lin Wood, a right-wing lawyer, showed him on the phone and demanding the hospital release Wolski to a person holding her medical power of attorney, The Tribune said.
Another video posted on Wood’s channel shows a person outside the hospital demanding that a police officer let them in to perform a wellness check.
A hospital spokeswoman said police “(assisted) in maintaining the order outside the hospital with a small group of individuals,” The Tribune said.
Couple Dies of COVID, Leaving Behind a Newborn and 4 Other Kids
Sept. 14, 3:54 p.m.
A pregnant woman and her husband tested positive for COVID-19 in August, as did their four children.
The children quickly recovered but the parents, Daniel and Davy Macias, got worse and were hospitalized a couple of rooms apart, said Terri Serey, Davy Macias' sister-in-law.
On Aug. 26, a week after giving birth to a baby girl, Davy Macias died of COVID. Less than two weeks later, so did her husband. They leave behind five children, aged 7, 5, 3, 2, and 3 weeks.
“They were the kindest, most amazing people,” Serey said in an interview with NBC News. “They were the ones who got everyone together — for every birthday, every holiday.”
Serey said the couple made the children the center of their lives.
The Macias family lived in Yucaipa, CA., near San Bernardino. Davy Macias worked as a nurse at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center and Daniel Macias worked as a teacher at Jehue Middle School in Colton.
The family all tested positive for COVID-19 last month after traveling, Serey said. The parents’ conditions quickly worsened.
Davy Macias, 37, was intubated after entering the hospital and gave birth by Cesarean section on Aug. 18, Serey said. She died before getting to meet her daughter. Davy Macias was not vaccinated because of her pregnancy, Serey said.
Daniel Macias, 39, met his new daughter briefly one time and was intubated three days after her birth. It’s not known whether he was vaccinated.
The couple planned to name their new baby after they recovered and left the hospital, NBC News said. The infant is unnamed and, like the other children, is being cared for by grandparents.
Health experts in the United States have recommended pregnant people get vaccinated against COVID-19.
In August, the CDC recommended pregnant people get a COVID-19 vaccine after new research showed that the inoculation doesn’t pose additional risks for mothers or babies.
New research published last week in JAMA said that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine early in pregnancy is not associated with an increased risk for spontaneous abortion.
Zoo Atlanta Gorillas Test Positive for COVID
Sept. 13, 2021, at 5:39 p.m.
Zoo Atlanta says some of its western lowland gorillas have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The gorillas were tested after zoo employees noticed coughing, nasal discharge, and loss of appetite in some of the animals, the zoo said in an update on its webpage.
Testing began and fecal, nasal, and oral swab samples were sent to the Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Georgia, where they came back presumptively positive. The zoo is seeking confirmation on the samples from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, Zoo Atlanta said.
The zoo didn’t say how many gorillas tested positive, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said 13 of 20 gorillas did.
The zoo veterinary team is treating the gorillas at risk of developing complications with monoclonal antibodies. The gorillas will be regularly tested.
Zoo Atlanta says it has been authorized to use the Zoetis vaccine, which is designed for animals at risk of becoming infected with the virus. The gorillas will be vaccinated as they recover. The zoo will also use the vaccine on its Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, Sumatran tigers, African lions, and clouded leopard.
“The teams are very closely monitoring the affected gorillas and are hopeful they will make a complete recovery. They are receiving the best possible care, and we are prepared to provide additional supportive care should it become necessary,” said Sam Rivera, DVM, the zoo’s senior director of animal health.
“We are very concerned that these infections occurred, especially given that our safety protocols when working with great apes and other susceptible animal species are, and throughout the pandemic have been, extremely rigorous.”
The gorillas may have gotten COVID from a zoo employee who has tested positive for COVID. The team member was vaccinated, wore protective gear, and showed no symptoms on the day they reported to work, Zoo Atlanta said.
The gorillas don’t post a transmission risk to zoo-goers, or vice versa, because of physical distance between guests and animal habitats, Zoo Atlanta said. Humans may transmit the virus to animals but “there is currently no data to suggest that zoo animals can transmit the virus to humans,” Zoo Atlanta said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that a troop of eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were treated for the virus in January. All recovered.
Man Dies After 43 ICUs Full of COVID Patients Turn Him Away, Family Says
Sept. 12, 5:04 p.m.
The family of an Alabama man used his obituary to plead with people to become vaccinated against COVID-19.
Ray Martin DeMonia, 73, of Cullman, AL., ran an antiques business for 40 years and served as an auctioneer at charity events, the obituary said.
He had a stroke in 2020 during the first months of the COVID pandemic and made sure to get vaccinated, his daughter, Raven DeMonia, told The Washington Post.
“He knew what the vaccine meant for his health and what it meant to staying alive,” she said. “He said, ‘I just want to get back to shaking hands with people, selling stuff and talking antiques.’ ”
His daughter told the Post that her father went to Cullman Regional Medical Center on Aug. 23 with heart problems.
About 12 hours after he was admitted, her mother got a call from the hospital saying they’d called 43 hospitals and were unable to find a "specialized cardiac ICU bed" for him, Raven DeMonia told the Post.
He was finally airlifted to Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, MS., almost 200 miles from his home, but died there Sept. 1. His family decided to make a plea for increased vaccinations in his obituary.
“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non COVID related emergencies,” the obit said. “Due to COVID 19, CRMC emergency staff contacted 43 hospitals in 3 states in search of a Cardiac ICU bed and finally located one in Meridian, MS. He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”
DeMonia is survived by his wife, daughter, grandson, and other family members.
The Alabama Hospital Association says state hospitals still short of ICU beds. On Sunday, the AHA website said the state had 1,530 staffed ICU beds to accommodate 1,541 ICU patients.
The AHA said 83% of COVID patients in ICU had not been vaccinated against COVID, 4% were partially vaccinated, and 13% were fully vaccinated.
Alabama trails other states in vaccination rates. Newsweek, citing CDC data, said 53.7% of people in Alabama were fully vaccinated. In comparison, 53.8% of all Americans nationally are fully vaccinated.
Half the Residents in 26 States Fully Vaccinated
Sept. 12, 11:40 a.m.
Across the U.S., 26 states have fully vaccinated at least half of their residents against COVID-19, according to the latest CDC tally updated Saturday.
Three states — Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont — have fully vaccinated at least two-thirds of their population. They’re also among the states with the lowest rates of new cases per capita during the past week.
Overall, the U.S. has fully vaccinated nearly 54% of the population, with about 74% of ages 12 and older having received at least one dose.
Although the percentage of unvaccinated people is becoming a diminishing minority, hospitals across the country are still feeling the strain as beds fill up with patients who haven’t yet received their shots, according to CNN.
In Colorado, for instance, 75% of eligible residents have received at least one dose, and the state has one of the nation’s lowest COVID-19 case rates, CNN reported. Gov. Jared Polis called the milestone an “important accomplishment” but added that 25% of eligible residents still need to get a shot to help “end this pandemic.”
“We actually have the lowest ICU available rate that we’ve had since the start of this crisis, in part due to the unvaccinated with COVID,” he said Friday. “Some hospitals are reaching very close to their capacity limits. And that wouldn’t be happening if people were vaccinated.”
Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who are fully vaccinated, according to a new CDC study released Friday.
“Looking at the cases over the past two months when the Delta was the predominant variant circulating in this country, those who were unvaccinated were about 4.5 times more likely to get COVID-19, over 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die from the disease,” Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said during a news briefing Friday.
In addition, the study showed that breakthrough cases have increased due to the contagious Delta variant, with vaccinated people accounting for 18% of new cases. Overall, breakthrough infections were mild, and vaccines protected people against severe disease and hospitalization.
At the same time, vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization appears to be waning in older adults. The efficacy rate for ages 65 and older is about 80%, according to another CDC study released Friday.
The study results arrive in time for FDA and CDC advisers to debate the need for booster shots later this week. Pfizer is expected to win FDA approval for a third dose, with the Biden administration’s plan to roll out booster shots nationwide scheduled to start during the week of Sept. 20, according to CBS News.
Federal health officials also hope to approve booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines in the coming weeks, CBS News reported, as soon as the companies submit additional data for review.
How many people have been diagnosed with the virus worldwide, and how many have died?
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 228.32 million cases and more than 4.68 million deaths worldwide.
How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?
There are more than 42.05 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19 and more than 673,480 deaths, according Johns Hopkins University.