COVID News: 6 states now at 90% capacity for ICU beds

COVID-19 Live Updates, News and Information
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Hospitalization levels in the U.S. are now at their highest point in more than seven months, with nearly 104,000 patients currently hospitalized across the country with COVID-19, according to newly updated federal data.

Even with some hard-hit states, including Florida and Louisiana, reporting encouraging declines, ICU bed capacity remains tight in several states will low vaccination rates. Six states -- Alabama (100%), Arkansas (90.41%), Florida (93.22%), Georgia (96.34%), Oklahoma (90.62%), and Texas (92.55%) -- have a statewide ICU capacity of about 90% or more, and nationally, nearly eight in 10 of staffed adult ICU beds are occupied by COVID and non-COVID patients.

Pediatric COVID-19 admissions continue to surge to never before seen levels. On average, nearly 340 children are now seeking hospital care for COVID-19 each day. Since the fourth of July, admission levels per capita among children have increased by more than 557%.

Overall, hospital admission levels have ticked down slightly, which could be a sign that the rate of hospitalizations may be slowing. The CDC cautions, however, that hospitalization and other data in Louisiana and Mississippi may be less complete due to Hurricane Ida. Some facilities in these areas may still report information; however, reporting will be significantly impacted.

Just under 1,000 daily deaths are now being reported in the U.S. each day, the highest average in more than 5 months. More than 640,000 Americans have been confirmed lost to COVID-19. The death toll is steadily approaching the total number of lives lost in the U.S. during the 1918 pandemic, when 675,000 Americans were lost to the flu.

Here are more of today's COVID-19 headlines:



Pfizer vax safe for most allergy sufferers, study finds
Israeli researchers found most people who are particularly sensitive to allergies are safe to take Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. More than 97% of their high-risk patients had no immediate allergic reaction after the first dose of the vaccine, while 1% had a minor allergic response. Just 0.7% had a severe allergic response. After the second dose, 98% had no allergic reaction. -ABC News' Cherise Rudy

NYC touts COVID-19 safety measures in school walkthrough tour
New York City Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter hosted a walkthrough with other city officials Wednesday to review health and safety measures being put in place for the upcoming school year. Porter was joined by DOE Chief School Operations Officer Kevin Moran and Director of School Facilities John Shea for the tour of Murry Bergtraum High School in Lower Manhattan.

"This is the most important school opening that we have ever been a part of," Ross Porter said. "It's time to bring our babies back to the buildings, and I'm ready."

The city is providing PPE to students and staff, including hand sanitizer and KN95 masks.

Inmate dies from COVID-19 after giving birth, sparking custody battle
The COVID-19 death of a Tennessee inmate who gave birth shortly before dying could lead to a bitter custody battle. This week, the Hamilton County's Sheriff's Office announced Morghan Elmore died from the virus. The baby is in state custody, but the family is fighting for their grandchild.

2 teachers at 1 central Texas middle school die of COVID-19 just days apart
A central Texas school district closed its schools until after the Labor Day holiday Tuesday after two teachers died last week of COVID-19. Connally Independent School District officials closed its five suburban Waco schools for the rest of the week after the Saturday COVID-19 death of Natalia Chansler, 41, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Connally Junior High School, said Assistant Superintendent Jill Bottelberghe. Chansler's death came days after David McCormick, 59, a seventh grade social studies teacher at Connally Junior High, also died of COVID-19, Bottelberghe said.

Florida to withhold school board members' salaries over COVID mask mandates
Florida's Department of Education announced on Monday that it would withhold school board members' salaries in Alachua and Broward counties because of their school mask mandates. Both counties' school districts said on Tuesday they still plan on requiring masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic and are exploring legal action. The department's announcement came after a circuit court judge in Florida ruled on Friday that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' recent executive order banning school mask mandates overstepped his authority. The Florida Department of Education did not mention the ruling in its announcement.

KISS band member tests positive for COVID-19; Midwest shows postponed
KISS is postponing four tour dates after Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement from the band. Stanley's illness was disclosed earlier this week, while Simmons' was disclosed on Wednesday. Simmons is said to be experiencing "mild symptoms," according to a statement from the band. The tour is expected to resume on Sept. 9 in Irvine, California. The band and crew will be isolating for the next 10 days out of precaution, the statement added.

CDC recommends unvaccinated not to travel Labor Day weekend, vaccinated need to weigh the risk
Due to the surge of COVID-19 cases, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking unvaccinated Americans not to travel during the Labor Day holiday weekend. The US is surpassing an average of 160,000 new Covid-19 cases a day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. With the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant and many students returning to the classroom for a new academic year, the rise is concerning officials and health experts.

"First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House COVID-19 Response Team Briefing on Tuesday.

New online site launched to help people get child tax credit
The government has collaborated on a new internet site to help more Americans apply for and receive the expanded child tax credit, a monthly payment of as much as $300 per child that was part of the coronavirus relief package. GetCTC.org was developed by Code for America in collaboration with the White House and Treasury Department, according to a statement Wednesday. The goal is to provide a straight-forward, online form that can be accessible via mobile phones for people who are not legally obligated to file taxes to apply for the tax credit because they don't earn enough money.

Locust Valley starts first day of school in masks after letter from state
Students in the Locust Valley School District are wearing masks on the first day of school Wednesday after the district's Board of Education received a threatening letter from the New York State Education Commissioner. The Locust Valley School Board earlier this week revised its school reopening plan to include the mandatory wearing of masks. On August 17, 10 days before the New York State Department of Health issued the universal mask mandate for schools, the board voted to allow parents to decide whether their child wears a mask to school. The board also voted Monday night to hire an attorney to fight the state's universal mask mandate for schools.

Walgreens minimum wage increasing to $15 an hour next month
Walgreens will hike starting pay to $15 an hour beginning in October, as employers across the United States continue boosting wages to attract workers. The drugstore chain said Tuesday that the wage hike will take effect in phases and be completed by November 2022. It will affect workers in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the company has about 190,000 hourly employees and 9,100 store locations.

What to know about delta and other COVID-19 variants of concern
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed the COVID-19 delta variant as one of its "variants of concern" (VOCs) on June 15. According to the CDC, VOCs can be more contagious, more dangerous, less susceptible to available treatments or harder to detect. The current VOCs all have mutations in the virus's spike protein, which acts as a key to break into cells to infect them. And that's a potential concern because the spike protein from the original version of the virus is what scientists used to design all three authorized vaccines. It's also what monoclonal antibody treatments latch on to so the virus can't get into your cells, effectively "neutralizing" the threat. So far none of these mutations have changed the virus enough to undercut the vaccines. The uncontrolled spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, means the virus is mutating quickly. That's why many new variants are being discovered in places with the highest infection rates and large numbers of unvaccinated individuals, like the United States, the United Kingdom, India and Brazil.

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