NEW YORK (WABC) -- Experts say we may be reaching the end of the COVID surge spurred by the delta variant, and the national rate of new cases and hospitalizations is now on the decline.
The country has seen a 44% drop in weekly cases since the delta-driven peak average in mid-September.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says he's cautiously optimistic, and that this year, Halloween and other upcoming holidays can be enjoyed safely.
"Particularly if you are vaccinated," he said. "If you aren't vaccinated, think about it, that you'll add another degree of protection to yourself and your children and your family and your community, so it's a good time to reflect on why it's important to get vaccinated."
The FDA is now considering emergency use authorization for Pfizer's children's vaccine, and Merck's pill to treat COVID could soon hit the market.
Here are more of today's COVID-19 headlines:
NY State vaccine effectiveness study results
A new study from New York's health department finds that for most adults, all three vaccines are holding strong when it comes to reducing the risk of being hospitalized of COVID-19. The exception was adults over 65 vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna, who saw a very modest dip in efficacy against hospitalization.
While vaccines are holding strong against hospitalizations, all three lost some ability to protect against breakthrough infections across all age groups. People vaccinated with Pfizer saw the sharpest decline, though Moderna and Johnson & Johnson also saw declines. Vaccine efficacy for the COVID vaccines started extremely high, so even modest waning is still very beneficial.
Merck seeks FDA approval for COVID pill
Drug maker Merck asked U.S. regulators Monday to authorize its pill against COVID-19 in what would add an entirely new and easy-to-use weapon to the world's arsenal against the pandemic. If cleared by the Food and Drug Administration - a decision that could come in a matter of weeks - it would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19. All other FDA-backed treatments against the disease require an IV or injection. An antiviral pill that people could take at home to reduce their symptoms and speed recovery could prove groundbreaking, easing the crushing caseload on U.S. hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with weak health care systems. It would also bolster the two-pronged approach to the pandemic: treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.
Dr. Fauci gives thumbs up to trick or treating
The government's top infectious diseases expert says families can feel safe trick-or-treating outdoors this year for Halloween as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. decline, especially for those who are vaccinated. Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that it's an important time of year for children, so "go out there" and "enjoy it." He added that people wanting to enjoy Halloween on Oct. 31 should consider getting the shots for that "extra degree of protection" if they are not yet vaccinated.
Busy travel season expected despite pandemic
The White House says 78% of adults have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and there is a push to boost vaccinations ahead of what's expected to be a busy holiday travel season. United Airlines says it plans to fly 3,500 domestic flights in December every single day. That's almost as many flights were in the air back in 2019. United adds flight searches are up 16% compared to before the pandemic. The CDC is also reminding Americans to get their flu shots, saying it will help reduce strain on already overwhelmed hospitals.
Experts explain why lawsuits against COVID-19 vaccine mandates fail
From teachers to airlines workers, some employees who have faced termination for not complying with their company's COVID-19 vaccine mandates have gone to court to fight the decisions. Some of the plaintiffs, such as New York City Department of Education employees, a handful of Los Angeles county public employees and United Airlines workers, have argued that the mandates should be removed, questioning the rules' constitutionality and some contending their religious rights weren't observed. So far, these arguments have not swayed judges who have almost all ruled in favor of the employer, or not issued long injunctions while they hear the case. And legal experts tell ABC News they don't expect different outcomes in courtrooms anytime soon.
What to know about religious exemptions for COVID shots as vaccine mandates roll out
With COVID-19 vaccine mandates proliferating across the country in the public and private sectors as well as some school districts, the pushback from those unwilling or hesitant to get their shots is heating up. The vaccination effort has raised new questions about exemptions because mandates for adults are generally rare outside of settings like healthcare facilities and the military, and the inoculations are relatively new.
While there is no overall data yet on exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines, a number of companies and state governments have seen interest in religious exemptions -- a protection stemming from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This leaves employers in the difficult and legally precarious position of determining whether the requests are valid. As such, some states have tried to do away with non-medical exemptions overall for their employees.
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