The United States surpassed 700,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Friday (Oct 1), according to a Reuters tally, as officials roll out booster doses of vaccines to protect the elderly and people working in high-risk professions.
The country has reported an average of more than 2,000 deaths per day over the past week, which represents about 60 per cent of the peak in fatalities in January, a Reuters analysis of public health data showed.
The United States still leads the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths, accounting for 19 per cent and 14 per cent of all reported infections and fatalities, according to Reuters tally. Globally, the pandemic is set to surpass 5 million deaths.
The highly transmissible Delta variant has driven a surge in COVID-19 cases that peaked around mid-September before falling to the current level of about 117,625 cases per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.
That is still well above the 10,000 cases a day that top US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said needs to be reached to end the health crisis.
While national hospitalisation numbers have fallen in recent weeks, some states, particularly in the south of the country, are bucking that trend to record big rises, putting pressure on healthcare systems.
WEEKLY CASES AND HOSPITALISATIONS DOWN 15 PER CENT
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr Rochelle Walensky on Friday said that weekly COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations in the United States were down 15 per cent from the previous week.
The United States had a daily average of 106,400 COVID-19 cases, 8,300 hospitalisations and more than 1,476 deaths in its most recent seven-day period, Walensky told reporters at a White House briefing.
The US is on track to double the number of COVID-19 rapid-scale tests on the market over the next 60 says, said White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients.
The US Food and Drug Administration also said on Friday that an advisory panel of its experts would hold meetings later this month to discuss authorising booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines.
US President Joe Biden received a booster shot on Monday, hoping to provide an example for Americans on the need to get the extra shot even as millions go without their first.
While scientists are divided over the need for booster shots when so many people in the United States and other countries remain unvaccinated, Biden announced the push in August as part of an effort to shore up protection against the highly transmissible Delta variant.
About 56 per cent of the US population has been fully vaccinated, with around 65 per cent receiving at least one dose, according to the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New York hospitals on Monday began firing or suspending healthcare workers for defying a state order to be vaccinated, while a federal judge ruled in favor of an Ohio private healthcare provider that had mandated shots for its staff.
Vaccination rates in some parts of the Midwest and South are lagging those in the Northeast and parts of the West Coast, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicating a divide between the rural and urban parts of the country.