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The US is “going in the wrong direction” on coronavirus as cases soar due to the Delta variant and a large proportion of unvaccinated people, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert has said.

Dr Anthony Fauci said the nation is “practically pleading” with people to get vaccinated as coronavirus cases surge once again in areas with low uptake.

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FILE - In this Dec. 22, 2020, file photo, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks before receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md. Fauci suggests fans enjoy the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021 with people in their household. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool, File)
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Dr Fauci said he was ‘frustrated’ to see cases rising again. File pic

COVID-19 cases have nearly tripled in the US over the last two weeks, driven by the explosion of the Delta variant, especially in pockets of the South where vaccine hesitancy is high.

Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida and Nevada – where vaccine rates are below the national average – are reporting the highest daily average of new cases per capita over the past week, all of which are at least double the overall US rate.

“This is an issue predominantly among the unvaccinated, which is the reason why we’re out there, practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated,” Dr Fauci said.

“We’re going in the wrong direction”, he added, and described himself as “very frustrated” over the situation.

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The US has seen an average of about 43,700 new cases per day over the past week – 65% over the previous seven days and nearly three times as high as the level two weeks ago, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows.

The Delta variant, first found in India and which has since been blamed for a rapid uptick in COVID cases in the UK, is causing 83% of new cases.

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COVID-19 cases have nearly tripled in the US over the last two weeks. File pic

Dr Fauci, who also serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN’s State of the Union that he has taken part in conversations about altering the guidelines on masks.

He said recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is “under active consideration” by the government’s leading public health officials as a way of turning the tide on infections.

He noted that some local jurisdictions where infection rates are surging, such as Los Angeles County, are already calling on individuals to wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status.

Back in April, America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance to say that fully vaccinated people no longer had to wear masks in many settings.

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April: Vaccinated Americans can ditch masks outdoors

Booster jabs may also be suggested for people with suppressed immune systems, Dr Fauci said. The UK is already considering such a plan for those most vulnerable to COVID ahead of autumn and winter.

Dr Fauci said government experts are reviewing early data but that some of the most vulnerable, such as organ transplant and cancer patients, are “likely” to be recommended for booster shots.

More than 163 million people, or 49% of the total US population, are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. Of those eligible for the vaccine, aged 12 and over, the figure rises to 57%.

However, rates are lower than the national average in some states, predominately Republican ones, where fewer than half of residents have received their first dose in some cases.

Florida, which has seen hospitalisations and cases jump 65% this week, has a vaccination rate of around 60%, on par with the national average. But some strongly conservative counties in the north of the state have a vaccination rate as low as 30%.

Republican lawmakers are under increasing pressure to persuade vaccine sceptics to roll up their sleeves and take the shots.

Dr Fauci praised some Republicans, including governors Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, and the second-ranking US House leader, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, for encouraging their constituents to get vaccinated but said more needed to speak out.

“What I would really like to see is more and more of the leaders in those areas that are not vaccinating to get out and speak out and encourage people to get vaccinated,” Dr Fauci said.

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Man sets himself on fire in protest area outside Trump trial

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Iran grounds flights across country after reports of explosions

A man has set himself on fire outside the courthouse in New York where former US President Donald Trump is on trial.

The man was in the designated protest area outside the courthouse.

It comes after jury selection for Trump’s hush money trial concluded with 12 people, and six alternatives, chosen to decide whether the former US president covered up payments to women who alleged they had affairs with him.

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Donald Trump labels hush money trial a ‘mess’ after jury selected

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Donald Trump labels hush money trial a 'mess' after jury selected

Donald Trump described the hush money case against him as a “mess” after the jury who will decide his fate has been selected.

Leaving the court in New York after proceedings were adjourned for the day, Trump addressed reporters, saying he was supposed to be in states like Georgia, New Hampshire and North Carolina as part of his campaign for the 2024 presidential election.

“[But instead] I’ve been here all day,” he said, labelling the trial as “unfair”.

Trump trial as it happened: Former president looks ‘bored’ in court

Trump held up a stack of news stories and editorials that he said were critical of the case while he continued railing against the trial.

“The whole thing is a mess,” he said.

It comes as all 12 jurors have been seated in the first criminal case against a former US president.

Former President Donald Trump speaks alongside attorney Todd Blanche as they return from a lunch break in his trial at Manhattan criminal court in New York on Thursday, April 18, 2024.  (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)
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Pic: AP

Members of the jury include a sales professional, a software engineer, an English teacher and multiple lawyers.

Sky News’ US partner network, NBC News reported there are seven men and five women on the jury.

It comes after lawyers grilled hundreds of potential jurors asking questions on everything from their hobbies and social media posts to their opinion of the former president.

More than half of a second group of prospective jurors were dismissed by Judge Juan Merchan on Thursday after most said they doubted their ability to be fair and impartial.

One juror was also dismissed after she said she “slept on it overnight” and woke up with concerns about her ability to be fair and impartial in the case.

The challenge now is to select six alternate jury members before the trial can move to opening statements, with Mr Merchan hopeful this will be completed on Friday.

Read more:
Judge warns Donald Trump over ‘intimidating’ potential jurors
Trump calls hush money case an ‘assault on America’

Donald Trump orders ’30 milkshakes at chicken restaurant

Trump is accused of criminally altering business records to cover up a $130,000 (£104,200) payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, real name Stephanie Clifford, during his 2016 election campaign.

Ms Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was paid $150,000 (£120,000), both claim to have had affairs with Trump.

Stormy Daniels, seen here in January, received a $130,000 payment from Trump's lawyer Pic: AP/DeeCee Carter/MediaPunch /IPX
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Stormy Daniels. Pic: AP

His lawyers say the payment was meant to spare himself and his family embarrassment, not to help him win the election.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He could get up to four years in prison if convicted.

The former president faces two other criminal trials accusing him of trying to subvert his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden, and another that accuses him of mishandling classified information after he left the White House in 2021.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

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Boeing whistleblower claims 787 Dreamliner planes ‘defective’

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Boeing whistleblower claims 787 Dreamliner planes 'defective'

Crisis-hit Boeing has rushed to defend itself from fresh whistleblower allegations of poor practice, as the airline continues to grapple its latest safety crisis.

A Congressional investigation heard evidence on Wednesday on the safety culture and manufacturing standards at the company – rocked in January by a mid-air scare that saw an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 flight suffer a panel blowout.

One Boeing quality engineer, Sam Salehpour, told members of a Senate subcommittee that Boeing was taking shortcuts to bolster production levels that could lead to jetliners breaking apart.

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He said of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, that has more than 1,000 in use across airlines globally including at British Airways, that excessive force was used to jam together sections of fuselage.

He claimed the extra force could compromise the carbon-composite material used for the plane’s frame.

“They are putting out defective airplanes,” he concluded, while adding that he was threatened when he raised concerns about the issue.

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Boeing quality engineer Sam Salehpour testifies during the Senate homeland security subcommittee hearing. Pic: AP
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Boeing quality engineer Sam Salehpour testifies during the Senate homeland security subcommittee hearing. Pic: AP

The engineer said he studied Boeing’s own data and concluded “that the company is taking manufacturing shortcuts on the 787 programme that could significantly reduce the airplane’s safety and the life cycle”.

Boeing denied his claims surrounding both the Dreamliner’s structural integrity and that factory workers jumped on sections of fuselage to force them to align.

Two Boeing engineering executives said this week that its testing and inspections regimes have found no signs of fatigue or cracking in the composite panels, saying they were almost impervious to fatigue.

The company’s track record is facing fresh scrutiny amid criticism from regulators and safety officials alike in the wake of the incident aboard the Alaska Airlines plane.

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What’s going on at Boeing?

It has become a trust issue again after the worst period in Boeing’s history when two fatal crashes, both involving MAX 8 aircraft, left 346 people dead in 2018 and 2019.

All 737 MAX 8 planes were grounded for almost two years while a fix to flawed flight control software was implemented.

A separate Senate commerce committee heard on Wednesday from members of an expert panel that found serious flaws in Boeing’s safety culture.

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Boeing CEO: ‘We fly safe planes’

One of the panel members, MIT aeronautics lecturer Javier de Luis, said employees hear Boeing leadership talk about safety, but workers feel pressure to push planes through the factory as fast as they can.

In talking to Boeing workers, he said he heard “there was a very real fear of payback and retribution if you held your ground”.

Pressure on Boeing to focus on safety has included restrictions placed on production, limiting its manufacturing output.

At the same time, it is still facing three separate investigations by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Justice Department and the National Transportation Safety Board relating to the panel blowout.

A management shake-up announced amid the inquiries will see the chief executive depart the company by the year’s end.

Sky News has approached British Airways for comment.

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