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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kevin McCarthy: US House Speaker removed from office for first time in history
US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been removed from office after a historic challenge to his leadership from his own party.
The Republican faced a motion to vacate, which was triggered by Donald Trump ally Matt Gaetz on Monday, just months after securing the position in 15 rounds of voting.
It is the first time in the country’s history that House representatives have voted the Speaker out.
Behind closed doors early on Tuesday, Mr McCarthy told fellow Republicans: “If I counted how many times someone wanted to knock me out, I would have been gone a long time ago.”
Several Republicans, however, had said they were sticking with Mr McCarthy as they emerged from the meeting, during which they said he received standing ovations.
It follows a decision made by Mr McCarthy over the weekend to cooperate with the Democrats to keep the government running rather than risk a shutdown.
It is a move that angered Mr Gaetz and other far-right Republicans, as Mr McCarthy relied on Democratic votes to pass a temporary funding extension on Saturday that avoided a partial government shutdown.
A band of about 20 Republicans had forced Mr McCarthy’s hand by repeatedly blocking other legislation.
Mr Gaetz and his allies said they were frustrated by the slow pace of spending legislation on Mr McCarthy’s watch.
Republican Representative Tim Burchett, who said he would vote to oust Mr McCarthy, said: “We took a whole month of August off. I think that that’s pretty telling.”
Another day of history in US politics
It’s political pantomime, without the laughs.
To look at the House of Representatives is to see the turbulence of America’s political ecosystem.
The ousting of Kevin McCarthy leaves the lower chamber of Congress in a state of paralysis.
There will be an interim Speaker but his or her role will effectively amount to finding a permanent replacement.
It is a dysfunction at the heart of power, an extension of the fault lines that fracture the modern-day Republican Party.
Never before has a House Speaker been ejected in this way, another day of history in US politics
The history-makers at the wheel have travelled a distance from the party fringes to positions of influence.
Matt Gaetz is the high-profile House representative who tabled the motion to oust McCarthy.
He’s prominent amongst a hard-line conservative core of House Republicans, Trump-aligned, and bent on reshaping party traditions and reorientating its trajectory to the right.
It is a tail that can wag the dog and this episode is clear evidence of it.
The rules dictate that just one representative – Mr Gaetz in this case – can trigger a vote to oust the Speaker.
That arrangement was a deal Mr McCarthy struck in January to appease his party’s right wing and enable his accession to the position of Speaker.
It didn’t look like clever politics by Mr McCarthy at the time and it looks even less so today.
Today, politics are harder in a party whose politics have changed.
Not all are convinced by Mr Gaetz’s intentions, with some Republicans believing he is angling for a change at a higher office.
“It seems very personal with Matt. It doesn’t look like he’s looking out for the country or the institution,” Mr McCarthy said.
Mr Gaetz has denied he is spurred on by a dislike of Mr McCarthy.
Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to three firearm charges
Hunter Biden, the son US President Joe Biden, has pleaded not guilty to three federal firearm charges filed against him after a plea deal collapsed.
He is accused of lying about his drug use in October 2018 on a form to buy a gun, which he kept for around 11 days.
Abbe Lowell, his lawyer, told the court in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday he plans to file a motion to dismiss the case, challenging their constitutionality.
While the president’s son has admitted to struggles with a crack cocaine addiction over the period in question, his lawyers insist he didn’t break the law.
These kind of gun charges are rare, and an appeals court has found banning drug users from guns violates the Second Amendment.
The case remains on track for a possible trial just as the 2024 election looms.
This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.
Please refresh the page for the fullest version.
Woman sues Disney theme park over claims water slide gave her ‘painful wedgie’
A woman is suing Disney over claims a water slide at one of its theme parks left her with serious injuries.
In a lawsuit filed in Orange County, Florida, last week, the woman claims the Humunga Kowabunga slide at Walt Disney World gave her “severe vaginal lacerations”.
Warning: The article below contains details some people may find distressing
After going on the ride at Typhoon Lagoon as part of her 30th birthday celebrations in 2019, she was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being moved to another that specialised in gynaecological injuries, court documents say.
There medics found she had a “full thickness laceration” of the vagina, which “caused the plaintiff’s bowel to protrude through her abdominal wall and damage her internal organs”.
She is seeking $50,000 (£41,400) in damages from Disney, Sky News’ US partner network NBC News reports. The lawsuit said the Humunga Kowabunga slide puts riders at risk of a “painful wedgie”.
According to court documents, she went on the ride wearing a one-piece swimming costume with her mother and daughter after being instructed to cross her legs.
“The slide caused [her] clothing to be painfully forced between her legs and for water to be violently forced inside her,” the documents read.
“She experienced immediate and severe pain internally and, as she stood up, blood began rushing from between her legs.”
It adds that “risk of injury as a consequence of water being forced inside a woman’s body” is “far greater than it is for a man”.
Disney has not responded to NBC News’s requests for comment.
Humunga Kowabunga is Typhoon Lagoon’s fastest and steepest waterslide. It sends people down a five-storey descent at speeds of up to 40mph, according to Disney’s website.
The theme park was built in 1989.
Sports11 months ago
‘Storybook stuff’: Inside the night Bryce Harper sent the Phillies to the World Series
Environment4 months ago
Japan and South Korea have a lot at stake in a free and open South China Sea
Sports6 months ago
MLB Rank 2023: Ranking baseball’s top 100 players
Sports2 years ago
Team Europe easily wins 4th straight Laver Cup
Technology2 years ago
Game consoles were once banned in China. Now Chinese developers want a slice of the $49 billion pie
Environment7 months ago
Game-changing Lectric XPedition launched as affordable electric cargo bike
Politics2 years ago
Have the last few wobbly weeks seen a turning point for Johnson as PM?
Business1 year ago
Bank of England’s extraordinary response to government policy is almost unthinkable | Ed Conway