WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - The US reported more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday (Aug 17), equating to around 42 fatalities an hour, according to a Reuters tally, as the Delta variant continues to ravage parts of the country with low vaccination rates.
Coronavirus-related deaths have spiked in the United States over the past month and are averaging 769 a day, the highest since mid-April, according to the Reuters tally.
President Joe Biden's administration confirmed on Tuesday evening that it planned to extend requirements for travellers to wear masks on airplanes, trains and buses, and at airports and train stations, until mid-January.
US authorities on Wednesday authorised booster shots for all Americans from Sept 20, starting eight months after an individual has been fully vaccinated, after warning that Covid-19 vaccination efficacy is decreasing over time.
“The available data make very clear that protection against (coronavirus) infection begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination, and in association with the dominance of the Delta variant we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease,” the nation’s top health officials said in a statement.
“We conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”
Like many other countries, the US has seen the Delta variant present a major challenge.
The Reuters tally from state data on Tuesday showed 1,017 deaths, taking the death toll from the pandemic to just under 623,000 people, the highest number of deaths officially reported by any country in the world.
The last time the US recorded more than 1,000 deaths on a daily basis was in March.
US officials have started to accelerate vaccinations in the face of the renewed threat, with the seven-day average of doses given increasing by 14 per cent in the past two weeks, according to figures from Our World in Data.
While governments and businesses initially offered incentives such as cash and prizes for getting vaccinated, the surge in cases has caused some companies and states to mandate vaccines if workers want to keep their jobs and not face routine testing.
However, US hospitals continue to flood with new patients as Covid-19-related hospitalisations have increased by about 70 per cent in the past two weeks.
The US has reported more than 100,000 new cases a day on average for the past twelve days, a six-month high, according to a Reuters tally.
The US South remains the epicentre of the latest outbreak, with Florida reporting a record of nearly 26,000 new cases last week, according to data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among the new cases was Texas Governor Greg Abbott, whose state is engulfed in a fourth Covid-19 surge. Mr Abbott tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday but so far has no symptoms of the illness, his office said.
The number of children hospitalised with Covid-19 is rising across the country and was 1,834 as at Tuesday morning, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, a trend health experts attribute to the Delta variant being more likely to infect children than the original Alpha strain.