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U.S. surpasses infection total from 2020; Fauci says packing football stadiums isn't 'smart': COVID-19 updates

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Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Kentucky has reported 7,905 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began, through Tuesday. Two-thirds of those deaths have been in 2021. 

On the same day the U.S. reached 650,000 COVID-19 deaths -- the world's highest reported total -- the country also registered more cases in 2021 than the previous year.

The U.S. had logged nearly 20,146,000 coronavirus cases this year by 7:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, surpassing the 2020 total of 20,100,249, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The latter figure comes with a couple of caveats: No major outbreaks were detected in the U.S. until March 2020, and testing for the virus was quite limited at that time and for the first several weeks of the pandemic. Therefore, the true number of infections in 2020 will never be known.

Regardless, the emergence of the delta variant has turbocharged a pandemic that appeared to be waning in the U.S. by early summer, and now threatens to continue raging for months, especially now that students are back in school for in-person learning.

One clear example of the failure to contain the virus can be found in Kentucky, which has already reported more than twice as many COVID-19 deaths this year as it did in all of last year, Johns Hopkins University data show. Kentucky reported 2,623 deaths in all of last year. In other words: Two-thirds of Kentucky's deaths have occurred just since last January. Through Tuesday, the state has reported 7,905 deaths in the pandemic.

-- Mike Stucka

Also in the news:

►Children accounted for 26.8% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases in the U.S. the week ending Sept. 2, a substantially higher figure than the 15.1% they've represented since the beginning of the pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics said. The increase of 252,000 infections that week was the largest on record.

►Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich says Tucson’s vaccine mandate for city employees is illegal, citing a new state law banning local governments from such requirements. Tucson has 30 days to repeal the mandate or lose millions of dollars in state funding.

►The U.K. recorded another 209 coronavirus-related deaths Tuesday, its biggest daily increase in six months at a time when new infections are expected to rise further as a result of the return of children to school.

►Health officials say anyone who attended the Oak Leaf Festival in West Virginia should get tested for the coronavirus. The weekend festival in Oak Hill started Saturday, but most events scheduled for Sunday were canceled after some workers and volunteers tested positive for COVID-19.

►The two most populous counties in Washington state began outdoor mask mandates Tuesday. In King and Pierce counties, regardless of vaccination status, anyone at events with 500 or more people now must wear a mask.

📈 Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 40.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and upwards of 650,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 221.7 million cases and 4.58 million deaths. More than 176.6 million Americans – 53.2% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘 What we're reading: The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to reverse years of progress made in patient safety standards, a new CDC study suggests. An analysis found four out of the six routinely tracked infections saw major increases in 2020. Read more here. 

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY's Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Despite risk of exposure, first responders resist vaccine mandates

First responders, among the early heroes of the pandemic for their willingness to help infected people while risking exposure to the coronavirus, are making a lesser impression now as the U.S. tries to get COVID-19 under control.

Police officers and other first responders are among those most hesitant to get the vaccine, and their cases continue to grow. No national statistics show the vaccination rate for America’s entire population of first responders, but individual police and fire departments across the country report figures far below the national rate of 75% of adults who have had at least one dose.

As a group, first responders are dying of COVID-19 in larger numbers but pushing back against vaccine mandates, even though the virus is now the leading cause of U.S. law enforcement line-of-duty deaths.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 132 members of law enforcement agencies are known to have died of COVID-19 in 2021. In Florida alone last month, six people affiliated with law enforcement died over a 10-day period.

Biden to share new COVID strategy Thursday

President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on Thursday laying out a six-pronged strategy involving both the public and private sectors in his administration's latest efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus and boost vaccination rates.

The announcement from White House press secretary Jen Psaki comes as the U.S. reached more than 40 million recorded cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and as health officials race to contain the highly contagious delta variant.

Nearly 650,000 Americans have died from the virus since the pandemic began more than 18 months ago.

The president's approval rating on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic has dropped by 10 points since June, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll. The survey found 52% of adults said they approved of the way he is handling COVID-19, down from 62% who said he was doing a good job in late June.

-– Courtney Subramanian

Fauci says packing football stadiums isn't 'smart'

The top U.S. infectious disease expert says big crowds at football stadiums this fall could further fuel the pandemic surge now plaguing the nation. Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that such behavior could cause the nation to be stuck in "outbreak mode." He said he expects more schools and communities to mandate masks to participate even in outdoor activities. On Saturday, college football games around the nation drew packed houses, and few masks were visible.

“I don’t think it’s smart,” Fauci told CNN. “Outdoors is always better than indoors, but when you have such a congregate setting of people close together – first, you should be vaccinated. And when you do have congregate settings, particularly indoors, you should be wearing a mask.”

Jamaica joins Puerto Rico and Bahamas on the CDC's 'do not travel' list because of COVID

The traditional summer travel season ended with Labor Day weekend, and maybe that's just as well considering the shrinking number of safe places to visit.

The CDC on Tuesday added Jamaica to its "do not travel'' list because of high COVID-19 levels, after putting Puerto Rico and the Bahamas on the same list the previous two weeks. France, Switzerland, Israel, Aruba, Thailand, Greece and Ireland also became non-advisable destinations in August, according to the CDC.

Spain, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom and Portugal have also landed Level 4 designations by the CDC, meaning a virus transmission rate of more than 500 per 100,000 people in the previous four weeks.

Vietnamese man sentenced to 5 years for breaking quarantine

A Vietnamese man was sentenced to jail for five years after he disobeyed a 21-day quarantine mandate and spread COVID-19, according to a local media reports. A court in Vietnam found Le Van Tri guilty of "transmitting dangerous infectious diseases" to eight people – including one person who later died, according to the Vietnamese News Agency. Van Tri, 28, traveled by motorcycle from Ca Mau to Ho Chi Minh City, breaking his quarantine in July. It was discovered that Van Tri also lied on a health declaration form. Vietnam has witnessed 530,000 cases and 13,300 deaths just in the last few months, according to BBC. 

Detailed COVID information elusive in Florida

COVID-19 killed an average of one Floridian about every four minutes last week, but information on how many people are dying every day in local communities is hard to find. The state of Florida won’t say, nor will most local public health officials. At least one county acknowledged it doesn’t know. Federal websites show either incomplete or inconsistent data for Florida's counties. Florida has not reported deaths at the county level for three months. The intensity of this worst wave of the pandemic in a given locale is anyone’s guess. Read more here.

– Frank Gluck and Chris Persaud, Fort Myers News-Press

40 million infections later, coronavirus is booming

The U.S has recorded a total of 40 million COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began, or about 12 cases for every 100 residents, data from Johns Hopkins University shows. The milestone comes as the delta variant continues to spread and worries mount about potential surges after the long Labor Day weekend. An estimated 42.5 million Americans traveled for the holiday, according to Arrivalist, a company that tracks travel data. 

Daily coronavirus infections and deaths are much higher than a year ago, and hospitals across the country are filling up again. Oregon and Idaho are among the latest states to warn they are running out of ICU beds.

“We are dangerously close to activating statewide crisis standards of care – a historic step that means Idahoans in need of health care could receive a lesser standard of care or may be turned away altogether," Idaho Gov. Brad Little said last week.

Most parents back mask mandates for schools, dislike online learning

As the last wave of U.S. kids heads back to school, parents are concerned their children will get seriously ill if they catch COVID-19. A strong majority support requiring universal mask-wearing and teacher vaccinations amid the surge in pediatric COVID cases. Still, parents are eager for their children to return to classrooms, and they're more skeptical of online learning now than they were last school year.

That’s according to a new USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, which found declining optimism about distance learning as some schools that had just reopened had to close or go back online. Read more here.

Alia Wong

Ohio judge won't force hospital to treat COVID patient with livestock drug

An Ohio judge has ruled that West Chester Hospital cannot be compelled to administer ivermectin to a COVID-19 patient. Butler County Judge Michael Oster Jr. said  no clear evidence that ivermectin is effective against COVID-19 was presented in court and that he must also consider the impact of forcing a hospital to give a drug.

Ivermectin is an antiparasitic treatment commonly used for livestock, and is recommended by the FDA to treat "infections caused by some parasitic worms" in humans as well as head lice and rosacea. Interest in the drug to combat the coronavirus has been fueled by endorsements from allies of former President Donald Trump as well as Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, plus Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity.

Julie Smith, the wife of the patient, Jeffrey Smith, had sued the hospital to force doctors to administer the medication.

– Cameron Knight, Cincinnati Enquirer

Unemployment benefits expire amid delta surge 

Millions of jobless Americans lost their unemployment benefits Monday, leaving only a handful of economic support programs for those who are still being hit financially by the year-and-a-half-old coronavirus pandemic.

Two critical programs expired Monday. One provided jobless aid to self-employed and gig workers and another provided benefits to those who have been unemployed more than six months. The Biden administration’s $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit also ran out Monday.

It’s estimated that roughly 8.9 million Americans will lose all or some of these benefits.

While the White House has encouraged states to keep paying the $300 weekly benefit by using money from the stimulus bills, no states have opted to do so. More than 20 states, almost all of them with Republican governors, even opted out of the federal program early after some businesses complained that they couldn’t find enough people to hire. The data has shown minimal economic benefits from cutting off aid early in those states.

Contributing: The Associated Press