COVID-19 live updates: US deaths at highest point in nearly 1 year

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(WASHINGTON) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.7 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 894,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 63.9% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 04, 7:08 pm
Even during omicron, unvaccinated most likely to test positive

Despite the emergence of the omicron variant and increased concerns over waning vaccine immunity, new data from the CDC shows that vaccines are still dramatically reducing the risk of testing positive, requiring hospitalization, or dying of COVID-19.

In December, unvaccinated adults had a three times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19, compared to vaccinated individuals. Previously reported data, published last month, showed that the unvaccinated were 15 times more likely to die from COVID-19 in November.

Similarly, in December, unvaccinated adults were five times more likely to test positive, compared to fully vaccinated and boosted Americans.

Unvaccinated adults, ages 30 to 49 years old, also saw the highest case-incidence rate while omicron was surging.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos, Cheyenne Haslett

Feb 04, 5:01 pm
CDC director greenlights full approval for Moderna vaccine

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has given the greenlight on full approval for Moderna's vaccine for all adults, which was the last step in the process for the vaccine to move from an emergency use authorization to a permanent approval.

Walensky's ruling came after the CDC's advisory committee voted unanimously Friday to give the Moderna vaccine full approval.

It has been nearly a year since Moderna received emergency use authorization.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos, Cheyenne Haslett

Feb 04, 4:55 pm
US surpasses 900,000 deaths

The U.S. has surpassed 900,000 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The death toll currently stands at 900,334.

The U.S. has had over 76 million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Feb 04, 2:56 pm
9% of ICU beds free in Oklahoma, health care workers '1 patient away from an emotional breakdown'

In Oklahoma, where just 9% of ICU beds are available statewide, for health care workers "every day is just filled with nonstop suffering," a nurse told ABC News.

"I just pray I don't have to zip up another body bag, I don't have to call someone and let them know that their loved one's not coming home," Kelly Hale, a nurse at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, told ABC News. "We're all just one patient away from an emotional breakdown."

"The majority of our patients are unvaccinated which adds just a whole other level of difficulty for us," Hale said.

She continued, "No one really knows how many tears I shed. Not my family, not my friends. I really want them to know."

"Just please be nice if you know someone in the health care field that's going through this," Hale said. "Just reach out see if they're okay."

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Feb 04, 2:09 pm
Deaths at highest point in nearly 1 year

The daily death average in the U.S. now stands at more than 2,400 -- the highest daily death average in nearly one year and nearly double the average from one month ago.

But cases are continuing to fall with all but three states reporting declining or plateauing case rates. Washington state is seeing an increase in cases while Maine and Montana are reporting cases at a plateau, according to federal data.

Hospitalizations are also dropping nationwide. About 120,000 COVID-19-positive patients are currently in U.S. hospitals. Fifteen days ago, there were 160,000 patients, according to federal data.

However it's still not clear how many of these patients were admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 and how many people coincidentally tested positive for the virus after they were admitted for other reasons.

Nearly 62 million eligible Americans remain completely unvaccinated.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Feb 04, 1:39 pm
Study: Odds of testing positive 83% lower if wearing N95/KN95 compared to no mask 

A new study from the California Department of Public Health found that your odds of testing positive for COVID-19 are 83% lower if wearing an N95 or KN95 mask while indoors compared to no mask. 

The odds of testing positive are 66% lower if wearing a surgical mask compared to no mask, and 56% lower if wearing a cloth mask compared to no mask, the study found.

This study, however, was conducted prior to the more contagious variants and did not inquire about additional infection control behaviors such as social distancing.

-ABC News' Sony Salzman, Aiya Aboubakr, Nitya Rajeshuni

Feb 03, 12:37 pm
US death rate on the rise

The U.S. is now reporting an average of over 2,300 COVID-19-related fatalities each day -- the highest daily death average in nearly one year, according to federal data.

In the last week alone, the nation's daily death average has increased by more than 31%.

Overall, however, the nation's average is still significantly lower than last winter, when the U.S. peaked at about 3,400 deaths per day.

Meanwhile, the U.S. case rate continues to drop rapidly, according to federal data (deaths are a lagging indicator compared to cases). The nation is now reporting an average of 415,000 new cases each day -- nearly half the average from the nation's omicron peak in mid-January.

But case rates still remain extremely high, with 99% of U.S. counties reporting high transmission.

Alaska currently leads the nation in new cases per capita, followed by Washington and North Dakota.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Feb 03, 11:05 am
Airlines ask White House to remove pre-departure testing for vaccinated international travelers

More than 25 trade groups representing the travel and aviation industry -- including all major U.S. airlines -- are asking the White House to remove pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international travelers coming to the U.S.

“Clearly COVID is widespread throughout the U.S. and attempts to control its importation via air travel under today’s circumstances are unlikely to change that fact," the groups said. "No new threatening variants appear to be imminent, but if they were, pre-departure testing could be easily reinstituted.”

The letter also says the requirement is a leading factor for Americans choosing not to travel internationally out of fear they won’t be able to return to the U.S. on schedule.

-ABC News' Sam Sweeney

Feb 03, 9:46 am
Medicare to start paying for at-home COVID-19 tests

Medicare will cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 testing kits starting this spring, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Thursday.

It will be the first time that Medicare has covered an over-the-counter test at no cost to beneficiaries. The new initiative will enable payment from Medicare directly to participating pharmacies and retailers to allow beneficiaries to pick up the at-home testing kits for free, according to CMS, a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that administers the Medicare health insurance program and works in partnership with state governments to administer the Medicaid assistance program.

CMS said it "anticipates that this option will be available to people with Medicare in the early spring."

Last month, the U.S. government began requiring health insurers to pay for at-home COVID-19 tests. But that directive did not initially extend to Medicare, which provides health insurance coverage for Americans ages 65 and up, as well as some younger individuals with disabilities.

Feb 02, 4:49 pm
White House prepping to send out COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5

Vaccines will be made available to the 18 million kids between the ages of 6 months and 5 years "in short order" if they're authorized and recommended by FDA and CDC later this month, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said at Wednesday's White House briefing.

"We've already secured ample doses and the necessary needles and supplies specially made for kids in this age group. Following FDA authorization, we would immediately begin packing and shipping doses to states and health care providers," Zients said. "And in short order following CDC recommendations, parents will be able to get their kids under 5 vaccinated."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the White House, said parents should feel confident that the FDA would only approve the vaccine if it was effective and safe.

"We are anticipating that we will get a good efficacy signal for the use of vaccines in children under 5 years old," he said, adding, "But let’s wait for the FDA determination and, ultimately, the CDC recommendation.”

Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday asked the FDA for emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5. Pfizer and BioNTech said they've submitted data for two doses but expect the vaccine to be a three-dose series, and that the data for the third dose will be provided in the coming months.

The FDA's advisory committee will meet on Feb. 15 to review the Pfizer vaccine for use in children under the age of 5. The advisory committee is an independent group whose vote is nonbinding, but the FDA takes it into consideration when making a final decision.

The vaccine would then need to be authorized by the FDA. The CDC advisory committee would then need to meet for recommendations, and it would also need to be approved by CDC director Rochelle Walensky.

-ABC News' Cheyenne Haslett

Feb 02, 4:05 pm
More than 100,000 Americans have died from COVID since Thanksgiving

Since Thanksgiving, there have been more than 100,000 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S., according to federal data.

The U.S. is reporting an average of nearly 2,300 new COVID-19-related deaths each day, the federal data show.

However, the nation's death toll remains significantly lower than last winter when the U.S. peaked at about 3,400 deaths per day.

About 126,000 Americans with COVID-19 are currently in hospitals -- down from 160,000 patients at the nation's peak 13 days ago.

But 14 states are struggling with ICU capacities of 15% or less: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Feb 02, 3:10 pm
US Army will 'immediately' discharge unvaccinated soldiers

The U.S. Army "will immediately begin separating Soldiers from the service who refuse to be vaccinated," the Army announced in a press release.

“Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said. “Unvaccinated Soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness. We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for Soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption.”

The Army was the last of the military services to say it would remove service members who didn’t comply with the Secretary of Defense’s mandatory vaccination order. In the fall, the Army issued temporary guidance that soldiers who didn’t get vaccinated would be “flagged” so they would lose a command, not be promoted or would only remain until their contracts expired.

Under the earlier flagging policy, six commanders were removed from command, and 3,073 soldiers received reprimands. Wednesday's announcement begins the discharge process for those 3,073 soldiers.

According to Army statistics, 96% of the Army's approximately 475,000 soldiers are fully vaccinated, and 97% have received at least one dose.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

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