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As Vaccination Rates Slow COVID Takes a Toll

Forty-two states saw an increase in COVID-19 cases last week from the week before, a sign that the pandemic is not yet over in the United States.

Only Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and West Virginia saw a decline in cases from the previous week over the seven-day period that ended Saturday.

The rate of vaccinations has slowed, and less than half of all Americans, 47.9%, are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said more than 99% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. in June were among unvaccinated people. In addition, preliminary data indicates that over the past six months, nearly all of the COVID-19 deaths in various states have occurred in unvaccinated people, she said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top Biden administration adviser, said Sunday that it was “horrifying” to see people at the Conservative Political Action Conference cheering because the government has not been able to get more of the country vaccinated.

“They are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives,” Fauci said. “It’s almost frightening.”

Also in the news:

►As many adolescents and young adults prepare to return to the classroom in the fall term amid the spread of the delta variant, the lagging vaccination rate among Generation Z is raising concerns among experts.

►The bar scene is returning in full force to New York and other cities as partiers reemerge and ditch COVID precautions.

►The mayors of two Tokyo islands, Oshima and Hachijo, have asked the metropolitan government to take the planned Olympic torch relay off public roads amid a surge in coronavirus cases. The torch relay in Tokyo, which started Friday, was already taken off all public roads except for those on islands because of rising cases in the Japanese capital.

►The Navajo Nation’s largest casino is preparing to reopen Monday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. The Twin Arrows Resort Casino east of Flagstaff, Arizona, has been closed since March 2020.

►CONMEBOL said guests at the Copa America final on Saturday brought false COVID-19 tests to Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The South American soccer governing body said in a statement it detected “a considerable amount of fraudulent PCR tests” brought by accredited guests.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 33.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 607,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: more than 186.6 million cases and more than 4 million deaths. Nearly 159 million Americans — 47.9 % of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: The CDC has updated its mask guidelines for schools. Some states will listen, some won’t. 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.

Pfizer and U.S. health officials to discuss booster shots this week

Representatives from Pfizer and federal health officials, who sent out conflicting signals about the need for vaccine booster shots Thursday, are planning to meet this week. Reuters reported that the gathering would take place Monday.

Last week, the American pharmaceutical giant and its partner BioNTech said they would pursue U.S. and European regulatory approval for a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, given the spread of variants and data they said showed diminished vaccine potency six months after the initial shots.

In a joint statement late Thursday, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasized that people who have been fully vaccinated do not need booster shots yet.

Pfizer and BioNTech said a third dose, given six months after the second, increases neutralizing antibodies five to tenfold against the original virus and the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.

White House calling out critics of door-to-door vaccine push

For months, President Joe Biden’s administration refrained from criticizing Republican officials who played down the importance of coronavirus vaccinations or sought to make political hay of the federal government’s all-out effort to drive shots into arms. Not any longer. With the COVID-19 vaccination rate plateauing across the country, the White House is returning fire at those they see as spreading harmful misinformation or fear about the shots. When South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster tried this week to block door-to-door efforts to drive up the vaccination rate in his state, press secretary Jen Psaki did not mince words in her reaction.

“The failure to provide accurate public health information, including the efficacy of vaccines and the accessibility of them to people across the country, including South Carolina, is literally killing people, so maybe they should consider that,” she said.

India’s horrible 2021: Twice as many infections as in all of last year

India has already reported more than twice as many COVID-19 cases in 2021 as it had all of last year, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.

India passed the mark early Sunday. Of the 30.8 million cases India has reported, two-thirds have come in the less than 6 1/2 months of 2021. India’s COVID deaths, widely believed to be drastically undercounted, have added up to 259,302 this year, compared with 148,738 in 2020.

Only the United States has reported more cases than India, by a margin of about 3 million. At the current rate, India would surpass the U.S. total in about 19 weeks. India’s pace has plummeted in the last two months after a massive spring surge, while infections in the U.S. have jumped in the last two weeks.

The U.S. also has the most recorded COVID deaths in the world with upward of 607,000, and Brazil ranks second at nearly 533,000. At recent rates, Brazil would pass the U.S. death toll in about 10 weeks, though the pace of reported deaths in the South American country has fallen by more than half in the last three months, while the pace of U.S. deaths has stopped declining.

— Mike Stucka

Couples flock to Las Vegas to tie the knot as pandemic wanes

Thousands of couples are flocking to Las Vegas as the coronavirus pandemic wanes in a boom that has the local wedding industry in high demand. With COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings loosened, Las Vegas wedding chapels, venues and planners said they’re about as busy as ever.

After 30 years of marriage, Don and Cindy Couse made the cross-country trip from New York to renew their wedding vows at the Graceland Wedding Chapel. Friends and family back home watched and cheered through Zoom during the ceremony. The two met nearly five decades ago in Albany, New York, during kindergarten class and have had a bond ever since. The trip came at a good time for the couple, who are both 51 and work in IT. After over a year of quarantine, they were in need of a getaway. “Really, it was just great to be back out doing things,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Infections up in 42 states; CPAC attendees cheer low vaccination rate

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Pop mogul Simon Cowell was a racing flop with ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec – that didn’t win a penny

SIMON COWELL conquered the music world – but his foray into racing ended in disaster with an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec.

The music mogul, 62, has done it all with bands like One Direction, Little Mix and solo acts Olly Murs and James Arthur, to name but a few.

Cowell owned an 'awful' £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec - but the runner didn't win a single penny in six races

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Cowell owned an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec – but the runner didn’t win a single penny in six racesCredit: PA:Press Association
Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

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Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

His Syco label – plus shows such as Britain’s Got Talent – have dominated the entertainment industry and brought him an estimated net worth of £385m.

A lover of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, he looked perfectly poised to strike a knockout blow in the world of thoroughbreds.

But it turns out his runner was far from No1 in the charts – and never even finished better than fifth during a doomed six-race career.

Things looked promising at the start.

Named It’s A Yes From Me, the runner was trained with the respected James Fanshawe and sent off at 8-1 for his first race in June 2014.

But coming last of five by 13-and-a-half lengths was unfortunately about as good as it got for the gelding.

A month’s rest followed before he was sent off at 40-1 in a six-furlong sprint at Doncaster.

But there he could only manage fifth again, and it was same at Redcar the next month.

‘Dreadfully slow’

By October that year – with further finishes of sixth and tenth – It’s A Yes From Me came second-last in a one-mile race at Kempton.

One analysis of the race warned punters the horse was ‘one to tread carefully’ with.

Well, Cowell and Ant and Dec took that advice to heart as they never raced him again.

The horse was penniless from six races, never finishing high enough to recoup some of that £35,000 investment.

It’s doubtful Cowell, with hundreds of millions in the bank, lost any sleep over that.

But Ant and Dec revealed just how bad things has got with the horse during an interview last year.

Dec said of It’s A Yes From Me: “It was awful, it was a dreadfully slow horse.

“It wasn’t a racehorse it was just a horse, because it didn’t race.

“Every time we got to the BGT studio Simon would say, ‘I keep paying stable fees on this horse, but I’ve never seen it run’.”

Cowell originally wanted to name the nag after himself, but they settled on It’s A Yes From Me when they bought it in 2013.

‘It was awful’

Dec revealed its eventual fate: “I think it got rehomed.”

Of course it’s not all been bad for Cowell at the races.

He was one of the exclusive few at the Epsom Derby in June, having a great time with partner Lauren Silverman and Piers Morgan.

And two weeks later he was at Royal Ascot – where he first discovered his love of racing.

Cowell told SunSport’s Matt Chapman during a chat at Epsom: “I’ve got my son Eric with me today.

“My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this year

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Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this yearCredit: Getty
It's A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races

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It’s A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races
The music supremo tweeted about his horse's bad start... which never got much better

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The music supremo tweeted about his horse’s bad start… which never got much better

Most read in Horse Racing

“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories.

“Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

He hasn’t made that passion the money-maker his music label is, but don’t rule out Cowell staging his own comeback at the track in the near future.

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Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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