NEW YORK, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. federal government is seeking to achieve broader vaccination against COVID-19, targeting corporates, official departments and global meetings, as the pandemic keeps claiming more and more American lives and will likely become the biggest pandemic killer in the country's history.
According to The New York Times, the 7-day average of confirmed cases stood at 152,605 nationwide on Wednesday, with its 14-day change striking an 8-percent fall. COVID-19-related deaths were 1,943 on Wednesday, with the 14-day change realizing a 37-percent rise.
HEAVY FATALITIES, COSTS
According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 18 months into the pandemic COVID-19, is again pushing America's health care infrastructure to a breaking point, with intensive care units at capacity and shortages of health workers being reported widely across the country.
As of Wednesday, COVID-19 has caused the deaths of 666,816 people in the United States, including 13,600 just over the past week. "That mounting death count will soon give COVID-19 the title of America's deadliest pandemic," reported Fortune magazine on Thursday.
In terms of death toll, the pandemic already surpassed the 1968 flu pandemic, which resulted in 100,000 estimated deaths. At its current pace, the disease would also surpass the 675,000 estimated U.S. deaths caused by the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the deadliest pandemic in U.S. history, before the end of September, it added.
Over a recent three-month period, the cost of treating unvaccinated COVID-19 patients around the United States amounted to 5.7 billion U.S. dollars, said a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Peterson Center on Healthcare.
Drawing on hospital admissions and public health data, the groups based that estimate on the roughly 287,000 hospitalizations among unvaccinated people between June and August. They assumed the cost of their care at 20,000 dollars per person.
"This ballpark figure is likely an understatement of the cost burden from preventable treatment of COVID-19 among unvaccinated adults," the authors wrote.
The overall financial costs of treating the unvaccinated are "borne not only by patients but also by society more broadly, including taxpayer-funded public programs and private insurance premiums paid by workers, businesses and individual purchasers."
As a particular group, the world leaders coming to New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly's (UNGA) meetings next week will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, New York City officials has said.
New York City's Commissioner for International Affairs Penny Abeywardena told the assembly in a letter last week that officials consider the hall a convention center and therefore subject to the city's vaccination requirement.
"We are proud to join in the ongoing efforts to keep all UNGA attendees and our fellow New Yorkers safe during the pandemic," she and Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement issued on Wednesday, adding that the city would offer free, walk-in vaccinations, Johnson & Johnson's single shot, and testing outside the United Nations during the meeting.
Another case in point is that United Airlines is well on its way to have the most vaccinated workforce among large U.S. carriers. Following the threat of unpaid leave for unvaccinated staff who lack a waiver, nearly 90 percent of airline's more than 84,000 staff have received at least one jab.
On Thursday, Kate Gebo, the Chicago-based carrier's executive vice president for Human Resources, said that nearly 20,000 workers have uploaded vaccine cards since the company mandated COVID-19 inoculations in August. Earlier this month, the airline stipulated that those who do not receive their first shot by Sept. 27 will get unpaid leave.
"Getting vaccinated is the most important thing each of us can do to protect ourselves and protect each other from this deadly virus," she said. "Though COVID-19 has deeply impacted our industry and our daily lives, we are certain the road to economic recovery and personal health hinges on vaccination."
U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday met with some of the top business leaders in the country, including CEOs of Microsoft, Walt Disney and Walgreens, days after the White House announced strict vaccination rules for millions of workers as the highly contagious Delta variant surged.
Biden's new policies require most federal employees to get vaccinated. Private companies that employ more than 100 people are also required to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly. Under the rule, private companies will also provide paid time off for employees to get the shot.
"It's about saving lives. That's what this is all about," Biden told the meeting. "Vaccinations mean fewer infections, hospitalizations and deaths, and in turn it means a stronger economy."
On Thursday, The Hill reported, "the growing frustration with the ongoing pandemic is boiling over, with all eyes turned to the unvaccinated as the key to getting through the COVID-19 crisis."
As cases approach winter levels, the United States has been left to decide how to deal with and treat the millions of people who still haven't received their shots, months after they became widely available, it added.
In the mean time, scientists of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have expressed skepticism about the need for additional doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for all people who have received it.
The assessment by the agency's staff, included in documents released on Wednesday, sets up a high-stakes debate over who will need an additional booster dose and when they will need it at a meeting on Friday.
In the documents, the FDA's own scientists seemed to strike a cautious position about the need for widespread booster shots. Overall, they said, "data indicate that currently U.S.-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death in the United States."
Also on Friday, in a 52-page report, Pfizer suggested that booster shots may be an "urgent emerging public health issue," citing data from Israel that shows an increased risk of breakthrough infection without the shot.
A third dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine six months after a second shot restores protection from infection to 95 percent in a real-world setting in Israel, according to the data submitted by the company to the FDA.
While the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccine wanes over time, a booster shot was shown to elicit an immune response similar to the protection generated after a second dose, added Pfizer. Enditem