NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- The raging Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to bring more people, including many children, into U.S. hospitals, and force cancellations of college enrollments and social events, in addition to disrupting Americans' daily life and eroding their long-term welfare.
Trustees for the U.S. Social Security trust fund in an annual report released on Tuesday said that the program is expected to pay benefits that exceed its income in 2021, the same as it anticipated last year at the outset of the pandemic.
While the pandemic had a significant impact on the program, the trustees said, they expect Social Security's reserves of 2.9 trillion U.S. dollars to be depleted by 2034, only one year sooner than they estimated in their April 2020 report.
"Once the reserves are exhausted, benefits would be reduced automatically unless Congress steps in to shore up the program," reported The Wall Street Journal.
As COVID-19 cases surge across the United States, particularly among unvaccinated Americans, hospitals have been pushed to their limits treating the influx of patients. Five states, namely Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Florida and Arkansas, are nearly out of ICU beds, having less than 10 percent left of their ICU bed capacity, reported CNN on Tuesday.
"Hospitals around the country have been stretched as cases have picked back up, but the South, where vaccinations have been lagging, has been particularly hit. Many hospitals have been reporting oxygen shortages," said the report while quoting data from the Department of Health and Human Services.
On Monday, data presented by a vaccine adviser from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed a hospitalization rate 16 times greater in the unvaccinated population than in those vaccinated, it added.
Last week, the CDC also highlighted the potential danger for children under the age of 12, the only group in the United States ineligible for coronavirus vaccines as the hyper-infectious Delta variant tears across the country.
Just this month in Brevard County, Florida, 1,623 children were infected and more than 8,000 students were quarantined. In the Atlanta area, thousands of positive cases were confirmed in schools with 23,000 students and staff have been quarantined.
"Without concerted efforts to curb Delta's transmission, things are likely to get worse in coming months. A simulation posted this month by a CDC-funded lab predicted that in elementary schools without either masks or regular testing, more than 75 percent of children might be infected with the coronavirus in the first three months," reported The Washington Post.
This year's Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival, a major music, culinary and arts event first held in 2019 upon the stunning waterfront of downtown San Diego, has been postponed until Nov. 18 to 20, 2022 due to the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant.
The call was made by the Port of San Diego on Monday. "The continued safety of the community had to be front and center in our decision making. We pushed as long as we could working with the Wonderfront Festival team to see if case trends might look more positive or new information would give us the comfort level needed to move forward," said Michael G. Brown, Port of San Diego's vice president of marketing and communications, in a press release.
"But at the end of the day, the situation has not improved. Knowing that people book advance travel to attend, and production crews have months of logistical planning to do, a final decision needed to be made," he added. Organizers are now working with artists to pivot toward the new 2022 dates. A lineup announcement and ticketing on-sale are expected this fall.
Xavier University is dis-enrolling students who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, reported Black Enterprise, the No. 1 Black digital media brand in the United States, on Monday. The private Catholic and historically Black college in Louisiana will begin the process at the end of this week.
"I think it's unfair to unenroll them because they still need their education. But I can see both sides," sophomore Elise Tookes was quoted as saying. "They're trying to protect the students that they have on campus and they're trying to make it normal for us as much as possible."
In April, the university's president Reynold Verret sent students a letter stating proof of vaccination would be required to attend the fall semester.
Suzanne B. Goldberg, acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, sent letters on Monday to state education leaders in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah, informing them that the department's Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether their mask mandate bans are discriminatory.
At the center of the department's concerns, according to Monday's letters, are students with disabilities who may be at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Goldberg's letters said these investigations would focus on whether the state bans are discriminatory by preventing students with disabilities from safely returning to in-person education.
Federal law "guarantees qualified students with disabilities the right to a free appropriate public education in elementary and secondary school," Goldberg wrote in each of the letters. "This includes the right of students with disabilities to receive their education in the regular educational environment, alongside their peers without disabilities, to the maximum extent appropriate to their needs."
Also on Monday, a CDC advisory panel indicated it could take a substantially different approach to booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines than the one proposed by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, reported The Hill.
Members of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) said the evidence on boosters is not clear and indicated it would likely consider a risk-based approach that would prioritize residents of long-term care facilities and health workers rather than all eligible Americans at once.
COVID-19 vaccines continue to maintain high protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death. While some studies have found some waning of effectiveness against infection, members of the panel said the evidence is not clear enough to justify a booster recommendation, according to the report. Enditem