By Madeline Holcombe, CNN
Dr. Anthony Fauci says there’s an important step adults can take to protect children who are too young to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
“The way you protect children who, because of their age, cannot get vaccinated yet is to surround the children — be it friends, family, school teachers, personnel in the school — surround the children with vaccinated people,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN on Sunday.
More children have needed emergency room visits and hospitalizations in states with lower vaccination rates, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the two-week period in mid-to-late August, ER visits for kids up to age 17 were 3.4 times higher in the states with the lowest vaccination rates and hospitalizations were 3.7 times higher than in states with the highest vaccination rates.
Some states are working to get ahead of the latest surge by getting as many eligible people vaccinated as possible.
The state of Washington, which has an October vaccine mandate for teachers and staff going into effect, is seeing “great news” regarding youth vaccination efforts, according to state health secretary Umair Shah on Thursday.
At least 41% of children between 12 and 15 years old are vaccinated and just under half of the state’s 16- to 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated as well.
“Washington schools have the structure, protocol and people to have successful in-person education,” Shah said.
If the US wants to keep children in the classroom this school year, people have to wear masks, Fauci said. But while some areas have adopted mask and vaccine mandates, others have curbed such measures.
In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said he’s limited on what he can do because state officials opposed his attempt at a school mask mandate.
“If I had the ability to do it right now, we would have a masking order when you are in public and indoors. We know that’s a proven way to slow the spread of the virus, and ultimately help our healthcare capacity,” Beshear told NBC on Sunday.
Tough choices loom about who gets an ICU bed, Fauci warns
Some hospitals in the United States are close to full capacity as Covid-19 continues to spread, and soon officials could be making choices about who gets an intensive care unit bed, Fauci said.
“We are perilously close,” he said. “You’re going to be in a situation where you’re going to have to make some very tough choices.”
Fauci told CNN’s Jim Acosta the best way to prevent health care workers from having to make those tough choices is to “pull out all the stops on everything we can do to prevent new infections.”
Masking is important, Fauci noted, but “vaccination is the number one” method of lowering hospitalizations.
Across the US, 79.83% of ICU beds are in use — almost a third of which are occupied by Covid-19 patients, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. Eight states had more than 90% of their adult ICU beds occupied Sunday: Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada and Kentucky.
A federal medical team arrived in Kentucky this weekend to help increase medical assistance and the ability to open more hospital beds in light of record-breaking coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, according to a statement from Gov. Beshear’s office.
“Our situation is dire,” Beshear told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “We are hit very, very hard, but we are going to continue to fight. When you’re at war, you don’t get to cry about what you can or can’t do. You’ve got to do your very best every day because this is a battle of life versus death.”
Beshear said he sent the National Guard to the hardest-hit hospitals to work on logistics and free up clinicians to attend to patients.
In Albany, Georgia, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Director of Emergency Services Dr. James Black told CNN’s Amara Walker that his hospital nearly doubled its ICU capacity yet is still faced with an overflow of patients.
“The emergency department is full and the hospital is full,” Black said. “Anytime a patient is discharged, we have patients waiting on those beds.”
Moderna may lag behind Pfizer in booster rollout
With the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant disrupting life across the US, officials and health experts are working toward administering a booster dose of vaccine to Americans.
President Joe Biden had planned to roll out booster doses for Pfizer and Moderna at the same time, but Fauci told CNN on Sunday that may not happen.
Fauci said vaccine maker Pfizer has gotten its information to the US Food and Drug Administration, the information has been examined and “things look like they’re ready to go.”
But, he said Moderna might be a little bit behind Pfizer, and if it is, rather than seeing a simultaneous rollout of both products, it would be a sequential roll out by about a week or two.
“I don’t think that is a major issue there, but we would have liked to have seen it happen all together, simultaneously. But ultimately the plan will be implemented, as was put forth,” Fauci said.
The plan is contingent, first, on the companies submitting the appropriate data to the FDA, and second, getting an approval from the FDA and then a recommendation from the CDC’s vaccine advisers, he said.
With the potential timing discrepancy, researchers are looking into whether different types of Covid-19 vaccines can be mixed and matched.
“We’re lining up Pfizer against Pfizer, Pfizer for Moderna, and vice vera,” Fauci told Weijia Jiang on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “Hopefully, within a reasonable period of time, measured in a couple weeks, we will have that data.”
Fauci said hopefully it will work out that people who got Pfizer will boost with Pfizer, and people who got Moderna will boost with Moderna.
“But we are doing the studies to determine if you can … switch one with the other,” he said.
Number of Covid-19 cases four times higher than Labor Day 2020
This Labor Day weekend, the 7-day average of new coronavirus cases was more than four times higher than it was on Labor Day 2020, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Covid-related deaths have also increased, according to JHU, and the US Department of Health and Human Services reports that Covid-related hospitalizations have gone up, too.
Here’s how the Covid statistics have changed from Labor Day 2020 to Labor Day 2021, according to data from JHU and the DHHS.
Daily cases (7-day average)
• Labor Day 2020 (September 7): 39,355
• Labor Day 2021 (September 5): 163,728
Daily deaths (7-day average)
• Labor Day 2020 (September 7): 804
• Labor Day 2021 (September 5): 1,561
Hospitalizations (Totals on these dates)
• Labor Day 2020 (September 8): 40,600
• Labor Day 2021 (September 6): 99,270
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CNN’s John Bonifield, Deidre McPhillip, Elizabeth Joseph, Ralph Ellis and Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.