The United States has been facing a COVID-19 surge as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread.
More than 686,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.7 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The average number of daily deaths in the U.S. has risen about 20% in the last week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The U.S. is continuing to sink on the list of global vaccination rates, currently ranking No. 46, according to data compiled by The Financial Times. Just 64.7% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the CDC.
Pfizer CEO says it's possible to distribute both boosters and primary doses
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla appeared on on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday and said that it is possible to provide COVID-19 vaccine doses to both the unvaccinated and those eligible for boosters.
"It's not, 'Shall we give boosters or give primary doses to other people.' I think the answer should be, 'Let's give both boosters and doses for other people,'" Bourla told "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos.
Pfizer is also planning to submit data to the Food and Drug Administration on the vaccine's effectiveness for patients between 5 and 11 years old within days, according to Bourla.
Bourla added there will likely be new variants throughout the world, but predicted there will be vaccines that will counter those strains.
"Within a year, I think will we able to come back to normal life," he said.
-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik and Eric Strauss
Judge temporarily blocks NYC school vaccine mandate
New York City has been temporarily blocked from enforcing a vaccine mandate for public school employees, days before the policy was set to go into effect.
A federal appeals court judge granted a temporary injunction Friday and referred the case to a three-judge federal panel for review on an expedited basis, court records show. A hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, two days after the deadline to submit proof of vaccination.
Several municipal unions sued the city earlier this month after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the mandate, which required that all public school employees to get at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Monday or be placed on unpaid leave.
The city had asked for a quick resolution and in a letter to the court argued that the injunction "threatens the [Department of Education]'s safe resumption of full school operations for the City’s nearly one million students" as well as "upsets the reliance interests of parents and caregivers ... who need clear and sound safety protocols when they send their children to public schools."
The temporary injunction remains in effect pending the outcome of the hearing.
Over 82% of public school employees have been vaccinated, the NYC Department of Education said. The city's teachers and principals unions had warned that thousands of school employees might not be able to return to schools on Tuesday if the mandate was not delayed.
-ABC News' Aaron Katersky
No unemployment benefits if fired for refusing vaccine in this state
The New York State Department of Labor has issued guidance to clarify that workers who are fired for refusing to get vaccinated are not eligible for unemployment insurance unless they have a valid medical reason.
That announcement came as part of a multi-layered plan released by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Saturday in preparation of the state's vaccine deadline for health care workers and school employees to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday or face termination and to prevent resulting staff shortages in hospitals and health care facilities.
Under her plan, New York would declare a state of emergency to increase the health care workforce including allowing health care professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates and retirees to work in New York state.
Other facets of the plan include deploying medically trained National Guard members and federal disaster medical teams to assist local health care providers.
As of Sept. 22, 84% of all hospital employees in New York State were fully vaccinated, according to the press release. As of Sept. 23, 81% of staff at all adult care facilities and 77% of all staff at nursing home facilities in New York State were fully vaccinated.
"We are still in a battle against COVID to protect our loved ones, and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal," Hochul said. "I am monitoring the staffing situation closely, and we have a plan to increase our health care workforce and help alleviate the burdens on our hospitals and other health care facilities. I commend all of the health care workers who have stepped up to get themselves vaccinated, and I urge all remaining health care workers who are unvaccinated to do so now so they can continue providing care."
-ABC News' Ahmad Hemingway
Ferret tests positive for COVID in US
The first ferret to test positive for COVID-19 in the United States has been confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories.
A ferret in Slovenia was previously reported infected with COVID, according to the USDA.
"Samples from the ferret were taken after it showed clinical signs including sneezing and coughing. It is suspected that the ferret acquired the infection from a person with COVID-19," the USDA said Friday in a press release.
A small number of animals have tested postive for COVID-19, according to the USDA, which uses COVID's scientific term, SARS-CoV-2 when addressing the virus in the context of animal health. Some animals that have tested for SARS-CoV-2 include a tiger in a New York City zoo, white-tailed deer, cats, dogs, otters, non-human primates and farmed mink.
People with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals during close contact, the USDA said.