(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.2 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 779,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Just 59.4% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
-Variant-specific vaccine could be completed in about 3 months: White House
-Greece to mandate vaccines for people 60 and older
-Global case count of omicron variant tops 200
-Omicron variant was in the Netherlands earlier than thought
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern.
Nov 30, 5:50 pm
Merck pill now awaiting FDA authorization after adviser endorsement
Advisers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have narrowly approved an endorsement of the Merck COVID-19 pill, voting 13 to 10 in favor of the authorization.
If authorized, it would be the first easy-to-take antiviral pill for COVID-19. Pfizer is also working on a COVID-19 pill, which it hopes will be authorized early next year. The FDA typically takes the advice of its advisers but will make its own final decision.
During Tuesday’s meeting, advisers spoke positively on Merck’s pill, even though it was not found to be quite as effective in the final analysis as it was in an early, preliminary analysis.
However, the advisers expressed doubt about whether it would be safe for pregnant people to use Merck’s pill because of the potential risk of harm to the fetus as well as its use in children due to lack of data and similar concerns as in pregnancy.
ABC News’ Sony Salzman
Nov 30, 2:45 pm
Variant-specific vaccine could be completed in about 3 months: White House
If a variant-specific vaccine is needed, the process, including FDA and CDC authorization, would take about three months, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said at Tuesday’s White House briefing.
The omicron variant has still not been detected in the U.S. Delta “remains the predominant circulating string representing 99.9% of all sequences sampled,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said.
Walensky said the CDC is also working on expanding a surveillance program through JFK International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that would conduct more tests on international arrivals.
Walensky added, “To be crystal clear, we have far more tools to fight the variant today than we had at this time last year.”
ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett
Nov 30, 2:13 pm
Blanket travel bans won’t prevent international spread of omicron: WHO
The World Health Organization praised South Africa and Botswana on Tuesday for the “speed and transparency” in which they reported on the new omicron variant.
The WHO stressed that “blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”
“In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data,” the WHO said.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, while on a plane to Nigeria, told reporters Tuesday that South Africa should not be “punished” with travel bans for being transparent.
“These bans must be removed,” he said.
“We have advanced in the world to a point where we now know when people travel, they should be tested, like I was tested last night and I’m happy to be tested when I arrive again,” he said.
“And for us, the tourism industry is one of the key industries. … This is discriminatory against us, and they are imposing a very unfair punishment,” he said.
ABC News’ Christine Theodorou
Nov 30, 1:35 pm
80 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated
About 100 million Americans remain completely unvaccinated, according to federal data. Nearly 80 million of those people are over the age of 5 and therefore eligible to get the shot.
Since the beginning of November, hospital admissions have jumped by 20%, while emergency department visits have increased by 27%, according to federal data.
Minnesota and Michigan currently hold the country’s highest case rate, followed by Wisconsin, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Arizona, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Puerto Rico, Florida and Louisiana currently have the nation’s lowest infection rate, according to federal data.
ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos
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