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COVID-19 live updates: US daily death average falls below 2,000 for first time in month

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(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.8 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 935,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 64.7% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 22, 3:09 pm
3 Louisiana kids died from COVID in the last week

Three children in Louisiana have died from COVID-19 in the last week, the Louisiana Department of Health confirmed Tuesday.

Two of the kids were under 5 years old. The third child was older than 5 but an age was not disclosed.

State health officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said in a statement, “While cases are declining from our Omicron surge, the risk is not zero. Families should carefully judge their risk and risk tolerance, particularly in the Mardi Gras season.”

Louisiana has lost 21 children to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted, “Pediatric COVID deaths are especially heart-wrenching. Our children count on us to protect them—whether that means getting our kids 5 & older vaccinated or getting vaccinated and boosted ourselves to protect those who are not yet eligible.”

Feb 22, 2:35 pm
13 states seeing daily death rates rising

As of Friday, the U.S. was seeing an average of 103,000 new COVID-19 cases per day — the lowest point since early December, according to federal data.

But 97% of U.S. counties are still reporting high or substantial transmission. Experts stress that case data should be used with caution as some states are beginning to end regular data reporting. Also many Americans are taking at-home tests and not submitting their results, so case totals are likely be higher than reported.

The U.S. now has 57,000 COVID-19-positive patients in hospitals — a major drop from mid-January when 160,000 people were hospitalized, according to federal data.

Last week the U.S. daily death average fell below 2,000 for the first time in nearly one month. Since last week, the national daily death average has dropped by 15.3%, falling to around 1,920 deaths per day, according to federal data.

However, it’s still important to note that thousands of Americans are still losing their lives every day. Thirteen states are reporting daily death rates increasing by at least of 10%: Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Feb 22, 2:02 pm
Omicron and its sublineages account for 100% of new cases

New data shows the omicron variant and its sublineages are estimated to account for 100% of new infections. The omicron variant now has three major sublineages: BA.1.1, BA.2 and BA.3.

The “original” omicron variant that overtook the globe in November now accounts for 20.6% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The closely-related sublineage BA.1.1 has been the dominant strain since early January and is estimated to account for 75.6% of new cases.

The CDC estimates that as of Feb. 19, BA.2 accounts for about 3.8% of new cases in the U.S.

The World Health Organization has asked countries to monitor the BA.2 sublineage to see whether it behaves differently. At this time experts don’t expect BA.2 to lead to another surge, but some are worried that it may slow the current drop in new cases.

BA.3 accounts for a very small proportion of new cases.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos, Sony Salzman

Feb 22, 1:38 pm
CDC ‘working to update’ mask guidance ‘soon’: Walensky

Asked if Americans should follow the CDC’s mask guidance or their state or city’s rules, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Monday, “We still recommend indoor masking in public settings that have areas of high transmission … and right now that’s over 98% of our counties.”

But case are “dropping fast,” Walensky told Andy Slavitt, former senior adviser to the Biden administration’s COVID response team, on his podcast “In the Bubble.”

“We are working to update our guidance soon,” Walensky said.

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett

Feb 22, 10:36 am
Carnival Cruise Line eases mask mandates

Carnival has joined Royal Caribbean and Norwegian in easing mask mandates onboard cruises, announcing that masks will be recommended, but not required beginning March 1.

Norwegian previously announced it will drop its mask requirement for vaccinated passengers starting March 1. Royal Caribbean said it will reopen indoor mask-free areas for fully vaccinated travelers on Feb. 14.

-ABC News’ Mina Kaji

Feb 22, 9:02 am
Moderna researching combination vaccine for COVID booster, flu shot, RSV vaccine

Moderna said it’s in the early stages of research for a combination vaccine that would combine three vaccines into one: a COVID-19 booster, a flu vaccine and an RSV vaccine.

There is no current vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, a virus that causes mild symptoms in most adults but can be deadly for older adults and young children. This new study will only test the vaccine in adults over 60.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates RSV kills 14,000 Americans over 65 each year.

Feb 22, 6:25 am
Queen Elizabeth cancels virtual engagements

Buckingham Palace on Tuesday canceled some of Queen Elizabeth’s virtual engagements, saying the monarch continues to have mild COVID symptoms.

“As Her Majesty is still experiencing mild cold like symptoms she has decided not to undertake her planned virtual engagements today, but will continue with light duties,” palace officials said in a statement.

The palace announced on Sunday that the Queen, 95, tested positive.

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