Alabama saw more deaths than births for the first time in 2020; US death toll nears 675K. Latest COVID-19 updates

For the first time in its documented history, the state of Alabama recorded more deaths than births in 2020, and state health officials are attributing the population shrinkage to COVID-19.

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“Our state literally shrunk this year for the first time in history, even going back to World War II, when people were serving overseas; going back to the Spanish Flu epidemic, when we had the flu in our state; going back to World War I,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Saturday.

The rate of births in the state has seen an annual decline over the last several years, but the number of COVID deaths, Harris said, is about equal to the gap between deaths and births for last year.

The state had 64,714 total deaths and 57,641 total births last year, he said. There were 7,182 deaths from COVID-19 in 2020, according to state health data.

“And it’s not a coincidence that that’s about exactly the number of deaths we had from COVID,” Harris said.

‘Wasn’t so sure I was going to make it’:Alabama sheriff recovers from COVID-19, credits vaccine for recovery

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Also in the news: 

► Florida accounted for one out of every 25 COVID deaths in the world last week. The state recorded 2,468 COVID deaths in the week ending Friday, while 62,291 were reported globally.

► After showing signs of coughing, sneezing and a lack of appetite, nine lions and tigers at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo in D.C. tested positive for COVID-19. Oh my! 

► Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama said Thursday that the island nation is set to roll out a reopening plan that gradually lifts restrictions based on vaccination rates in Fiji and travelers’ countries of origin. 

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 42 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 673,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 228.2 million cases and 4.6 million deaths. More than 181 million Americans – 54.5% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘What we’re reading: The federal government ended its enhanced unemployment and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program payments last week – the largest cutoff of federal benefits in U.S. history. It helped millions ride out the pandemic, who are now struggling amid a lagging economic recovery. Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Tennessee may see shortage of monoclonal antibody drugs

Tennessee may soon face a shortage of critical drugs used to combat the coronavirus after the federal government capped shipments because a few southern states gobbled up most of the national supply.

Monoclonal antibody drugs are given to COVID-19 patients, most of whom are unvaccinated, so their illnesses do not become severe enough for hospitalization. Infusion treatment is offered at more than 200 Tennessee locations and have been widely promoted by Gov. Bill Lee and some other southern governors.

The federal government informed Tennessee and other southern states this week that it will begin limiting the amount of monoclonal antibody drugs available to individual states due to surging demand. 

– Brett Kelman, The Tennessean

To avoid ‘twindemic,’ experts say now is the time to get flu shot

With flu season around the corner and the danger of a “twindemic” – a deadly combination of COVID-19 and the flu spreading at the same time – experts are recommending Americans get a flu shot.

With COVID surges nationwide already overwhelming hospitals and forcing some to consider rationing care, health care workers don’t want to add the flu to the reasons people are seeking emergent care.

“In these pandemic times, we want to save healthcare resources and not burden the healthcare workers with something that is easily preventable. We want to minimize hospitalization. We want to minimize deaths,” said Linda Molaka, a CVS pharmacy manager based in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Everything to know about flu shots:Read more from pharmacists on COVID boosters and flu shots

– Alia E. Dastagir, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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