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(WASHINGTON) — Robin Banks was hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The 27-year-old California resident felt he was young and healthy enough that the virus wouldn't affect him.

"I didn't really know much about [the vaccine], so I thought, maybe wait a little bit and see how that goes," Banks told San Diego ABC affiliate KGTV.

Banks isn't alone.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that still nearly 1 in 4 Americans are disinclined to get vaccinated.

Those ages 18 to 29 are the highest among the "wait and see" crowd, according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation vaccine monitor report. An Axios-Harris Poll released earlier this month also found that Generation Z (those younger than 25) are more likely to say "they will get the vaccine whenever they get to it.”

Banks now wishes he got the vaccine when he had the chance. On April 30, he told the station he had a slight headache that progressively got worse. He was bedridden for four days, he said, before he tested positive for COVID-19.

"Me believing that being young and strong and in great shape that ... it wouldn't affect me this way, it's not true," Banks told KGTV. "I do regret not getting the vaccine earlier because I would not want to go through what I'm going through right now."

With vaccination numbers dropping from an average of over 3 million daily doses administered a month ago to now under 2 million, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, public health officials are trying to reach those Americans who have yet to get inoculated, especially young adults. As of May 8, 10.8% of 18- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. are fully vaccinated and 0.8% of those between 16 and 18 are, per the CDC.

"There's been a lot of people talking about, well, we've gotten the easy 40%," Dr. Aaron Tande, an infectious disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told ABC News. "Now it's going to be the more difficult."

Vaccination barriers -- and possible solutions

Experts say one of the greatest challenges with the vaccine rollout is access. Since demand has dropped, the focus needs to turn to making the vaccine as easy as possible to get in order to reach more hesitant populations, Brian Castrucci, an epidemiologist and president and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, which advocates for public health, told ABC News.

"Wouldn't it be nice if a vaccine was as easy and accessible to get as a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?" Castrucci said. "If you're gonna take it, it's gonna be right there. We need to work much harder to get these vaccines available in the offices of primary care providers."

To reach neighborhoods hard-hit by the pandemic, Chicago's Rush University Medical Center set up a vaccine clinic in a gym and deployed "SWAT-like teams" to nursing homes, halfway houses, the homebound and the homeless, chief nursing officer Angelique Richard told ABC News.

"If we're not thoughtful about getting the vaccine into those communities and helping them, they'll be even more devastated," she said.

Incentives -- like free beer, baseball tickets and even college scholarships -- have also been dangled to entice apprehensive people to get the shot. They can be part of what needs to be a multifaceted vaccination approach, Richard said.

These incentives could be the "carrot" people need, Dr. Gabor Kelen, head of the emergency medicine department and a COVID-19 response leader at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told ABC News.

"We're still, on some days, upwards to 1,000 deaths and 40, 50,000 new infections, that's devastating. And so I think it's appropriate to really encourage rapidly getting to herd immunity," Kelen said. "If we have to give people a few candies along the way, then that's what we're gonna do.”

In some cases, it works.

In Benicia, California, 17-year-old Harjot Saini decided to get the vaccine after the city offered young people free pizza for getting inoculated.

"I think half of my decision was based on the pizza, if I am being honest," she told San Francisco ABC station KGO Wednesday after the shot.

For young people in particular, who don't have any underlying health concerns, there's also a "messaging challenge" in helping them understand why they need to get vaccinated, Castrucci said.

"It's really the same reason you wear a seatbelt," he said. "You don't wear a seatbelt because you know you're going to get into an accident. You wear a seatbelt to mitigate the damage should you get into an accident. And there are plenty of young folks, healthy folks who have died from COVID or had their quality of life irreparably changed because of COVID."

Public health officials should be focusing less on the goal of herd immunity, and instead tying vaccination to things people want to do, such as gathering safely with friends and family or being able to do certain activities without needing a COVID-19 test, experts said.

"Herd immunity, the societal good, is very important, but it may not be the primary motivating factor," Tande said.

'The four Ps'

Celebrities, athletes and even former President Barack Obama have endorsed the vaccine on social media to encourage their admirers to follow suit. Former President Donald Trump also used encouraged the public to take the vaccine before his exit from office.

Leaning on trusted messengers will be key to reaching the vaccine-hesitant, experts said.

From focus groups with vaccine skeptics, Castrucci has found that the most trusted messengers are what he calls the four Ps: physicians, pastors, parents and peers.

Rush University Medical Center invited 120 faith leaders from across the Chicago's pandemic-stricken neighborhoods to the hospital for the shot to encourage congregants to follow suit.

"We first started with people who are trusted, leaders within their community, and we charged them with going back to their communities to tell their story, because we knew that their congregations trusted them," Richard said. "That was really, very effective.”

Peer networks may be particularly effective in vaccinating young adults, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In its April vaccine monitor report, it found that "those who say at least half of their close friends are vaccinated are much more enthusiastic about getting vaccinated themselves compared to those who say just a few or none of their friends have gotten a shot."

"We all have people that we trust their opinion of. So if somebody hasn't felt comfortable getting a vaccine based on guidance from Dr. [Anthony] Fauci and the CDC and their local public health authorities, more of the same may not change their minds," Tande said. "But that same message with accurate information from their local pastor or peer group may do the trick."

He pointed to recent comments from the Biden administration about identifying trusted, influential messengers as being a good strategy.

Opening a shame-free dialogue

Experts stress that the best way to reach the vaccine-hesitant -- whether it's healthy young adults who aren't in a rush to get the shot, people on the fence or those mistrustful of the science -- is to "meet them where they are."

Kelen said the worst thing you can do is shame someone.

"Something that we're not very good at when encountering people with sort of a more political/philosophical hesitancy or resistance is trying to empathize with where they're coming from, and truly listening to them, [so] that you feel that you can establish a relationship and a dialogue," he said.

One of the common concerns Tande hears from his patients about the COVID-19 vaccine is over safety, from immediate to long-term side effects. He said he's been able to have effective conversations when patients feel comfortable asking questions in the first place.

"I think the things that are probably going to be helpful for people are to be listened to and have their questions validated and addressed," he said. "There's nothing worse for people than feeling belittled for their concerns."

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(MIAMI) — Variant COVID-19 infections skyrocketed following spring break in Florida and there have been more than 10,000 variant cases reported throughout the state, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported based on data from the Florida Department of Health.

A total of 753 variant cases from three strains -- the B.1.1.7, the P.1, and the B. 1.3.5.1. -- were reported on March 14, according to variant infection data shared with ABC News. The Florida Department of Health does not disclose variant cases on its public dashboard.

That number swelled to 5,177 cases from five types of variants on April 15. Just two weeks later, the number of variant infections exploded to 9,248 on April 27, according to local ABC affiliate , WFTV.

The surge falls in line with mid-March into April spring break celebrations, when college students and vacationers flock to the sunshine state.

Florida is home to the most variant COVID-19 cases in the country. State health officials reported more than 11,800 cases of COVID-19 variants on Wednesday, according to the Sun Sentinel.

In total, variants have led to the hospitalization of 243 residents and the death of 67 people in Florida, the Sun Sentinel reported.

Only 1% of all COVID-19 cases in Florida undergo testing to study their genetic coding, meaning the number of variant infections is likely much higher than reported.

The data regarding variants was first released Monday hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the lift of all local COVID-19 restrictions.

The Florida Department of Health released the data as a part of a legal settlement with the Orlando Sentinel after the paper sued in March to obtain a county breakdown of variant cases. A judge ended up agreeing with the paper’s claim that the data was vital “to understand how the virus continues to spread and affect Floridians.”

As vaccinations across the country slow, there are concerns over the threat of highly transmissible variants. In Florida, the B.1.1.7. variant, which first emerged in the United Kingdom in December, makes up the highest number of variant cases. There are also several reports of the South African and Brazilian variants.

As of May 1, Miami-Dade County led the state with 2,279 variant cases, followed by Broward County with 1,950 variant cases, the Sun Sentinel reported.

While variants seem to be gaining traction, overall COVID-19 cases in the Sunshine State are slowing. Health officials reported a 4.67% COVID-19 positivity rate on Friday -- the second day in a row that it has dipped below 5%, per state data.

Now doctors are warning the public to stay vigilant and get vaccinated to prevent cases from going back up.

Dr. Bernard Ashby, a Miami-based cardiologist who has worked in the front lines of the pandemic, is warning of the dangers of the variants, especially in populous areas.

"If you look at the county breakdown, Miami-Dade leads the state in the variants followed by Broward County. And we've led in infections rates in general," Ashby told ABC News. "What's interesting is the degree to much the counties dominated ... [those counties] essentially account for almost 40% of the variants in the state that's out there."

"It's hard to ignore that we are essentially open for business," he said noting DeSantis' lift of COVID-19 restrictions this week. "Now we're seeing this little explosion."

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(NEW YORK) -- Pfizer and partner BioNtech announced they are starting the process to seek full Food and Drug Administration approval in the U.S. for their COVID-19 vaccine.

Since December, their vaccine has been distributed in the U.S. under an "emergency use authorization," which is a distinct regulatory status reserved for emergency situations, such as a pandemic.

Pfizer is the first COVID vaccine maker to request full approval in the U.S., and it will likely take several months for the FDA to review additional data and make an approval decision.

As Pfizer submits the required data for full Biologics License Application (BLA) approval, the FDA will take several months to review the full set of data before granting it.

This submission shows Pfizer believes it has enough effectiveness and safety data to meet the stringent Biologics License Application (BLA) requirements, which includes at least six months of safety data from a majority of the volunteers in a large, Phase 3 trial. The regulatory requirements for the current emergency authorization required only two months of safety data. Vaccine specialists say that any safety problems from a vaccine are likely to arise shortly after injection.

“We are proud of the tremendous progress we’ve made since December in delivering vaccines to millions of Americans, in collaboration with the U.S. Government,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and CEO, said in a statement Friday. “We look forward to working with the FDA to complete this rolling submission and support their review, with the goal of securing full regulatory approval of the vaccine in the coming months.”

Pfizer said it has delivered more than 170 million doses in the U.S.

"... the BLA submission is an important cornerstone of achieving long-term herd immunity and containing COVID-19 in the future,” Ugur Sahin, M.D., CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, said in a statement. “We are pleased to work with U.S. regulators to seek approval of our COVID-19 vaccine based on our pivotal Phase 3 trial and follow-up data.”

Along with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines were previously given emergency use authorization.

Moderna announced Thursday that it plans to start the BLA process later in May.

Companies were always expected to formally submit for approval, rather than emergency authorization, once they hit the six-month safety requirement.

As more Americans get vaccinated and cases decline in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidelines for mask-wearing outdoors, small group gatherings and more. Many states and cities have also quickly reversed strict lockdown policies. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the easement of most restrictions, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he expects the city to be fully open by July 1.

"After a long and incredibly difficult fight, New York state is winning the war against COVID-19, and that means it's time to loosen some restrictions put in place to protect the public health and help our local businesses," Cuomo said last week.

Since the pandemic began, more than 32 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Of those, at least 580,061 deaths have been reported.

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(NEW YORK) -- A distinguished New Jersey doctor considered a "giant in the field of infectious diseases" has died of COVID-19.

Dr. Rajendra Kapila was a professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and was a founding member of the New Jersey Infectious Disease Society.

The 81-year-old died in India on April 28, nearly three weeks after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Hindustan Times.

Kapila's ex-wife, Dr. Bina Kapila, said he went to India -- where the pandemic is raging -- to help care for his family and had planned for it to be a brief trip, according to ABC New York station WABC-TV.

Rajendra Kapila received his medical degree in 1964 at the University of Delhi and completed his residency in India, according to his Rutgers biography. After moving to the United States, he was an intern, resident and fellow at a hospital in Newark, New Jersey.

"For 50 years, Dr. Kapila served as a foundational pillar of New Jersey Medical School, the Martland Hospital and University Hospital where he provided care to tens of thousands of patients and trained numerous generations of medical students, residents and fellows," Rutgers said in a statement.

"A genuine giant in the field of infectious diseases, Dr. Kapila was recognized world-wide and sought out for his legendary knowledge and extraordinary clinical acumen in diagnosing and treating the most complex infectious diseases," Rutgers said. "Dr. Kapila founded the Division of Infectious Diseases and facilitated its continued and extraordinary growth and development into one of the leading infectious diseases programs in the country."

The Weill Cornell Infectious Diseases Division called him "a true legend in" New York City's infectious diseases community.

He also received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Rajendra Kapila's wife, Dr. Deepti Saxena-Kapila, told the Hindustan Times that he had received both Pfizer vaccine doses in the U.S. before heading to India.

Fully vaccinated people have a significantly lower risk of getting COVID-19 and even lower risk of severe COVID-19. It's possible to die from the virus after being fully vaccinated, but it's exceptionally rare. In the United States, out of 105 million fully vaccinated people, about 70 cases of death from COVID-19 have been reported. Mostly of the vaccinated people who died were older and frail, with significant underlying medical conditions.

According to his ex-wife, the 81-year-old doctor suffered from diabetes and heart complications, WABC-TV reported.

ABC News' Eric Strauss contributed to this report.

 

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(NEW YORK) -- COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for teens and even younger children appears to be on the horizon.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may grant emergency use authorization to Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine for teens and children ages 12 to 15 any day now.

All people in America 16 years and older are already eligible to receive the Pfizer a vaccine and anyone 18 years and older is eligible for Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

Pfizer, which is currently conducting clinical trials with children as young as 6 months old, has said it will likely seek an emergency use authorization for its vaccine for children ages 2 to 11 in September.

Moderna -- which, like Pfizer, received emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine from the FDA in December -- and Johnson & Johnson -- which received emergency use authorization from the FDA for its vaccine in February -- are also both currently conducting clinical trials with children.

The rapid pace of progress has left parents searching for answers as quickly as the science develops.

Here is what parents may want to know about the COVID-19 vaccines and kids to help them make decisions:

1. What is the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology, which does not enter the nucleus of the cells and doesn't alter human DNA. Instead, it sends a genetic "instruction manual" that prompts cells to create proteins that look like the virus -- a way for the body to learn and develop defenses against future infection.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses an inactivated adenovirus vector, Ad26, that cannot replicate. The Ad26 vector carries a piece of DNA with instructions to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that triggers an immune response.

This same type of vaccine has been authorized for Ebola, and has been studied extensively for other illnesses -- and for how it affects women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Neither of these vaccine platforms can cause COVID-19.

2. Why do kids need to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

While have not been as many deaths from COVID-19 among children as adults, particularly adults in high-risk categories, kids can still get the virus and just as importantly, they can transmit the virus to adults.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported this week that children now make up 22.4% of all new weekly cases, and over 3.7 million children have been diagnosed during the pandemic.

"There are really two big reasons why kids need to get the vaccine," explained Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent.

"One of them is that it is possible that they could be infected and then unknowingly pass COVID-19 to someone with a serious or underlying, pre-existing medical condition," she said. "And also, though it’s very uncommon and unlikely, it is still possible that children infected with COVID-19 could become seriously ill or worse. We have seen that."

"It’s important to think in ripple effects, outside the box," Ashton added. "It’s not just your home environment that you need to worry about."

3. Will kids experience the same vaccine side effects as adults?

Initial reports from the clinical trials say the vaccines were well tolerated, with side effects generally consistent with those observed in older participants. Once the vaccine is authorized more specific data on possible side effects will be made publicly available.

Moderna announced Thursday that an initial analysis of its COVID-19 study with teens ages 12 to 17 found the majority of side effects were mild or moderate in severity, and said no serious safety concerns had been identified.

4. Will kids get the same dose of the vaccines as adults?

Pfizer is asking for the same dosing for 12- to 15-year-olds as adults in its current request.

Moderna and Pfizer are currently undergoing what's referred to as "dosing" trials, where researchers work to figure out how much of the vaccine kids can tolerate, and how much they need to be protected.

After researchers find an appropriate dose with the younger children, they'll move onto the second part of the trial, which includes splitting children into a placebo and a treatment group.

"We're looking to identify the optimal dose in the first set of kids, and then we'll substantially expand the number of kids involved in that study," Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna, said in an interview that aired Wednesday on ABC News' World News Tonight. "We hope to have that data in the fall of this year, and obviously we'll submit it with regulatory regulators and hope to be able to start vaccinating younger children, by the very end of this year, if not early next year."

5. Could COVID-19 vaccines impact puberty, menstruation?

There is currently no clinical evidence to suggest the vaccines can have long-term effects on puberty or fertility, according to Ashton, a practicing, board-certified OBGYN.

Ashton noted that while there has been anecdotal discussion of the emotional event of finally receiving the vaccine temporarily impacting menstruation for adult women, the idea of the cause being from the vaccine itself "defies science and biology."

"It is really important to understand basic biology here," Ashton said. "Women can have changes in their menstrual cycle and also have gotten the vaccine, that does not mean that one caused the other."

"Right now there is no puberty concern. There is no fertility concern," she added.

6. Will the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine be available for kids?

Johnson & Johnson announced in April that it had begun vaccinating a "small number of adolescents aged 16-17 years" in a Phase 2a clinical trial.

As of April, the trial was enrolling participants only in Spain and the United Kingdom, with plans to expand enrollment to the U.S., the Netherlands and Canada, followed by Brazil and Argentina.

7. What are health groups saying about COVID-19 vaccines and kids?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has called on all adults and teens who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to do so, while also pushing for clinical trials for younger teens and children.

"Research has shown the new vaccines to be remarkably effective," AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers said in a statement. "The vaccine is a powerful tool that -- in conjunction with other safety measures like face masks, good hygiene and physical distancing -- can help us end the suffering and death caused by COVID-19. Pediatricians can play a key role in making that happen."

8. Are other countries giving COVID-19 vaccines to children?

Yes. Canada's health department authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children 12 to 15 years of age on May 5.

9. Will COVID-19 vaccines be required by schools?

It will be up to each state's government to decide whether a COVID-19 vaccine is required for school entry. Many colleges and universities in the U.S. have announced they will require students to be vaccinated from COVID-19.

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(NEW YORK) -- Hispanic people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates, and a new study suggests that workplace exposure and the overrepresentation of Hispanics on the front lines of the labor force have contributed to the disparity.

Hispanics of working age -- which the study defined as 30 to 69 years old -- died of COVID-19 far more than white people in that age group, according to researchers at Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Hispanics accounted for almost 41% of age-adjusted deaths, even though they only make up roughly 19% of the age-adjusted population.

The study analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Particularly for front-line and essential workers, among whom Hispanics are overrepresented, COVID-19 is an occupational disease that spreads at work,” Reanne Frank, a co-author of the study and professor of sociology at OSU, told Ohio State News. “Hispanics were on the front lines, and they bore a disproportionate cost.”

Nadia Marín, the co-executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said the lack of workplace protection and advocacy for essential workers has been a problem since before the pandemic and COVID-19 just exacerbated these issues.

“Employers who didn't provide safety harnesses or didn't pay workers the minimum wage [before] are also the kinds of employers who would not implement social distancing or PPE,” Marín argued. “Those workers should not have to worry both about their health and safety, trying to fix their conditions on the job, and then, whether the employer is going to get them deported.”

Roughly 80% of Hispanic workers are employed as essential workers, according to data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2017 to 2018, 16.2% of Hispanic people reported they could work from home, compared to 31.4% of non-Hispanic people.

Marín said she hopes this study and others like it can lead to better protections for low-wage front-line workers and day laborers. These are vulnerable communities, she said, with workers who may be undocumented and need support from local and federal governments to enforce safe workplace practices and keep employees healthy.

“The federal government has not taken action whether to include workers in these safety net funds or to protect workers from COVID on the job, and so the most vulnerable workers, who are the most exposed, have had to protect themselves and organize to try to get more protection,” Marín said.

When broken down both nationally and locally, in every age range below 75, the research showed that Hispanic deaths were disproportionately high, and deaths among whites were disproportionately low in most states across the country.

Researchers said there was no evidence that pre-existing conditions are a factor in the excess in Hispanic COVID-19 mortality, since Hispanic people had fewer pre-existing conditions than white people in the reported cases.

Elena V. Rios, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association, told ABC News that the health of employees and their families affects the health of a community. She called out to lawmakers to invest resources and time into the health and safety of marginalized workers.

“Public health has been isolated from daily life,” Rios said. “COVID-19 has opened the door to understanding that there should be more funding put into public health infrastructure. … Public health is about the whole population.”

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(NEW YORK) -- As COVID-19 began its deadly surge in India last week, Dr. Vincent Rajkumar, a physician in Rochester, Minnesota, tweeted about how he and other doctors of Indian descent felt "both hopeless [and] determined" to help their families and close friends on the other side of the world.

Other American doctors like him responded to his tweet, saying they felt the same way about trying to manage care and shipping supplies from thousands of miles away.

Rajkumar and his wife, who both work at the Mayo Clinic, are doing everything they can.

"We have been inundated with phone calls for help in terms of ... securing hospital beds for people or getting oxygen for people or basically providing counseling and care for people who are ill," Rajkumar told ABC News. "This has been going on non-stop for the whole of last week."

He has been trying to find beds and medical supplies for those who need help urgently.

"But at the same time we're also getting calls for ... someone's dying and we don't have oxygen, we don't have a hospital bed, and some of them feel like, maybe we know somebody who can, find the bed. So it's been it's been quite challenging," Rajkumar said. "And we do have friends so we call around and make the phone calls, see see if anyone can help, but it's quite tragic what's going on there."

Dr. Natasha Kathuria, a Houston emergency room doctor, said she "always feared" the pandemic would hit her and her family.

"For a lot of people, it's hard to really comprehend how devastating this virus can be until it enters your own home," Kathuria said. "And it's incredibly devastating that this is how it entered into my home, through another country, which I would have never anticipated."

Kathuria's uncle in Mumbai is in the intensive care unit and Kathuria said it is a "constant battle" to get information about his condition given the different time zones and the strain on the nurses and doctors.

"It's been challenging and just knowing as a physician who's worked through two surges in Texas and seeing what this virus can do to the body, and know how lonely the recovery is, and how incredibly isolating and mentally challenging it is, as well as physically challenging, being this far away is crippling," Kathuria said. "It's hard to think straight."

Kathuria's uncle has not been able to get a ventilator given the short supply, and Kathuria said that navigating the hospital system has been difficult.

"It's challenging, they have a they have a shortage of medications, they have a shortage of everything. They have a shortage of oxygen, they have a shortage of equipment, so for me as a physician in America, to try to understand what's available there in a constantly changing environment," Kathuria said.

Beyond helping family members, doctors who cannot help on the ground in India are trying to mobilize as many resources as possible to help all of the country. Dr. Ash Tewari, who works at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, started to mobilize supplies after he lost a close friend to COVID-19.

"That made me pretty broken and I didn't know what to do and I didn't want to continue being sad," Tewari said. "I wanted to turn it around and then I realized that he was not the only one, there may be others who may benefit from it."

Tewari, who himself had COVID-19 and was born in Kanpur, spearheaded an effort with help from friends and colleagues to find 25 ventilators and 100 sleep apnea machines with kits to convert them into ventilators. The supplies are being transported to India through a chartered plane to Mumbai, where they will be distributed to five public hospitals in Mumbai, Delhi, Kanpur, Kolkata and Bengaluru.

"Within three weeks, all that evolved, and I must say, everyone I talked [to] and people I don't even know, they just reached out and they helped," Tewari said. "And so that that was one of the most rewarding things that, to get to know that how people who don't even know you want to help when they see suffering."

Rajkumar has also been working with COVID India SOS, a nonprofit working to help respond to the virus in the India. He said there has been lots of generosity and eagerness from people who want to help, calling it "very, very heartwarming to see people want to do something."

Rajkumar and Kathuria are urging loved ones to follow public health guidelines to help prevent their loved ones from getting sick. Rajkumar said he gave his parents, who are both in their 80s, "very strict instructions" about staying home and following health guidelines.

Kathuria has said that reminding her family of public health measures is essential.

"One of the best things we can do right now, in this pandemic, if we want to help India, and the people that we love there is just reminding them to stay home and be safe, and wear masks and double mask and wash their hands," Kathuria said.

But being thousands of miles away only makes an emotional and frustrating situation even harder.

"You know a lot of Indian doctors ... we are we are in a combination of feeling helpless and wanting to do everything at the same time. It's just, on the one hand you feel totally helpless," Rajkumar said. "On the other hand you're ... like ... motivated to help in any possible way."

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(NEW YORK) -- Plus-sized supermodel Tess Holliday is opening up about her struggle with anorexia.

In an interview with ABC News' Good Morning America, the mother of two said she was recently diagnosed by a psychologist but has struggled with “disordered eating” most of her life.

“I always thought that I overate,” said Holliday. “But then, people in my life would say, ‘Oh yeah, I ate more than Tess’ and it was almost like I wore it as a badge of honor.”

Holliday, who is known for loving and celebrating her curves as a “body positive activist,” has been receiving support for her honesty from many, but has also been questioned by some online about how she could love her body and also have an eating disorder.

“I’ve had a lot of messages from folks that are anorexic that are livid and angry because they feel like I’m lying,” she said. “I am plus size, but advocating for diversity and larger bodies, and so I think for people hearing me say I’m anorexic was really jarring and hard and confusing.”

But Holliday’s dietician, Anna Sweeney, says eating disorders don’t have to look a certain way. They’re also extremely common, affecting nearly one in every 10 people.

“You can’t look at someone and tell whether or not they’re healthy. You just can’t,” said Holliday. “I understand that people look at me and I don’t fit what we have seen presented as, you know, the diagnosis for anorexia. But then, for me, that tells me that there’s a larger problem which I’ve been actually saying for years is that we have a like, a lack of diversity and representation in the world.”

In the past year, the National Eating Disorders Association reported a 41% increase in messages to its help lines compared with the previous year.

According to a study, conducted by Harvard’s Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders in collaboration with the Academy for Eating Disorders and Deloitte Access Economics, about 9% of the U.S. population -- almost 29 million people -- will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Those numbers are on the rise during the pandemic.

Now, Holliday hopes she can use her platform to reach others that might be facing a similar battle.

“The sky’s the limit,” she said. “I actually feel like I can take on the things that life is throwing my way and I have been happier in the last six months, through my recovery than I’ve been in my entire life. I feel whole. I feel at peace. I really feel in my power.”

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(DENVER) -- Children make up more than a quarter of new COVID-19 cases in Colorado, bolstered by the spread of more-contagious variants and in-person school activities.

In Colorado, children between 0 to 19 account for 26.4% of all cases reported the week of April 25, according to state data. Overall, children make up 16.57% of all infections in the state since the start of the pandemic.

Dr. Sean O'Leary, a pediatrician and professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said highly transmissible variants, the lack of vaccine for kids and loosened COVID-19 restrictions are contributing to the numbers.

"Kids under 16 right now are not eligible for vaccination so that's a group that is completely prone to getting infected at this point," O'Leary told ABC News.

The state has reported the presence of four variants with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing that 49% of confirmed cases, regardless of age, are the B.1.1.7 variant, which first emerged in the United Kingdom.

Children in the state returned to in-person learning at the beginning of the 2020 academic year, though most with masks and social distancing.

"Kids have been a little bit more out there, there's been some outbreaks in schools. There's lots of after-school activities happening as well, we've seen some outbreaks in sports," O'Leary said. "Who is getting infected in schools has also shifted. More infections are happening in students as opposed to the staff."

Last week, the state reported 210 active outbreaks in schools -- the highest number since Dec. 2 when there were 211, according to the Denver Post. Outbreaks fell in January, but began to increase in March and April. The state defines an outbreak as two or more cases connected to the same location or event.

O'Leary said University of Colorado hospitals have seen an uptick in hospitalizations, including of children, but it's not as dire as last winter's levels.

So far, 847 people between the ages of 0 to 19 in Colorado have been hospitalized and 13 have died since the start of the pandemic through April 29, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

The fact that children are not eligible for the vaccine is another reason behind the spread. Currently, no authorized vaccine is available for those 16 and older.

Pfizer-BioNtech requested the Food and Drug Administration authorize its vaccine for children between 12 to 15 in late March. The FDA is projected to authorize the vaccine for that age group by next week.

And it's not just Colorado where children are increasingly getting the virus.

Children now make up 22% of recent COVID-19 cases in the nation, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association report.

There's been an increase in new reported cases among kids nationwide in March and April and about 72,000 new child virus cases were reported from April 22 to April 29, the report stated. That's about a 4% increase in the cumulative number of child cases from the two weeks prior.

Since the start of the pandemic over 3.78 million children have tested positive for COVID-19, or about 13.8% of all national reported cases.

While severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children, experts in the report warned the virus "may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects."

Data pulled from 24 states and New York City show children make up between 0.1% to 1.9% of all child COVID-19 cases resulting in hospitalization, the Children's Hospital Association report said.

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(NEW YORK) -- Birth and fertility rates in the United States dropped to record lows again last year, according to provisional data in a new report published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of U.S. births in 2020 fell 4% from 2019, the lowest level since 1979. The figure is double the average annual rate of decline of 2% since 2014 and marks the sixth consecutive year that the number of births have dropped, according to the report.

Both the general and total fertility rates in 2020 also declined 4% from 2019, reaching record lows for the nation. Last year's total fertility rate "was again below replacement -- the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself," meaning there are more people dying every day than are being born, the report said.

Birth rates dropped for women in nearly all age groups and of every major race and ethnicity: 8% for Asian Americans, 6% for Native Americans and Alaska Natives, 4% for whites and Blacks, and 4% for Hispanics. General fertility rates fell 9% for Asian Americans, 7% for American Indians or Alaska Natives, 4% for Blacks, whites and Hispanics, and 3% for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, according to the report.

Meanwhile, many pregnant women fled New York City to give birth last year as the Big Apple emerged as an early epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Out-of-town births among New York City residents peaked in April at 10.2% and in May at 10.3% -- respective increases of 70% and 66% from 2019, according to provisional birth certificate data shared in a separate report published Wednesday.

"Reasons that pregnant women left NYC included concerns about the increased spread of COVID-19 in the City, the accompanying strain placed on the health care system, and a brief ban on the presence of support persons during labor and delivery in some hospital systems," the report noted.

The findings are based on all birth records for the calendar year 2020 received and processed by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics as of Feb. 11. The records represent nearly all registered U.S. births occurring last year. Comparisons were made with final 2019 data and earlier years.

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(LOS ANGELES) -- When a woman in her 30s showed up in his Los Angeles County hospital emergency room this week with a fever, racing heart rate and a sore throat, Dr. Darien Sutton said his first thought was that she had contracted COVID-19. But after taking the necessary precautions and conducting tests, it turned out the patient had a routine urinary tract infection.

"It was so shocking because at the end of the day, I was like, 'I forgot there are other things that cause fevers, chills and sore throat.' You had to stop and remember other infections are now coming back," Sutton told ABC News.

The interaction was another signal that COVID-19 infections are continuing to dramatically plummet in Los Angeles County. The county of more than 10 million people reported zero COVID-related deaths on Sunday and Monday, and the number of new infections fell to 255, the lowest since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

The hopeful streak of zero-death days was slightly dimmed by Tuesday's numbers from the county public health department showing 18 deaths and 273 new cases.

But the county's daily test-positivity rate as of Monday was a minuscule 0.7%, according to county officials.

The latest data shows there are only 386 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized in the county.

In January, the county was the epicenter of the pandemic, recording more than 300 deaths and 12,000 to 17,000 new cases per day. Overwhelmed hospitals were admitting roughly 7,000 new COVID-19 patients daily, and tents had to be set up outside Sutton's emergency room to triage the influx of infected patients.

LA County was far and away affected more than any other in the nation during the pandemic. The county recorded more than twice as many confirmed cases (1.2 million) as the second-highest in the U.S. (Maricopa County, Arizona; 538,633), and more than twice as many deaths (23,943) as the second-highest in the country (Kings County, New York; 10,180), according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

"It really, really feels like another world," Sutton, an ABC News medical unit contributor, said of the dramatic decrease in the number of coronavirus cases.

Things are going so well that on Tuesday, health officials announced that LA County is now eligible to advance to the least-restrictive yellow COVID-19 tier in California's reopening framework, according to the latest data from the state.

LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said new health orders with more relaxed restrictions are expected to be published on Wednesday and will take effect Thursday.

Under yellow tier status, most businesses will be allowed to increase capacity limits. Fitness centers, card rooms, wineries and breweries, for instance, would be permitted to boost indoor attendance limits from 25% to 50%; bars will be able to open indoors at 25% capacity; outdoor venues like Dodger Stadium will be permitted to increase capacity from 33% to 67%; and amusement parks will be authorized to increase the volume of visitors from 25% to 35%.

Sutton said a combination of factors has produced the region's sharp recovery from the COVID-19 crisis it was in earlier this year: the easy availability of testing, the willingness of county residents to practice social distancing and mask wearing and the county's aggressive push to get people vaccinated.

"I just got an alert yesterday on my phone -- the same alert that you get when there's a missing child, the one that goes on everyone's phone -- and it was just letting people know that you can get a vaccine anywhere in all these locations," Sutton said.

As of April 30, more than eight million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered to people across LA County, including more that three million who are fully vaccinated, according to county health officials.

"With ample supply, our efforts are now focused on making it as easy as possible for everyone 16 and older to get their vaccine," county health officials said in a statement.

Sutton said he's also been encouraging young adults to get vaccinated, explaining that while vaccine participation is up across the county, it has fallen for young adults.

"Although younger people are less likely to become severely ill from COVID-19, young people are the main cause of transmission," Sutton said. "It's not the elderly patient that's sitting in the nursing home that's passing around COVID-19. It is the young people that are driving around California and probably not listening to restrictions as much as someone who might feel more vulnerable."

"I'm trying to convince young patients to get vaccinated, but it's a lot more difficult," he added. "I fear that it may be the cause of a next surge with a more viral variant."

Meanwhile, Sutton said he is beginning to see more patients with common ailments, like appendicitis, and children with routine viruses coming into his ER as fears of contracting the virus ease.

"Parents are freaking out and bringing their kids in because they have fever now. But all of them are COVID negative," Sutton said. "It's definitely a good feeling."

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(OLYMPIA, Wash.) -- Even as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out throughout the U.S., Washington state is reeling from a fourth wave of infections, with hospitalizations surging for people age 40 to 59 -- and among many much younger.

Virus cases and hospitalizations have steadily risen since March, and Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week the state had entered its fourth wave. Earlier in April, he'd rolled back three counties to Phase 2 of reopening restrictions.

Currently, 40-to-59-year-olds account for the highest number of patients in hospitals, followed by 20-to-39-year-olds, according to state data showing COVID-like-illness hospitalizations, which don't rely on a diagnosis but monitor overall trends.

Ryan Erlewine, director of pharmacy and clinical support services at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington, told ABC News that people with "pandemic fatigue" who haven't gotten vaccinated may be contributing to this rise.

"The bulk of those folks that are 40-to-59 that are being hospitalized, most of them are not vaccinated," he said.

"We're about half of what we were at our highest [hospitalization] levels when we had the highest back in December," he said. "Locally, we have seen a large increase in cases over the last week. ... So that is the worry -- we're maybe seven to 14 days out from our peak, unfortunately, based off the increasing case totals we've seen in the community."

More than 600 virus hospitalizations have been reported from Washington state's 44 hospitals -- the most in months, Fox affiliate KCPQ reported last week.

The state reported 483 hospitalized patients with COVID-like illness and a hospitalization rate of 7% on April 25. While a major decline from the December peak of 13%, it's still a rise from the 4.2% rate from February.

Dr. Amy Compton Phillips, CEO of the Providence Hospital System, said the system's 26 hospitals in the Pacific Northwest have seen a worrisome spike in caseloads.

"What we're seeing is a little bit scary," she told ABC affiliate KOMO. "We had about 500 more people this April in our hospitals across our footprint than we had last April, so we're actually seeing more cases now than we were last April when the whole world was shut down."

At a recent press briefing, Seattle King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said there's a surge of people in their 20s being hospitalized with COVID-19 compared with those in their 70s.

"We don't yet have enough younger adults vaccinated to counteract the increased ease with which the variants spread," Duchin told NPR.

Erlewine said that young, unvaccinated people attending gatherings has played a role in the most recent surge.

In Washington, those 16 and older became eligible for the vaccine on April 15. So far, just 6% of 16-to-17-year-olds, 22% of 18-to-34-year-olds and 32% of 35-to-49-year-olds are fully vaccinated, according to state data.

Erlewine is urging young people to get the vaccine to protect their community.

"Younger people in general think they're a little bit more invisible," he said. "I think it's hard for younger people to understand that you're just not providing yourself with immunity, you're preventing others from getting it from you as well. We really need to flip the script a bit and think of it more as being a little bit selfless. We're doing something for the greater good."
Inslee on Tuesday offered an optimistic message, announcing a "two-week pause" on deciding whether additional counties would phase down.

"If people remain committed to this," Inslee said, "there's a reason to believe that some time this summer we will have a more substantial reopening."

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden is setting new goals for vaccinations in America, calling for 70% of the U.S. adult population to have at least one shot, and 160 million Americans to be fully vaccinated, by July 4.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, as of Tuesday, 105 million Americans are fully vaccinated, while 147 million have had at least one dose.

"To hit 70% of adults by July, 4, you need to deliver close to 100 million doses, shots, across the next 60 days or so. Some first shots, many second shots, over the next 60 days," a senior administration official estimated on a call with reporters Tuesday shortly before Biden was set to speak.

Over the past 60 days, about 153 million doses have been distributed, so the new goal would represent a significant slowdown.

In the past, the administration has set goals that some public health experts have criticized as being low targets.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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(NEW YORK) — A vaccination card will be the ticket for a free brewski in the Garden State this month.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a "Shot and a Beer” program Monday that provides a free glass of beer at participating locations to anyone over 21 who gets their first vaccination dose this month. The plan is part of Murphy's multipronged approach to increasing the state's vaccination numbers and reach its goal of 4.7 million residents vaccinated by the end of June.

The program is one of many initiatives taken by city and state governments to get more people vaccinated, and according to a public health expert, they are effective.

"We need that push," Dr. Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told ABC News. "You have to find a way to motivate people. This is one way to do it.”

As of Monday, more than 7.5 million vaccine doses have been administered in New Jersey, and 3.2 million residents -- about 37% of the state's total population -- have been fully vaccinated, according to New Jersey's Health Department. Like most parts of the country, the number of new daily vaccinations has steadily declined over the last few weeks.

As part of the "Shot and a Beer" program, the vaccinated resident can show their vaccination card to 13 participating bars and breweries in the state, and they will be rewarded with one free beer. The bars include the Hackensack Brewing Company, Gaslight Brewery and Restaurant, Battle River Brewing and more.

Residents who received their first shot before May are not eligible, according to a spokesman for Murphy's office.

"The focus of the drive is to get as many new vaccinations as possible," Dan Bryan, a spokesperson for the governor's office, told ABC News.

Halkitis said the fact that the governor's office is focused on those who haven't received their shots is critical.

"We’re at the point where those who were already motivated got their vaccinations. We’ve now got to focus on those others," he said.

Bryan added that more locations may be added to the list of available bars in the coming weeks and that the program was done with the approval of the state Health Department. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not given specific guidance on alcohol use immediately following a vaccine shot.

The state is also taking other measures to increase vaccination numbers, including door-to-door campaigns, phone calls to people who pre-registered for their shot but haven't gone to their appointments and outreach with community partners.

New Jersey's beer promotion comes less than a week after Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced a similar promotion for his state. However, the Connecticut promotion doesn't limit the free beers to residents who received shots in May.

Last week, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that younger residents will receive a $100 state bond if they get their shots.

Halkitis said incentives are common in science, particularly among clinical trials and studies, and they do appeal to hesitant people. While New Jersey's beer program won't likely end vaccine hesitancy, he said, it will help bring the state closer to a fully vaccinated population and cut down on COVID-19 cases.

"Any tool you put in your arsenal is a good tool. It may move the needle 2% or 3%, but it moves the needle," he said.

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(NEW YORK) — Seventy one fans got vaccinated during the Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn Nets basketball game Sunday, marking the latest effort by health departments to make COVID-19 vaccines convenient and even fun.

The Bucks game vaccination pop-up, a partnership with the Milwaukee Public Health Department, was open to fans at least 16 years of age and is part of a series of mobile vaccination pop-ups the health department has hosted at community centers, churches, businesses and neighborhood events, according to Emily Tau, a health department spokesperson.

The department's focus, Tau explained, is "to proactively bring the vaccine to where people already are in the community, removing any barriers and making it as convenient as possible."

Converted spaces, like empty stadiums, airplane hangars and deserted malls have served as vaccination hubs during the United States vaccine rollout. Some new sites also offer incentives for Americans to get vaccinated, such as free museum passes or being able to get vaccinated at a sporting event or on the way to work.

Here are a few of the new options that have cropped up in recent weeks:

Sporting events

Basketball fans aren't the only spectators with the chance to cheer for the home team following their shot.

During Seattle Sounders home games this season, all eligible fans will have an opportunity to get vaccinated for COVID-19, no appointment necessary. Shots are available when the gates open and run through the end of the soccer match, according to the Sounders Football Club. One-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines and the first dose of the Moderna series will be offered. Fans can get their second Moderna shot at any Seattle community vaccination hub.

As an added perk, those who got vaccinated during the Sounders' May 3 match received a voucher for a free hot dog.

Museums

New York City residents 18 and older can now take in a storied cultural institution and get their COVID-19 shot in the same afternoon. The American Museum of Natural History's walk-in vaccination site opened on April 23 in the museum's Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, meaning vaccinations take place underneath the museum's massive blue whale, which currently sports its own oversized Band-Aid.

Those who get vaccinated at the museum earn a voucher for complimentary admission for four people on a future visit. (General admission for New York residents is technically pay what you wish, except for special exhibits, according to the museum's website.)

Public transit

Thanks to a partnership between the Los Angeles Department of Public Health and Metrolink, the city's commuter rail, the Palmdale and Lancaster stations are now also home to mobile vaccination units, which will be distributing 250 shots each per day.

As of April 20, vaccinations are available between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, by walk-up or by appointment. Anyone 16 or older who lives or works in LA County is eligible to get a shot.

On vacation

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy made waves last month when he announced that tourists to Alaska this summer will be able to get vaccinated at the state's major airports starting on June 1.

The offer is meant to kickstart Alaska's beleaguered tourism industry, which suffered when cruises, which the state relies for tourism dollars and jobs, were shut down during the pandemic.

"You come to Alaska and you get a shot," Dunleavy said during an April press conference. "The idea is that if we have excess vaccines, why not use them?"

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