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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Aug. 31

A COVID-19 surge in the United States is stretching oxygen supplies and sending hospitals scrambling for more ventilators, even as there are signs of hope that the spread of the virus is slowing down in pockets of the country.

Oxygen supplies stretched in U.S. amid COVID-19 surge, EU reaches goal of 70% of adults vaccinated

Dorah Cerisene, 9, gets tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday in North Miami, Fla. Florida schools are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases, forcing teachers and students to quarantine. (Marta Lavandier/The Associated Press)

The latest:

The COVID-19 surge in the United States is stretching oxygen supplies and sending hospitals scrambling for more ventilators, even as there are signs of hope that the spread of the virus is slowing down in pockets of the country.

In Tulsa, Okla., a hospital recently called 911 after coming within just a few hours of running out of oxygen because they needed an emergency transfer for a patient on high-flow oxygen. The hospital got a shipment later that day, but the experience was a warning to other hospitals, said Dr. Jeffrey Goodloe, the chief medical officer for the EMS system that serves Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

"If it can happen to one hospital, it can happen to any hospital," Goodloe said. "There is no, 'that is happening over there.' There is here in a heartbeat."

The oxygen shortages are yet another sign of the toll that the summer COVID-19 resurgence has taken on the nation's hospital system. A handful of states including Florida, Oregon, Hawaii, Mississippi and Louisiana have set pandemic records for the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and many hospitals are dangerously short of staff and intensive care unit beds.

There is, however, some good news.

The country is averaging 155,000 new infections a day, but the caseload trajectory has slowed dramatically from earlier in August.

Vaccination numbers are also up, and White House COVID-19 co-ordinator Jeff Zients credited vaccine mandates that have been implemented across the country, including restaurants, workplaces, sports stadiums and schools.

"Importantly, we've accelerated the pace of first shots. In August, we got over 14 million. That's almost four million more first shots in August compared to the prior month in July," Zients said Tuesday.

But the numbers haven't budged much in the one week since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer for its vaccine after reviewing six months of safety data. The seven-day average for vaccine doses administered across the U.S. rose to 898,000 on Monday, up from 853,000 one week earlier.

Deaths are also on the rise, averaging more than 1,300 a day, in what health officials have predicted would happen as a result of the massive rise in cases and hospitalizations over the last month.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 5:40 p.m. ET


What's happening across Canada

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What's happening around the world

Kindergarten students hold a cord to maintain social distance as in-person classes return after more than a year of online lessons in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (Jose Luis Gonzalaez/Reuters)

As of late Tuesday morning, more than 217.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.5 million.

In Europe, the president of the European Union's executive arm said the 27-nation bloc has reached its goal of getting 70 per cent of the adults in the EU fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by the end of the summer. In a message posted Tuesday on Twitter, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen thanked people for making this "great achievement possible" but noted that more needs to be done.

Ireland, which had one of Europe's longest COVID-19 lockdowns, will drop almost all pandemic restrictions in October after one of the continent's most successful vaccine rollouts, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Tuesday.

From Oct. 22, the requirement for vaccine certificates in bars and restaurants will be dropped, as will all restrictions on the numbers attending indoor and outdoor events. As part of a phased easing of restrictions, the government is recommending the reopening of theatres and cinemas at 60 per cent capacity next week and a return of non-essential workers to offices from Sept. 20.

Yvonne Willmann fills a syringe with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on a special train offering vaccinations on Berlin public transport Monday. (Christophe Gateau/dpa/The Associated Press)

In the Middle East, Israel's Health Ministry reports that the country has set a new daily record for diagnosed coronavirus cases as the delta variant surges. The Israeli government registered 10,947 new cases on Monday, two days before 2.4 million students are scheduled to return to school this week. The country's previous pandemic record of 10, 118 new cases was set on Jan. 18.

Israel is home to one of the world's fastest vaccination programs. The country is offering third booster shots to it's entire eligible population, requiring masks indoors and promising better enforcement of safety measures. Nearly 6 million of Israel's 9.3 million people have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Nearly 2.2 million have received a third shot.

Volunteers supporting local workers during the COVID-19 pandemic hand out food and drink packages in Bangkok on Tuesday ahead of the relaxation of some of Thailand's restrictions on Sept. 1. (Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images)

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korean officials are expressing cautious hope that COVID-19 transmissions are beginning to slow, after battling the country's worst wave of infections for weeks. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Tuesday reported the country's lowest daily jump in about two weeks at 1,372 cases.

A senior health ministry official pleaded for citizens to remain vigilant ahead of next month's Chuseok holidays, the Korean version of Thanksgiving, when millions usually travel across the country to meet relatives.

A medical worker wearing protective gear in a booth takes a sample from a visitor during COVID-19 testing in Seoul, South Korea, earlier this month. (Im Hwa-young/Yonhap/The Associated Press)

In Africa, South African scientists have detected a new coronavirus variant with multiple mutations but are yet to establish whether it is more contagious or able to overcome the immunity provided by vaccines or prior infection.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 5:40 p.m. ET

With file from Reuters and CBC News

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