As the United States approaches 600,000 COVID-19 related deaths, the Associated Press has uncovered data showing how the pandemic has exposed  the country’s wide racial inequalities. A story published Monday by the AP said where race is known, white Americans account for 61% of all COVID-19 deaths, followed by Hispanics with 19%, Blacks with 15%, and Asian Americans with 4% — figures that track with the groups’ share of the U.S. population as a whole.  But the news agency said an analysis of data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Native Americans, Latinos and Blacks are two or three times more likely than whites to die of the disease after adjusting for population age differences.  The AP also found Latinos are dying at much younger ages than other groups — 37% of Hispanic deaths were of those under 65 years of age, compared to 30% for Blacks and just 12% for whites.  According to the AP, Blacks and Hispanics overall have less access to medical care and are in poorer health, with higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure.  They are also more likely to work at jobs deemed “essential,” are less able to work from home and more likely to live in crowded, multi-generational households, where working family members are more likely to expose others to the virus. An analyst with the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-policy research organization, tells the AP that the high rates of COVID-19 deaths among Blacks and Latinos parallels sharply with the low vaccination rates among those groups.   As of early Wednesday morning, the United States had posted 599,945 deaths out of nearly 33.5 million total infections, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Vaccine effectiveness  A new study from Britain suggests both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are both highly effective against the Delta variant of the virus. FILE – A health worker holds a tray with vials of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 during a priority vaccination program at a community medical center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 6, 2021.The study, published Monday in the The Lancet medical journal, says the vaccine developed jointly by Pfizer and BioNTech proved 79% effective against the highly transmissible Delta variant, while the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University was 60% effective. The findings were the result of a study conducted on more than 5 million people in Scotland who were given both doses of each vaccine.   The Delta variant of COVID-19, first detected in India, has now spread to at least 74 countries, especially in Britain, where it has overtaken the homegrown Alpha variant. The Guardian newspaper says Delta appears to cause more severe symptoms, including stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hearing loss and joint pain. The World Health Organization has designated Delta as a “variant of concern.” Tokyo Olympics organizers to Unveil New ‘Playbook’ Organizers of the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games are preparing to release its latest version of rules aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 among the participating athletes. FILE – A red traffic light is seen on a street near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building displaying a banner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games, in Tokyo, Japan, May 31, 2021.Tuesday’s release of the updated protocols, which have been dubbed the “playbook,” coincides with the arrival in the Japanese capital of International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates. He sparked a backlash last month when he vowed the Olympics would be staged as scheduled even if Tokyo was under a continued state of emergency due to the pandemic.  The Games are scheduled to officially begin on July 23 after a one-year delay despite staunch public opposition due to the current outbreak of the coronavirus, especially among the Japanese medical community. Japan has banned foreign spectators from attending the Olympics, and organizers are expected to deliver a decision later this month on whether to welcome domestic spectators into the venues.   Tokyo and several other prefectures are under a state of emergency until June 20.    

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