July 28, 2021 US coronavirus news

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 0323 GMT (1123 HKT) July 29, 2021
21 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:47 a.m. ET, July 28, 2021

US isn’t doing a good job of measuring how much spread is underway, former FDA head says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration said the US isn’t doing a good job of measuring how much spread is happening in the country and there is probably a lot more than is being picked up. 

“I don’t think we’re doing a good job of measuring how much spread is actually underway in this country,” Gottlieb said on NPR’s Morning Edition Wednesday. “I think we have far more spread than what we’re picking up.” 

The US is not doing a lot of testing, he said, and much of the testing done is at home and not being reported. Many people who are getting infected now or experiencing mild symptoms are not seeking out tests.

“Generally speaking, the people who are presenting for testing are either people who are getting very sick, or people who are developing telltale symptoms of Covid like loss of taste or smell,” he said. “So, we’re picking up probably a very small fraction of the overall infections.”  

At the height of the epidemic in winter, 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 infections were probably diagnosed; last summer, probably 1 in 10 were being diagnosed, Gottlieb said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re only turning over one in ten infections right now, maybe less than that.” 

“If you start to impute that and you factor in how many people remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to this infection, it’s about maybe 80 million Americans that are unvaccinated and remain vulnerable to infection,” he said. “Probably a lot of them have now been infected with this Delta wave, we probably have a lot more infection in the states with vaccination rates are low than what we’re picking up.” 

The biggest part of the problem, he said, is that there aren’t solid numbers saying this is true. 

“CDC has a retrospective mindset in terms of how they operate, they really don’t have a prospective mindset. They don’t do real-time forecasting, and they don’t collect all the data that’s necessary to make real-time decision making,” Gottlieb said.

“CDC made a unilateral decision to stop tracking outpatient infections among vaccinated individuals I’m told for cost reasons, they didn’t have the resources to do that, so they don’t know, they don’t have data on how many infections, for example, are occurring among unvaccinated individuals. They're making an estimate that there probably is some infection among vaccinated individuals,” he said. “And so they want to urge them to be prudent as well and be cautious with this new mask mandate but they don't actually have that data because it's not being collected.”

In a response to CNN on Wednesday, CDC did not address whether cost was a factor in how it’s tracking breakthrough cases. It noted that in early May, CDC transitioned to focus on breakthrough cases in patients who were hospitalized or die. 

“This shift will help maximize the quality of the data collected on cases of greatest clinical and public health importance,” CDC’s Jasmine Reed said in an email, adding, “State and local health departments continue to report breakthrough cases to CDC to identify and investigate patterns or trends among hospitalized or fatal vaccine breakthrough cases.”

11:45 a.m. ET, July 28, 2021

Kenya will receive almost 2.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses through bilateral donations

 From CNN's Larry Madowo and James Briggs 

Kenya is set to receive 2,460,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses through bilateral donations from the US and European countries, according to the Ministry of Health. 

“Kenya will receive 1,760,000 doses of Pfizer from the US government, 410,000 doses of AstraZeneca from the UK government, 235,000 doses of Astrazeneca from Greece, and 55,000 doses of AstraZeneca from Latvia as part of bilateral donations,” Ministry of Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said on Wednesday.

Kagwe said the vaccine doses will start arriving in the country at the beginning of next week in a boost to the ongoing vaccination campaign. The current drive has seen 1,692,793 of the 1,733,100 AstraZeneca doses received in the country administered.

Kenya’s Ministry of Health added in a tweet that the COVAX initiative has also allocated Kenya 407,040 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 271,440 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Those doses are in addition to the government-procured 13 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, whose delivery will start next month.

In preparation for the arrival of the Pfizer vaccines, which require ultra-cold storage at -70 degrees, the cabinet secretary said, “Kenya will be receiving 15 ultra-cold chain freezers from the UPS Foundation valued at 15 million shillings ($138,100) within the next two weeks.” These will be delivered to the main vaccine store in Kitengela, along with nine of the regional stores across the country allowing a shelf-life of six months.

The Kenya Ministry of Health said it "will work with county governments to conduct outreach services aimed at increasing demand for vaccine services among priority populations and hard to reach areas."

The department said the latest initiative remains in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s plan to have 10 million people vaccinated by Christmas this year, with the entire adult population of 26 million to be done by end of next year in an effort to reach herd immunity.

The statement comes as the White House National Security Council’s Senior Director for Africa Dana Banks announced the US will be sending more than 5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to South Africa, and just over 4 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Nigeria.

11:44 a.m. ET, July 28, 2021

2 US car manufacturers reinstate mask mandate at some facilities

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

General Motors and Ford tell CNN that they have reinstated mask mandates at some of their US facilities.  

General Motors spokesperson Dan Flores said they reinstated mandatory mask wearing at their Wentzville, Missouri, assembly plant, "based on a recommendation from GM’s Medical team review of positive cases in the community, absentee rate, local infection rates, etc." The mandate went into effect prior to the new CDC guidance was announced on Tuesday afternoon.

Ford spokesperson Daniel Barbossa told CNN that they would be requiring face masks for all employees and visitors in their facilities in Missouri and Florida.  

Barbossa also said that the company is requiring that employees be fully vaccinated for Covid-19, "prior to any international business travel due to the potential of increased exposure to COVID-19."

Both companies say they are strongly encouraging all employees get vaccinated against Covid-19.

11:37 a.m. ET, July 28, 2021

NYC mayor says city health team is reviewing new CDC masking guidance

From CNN's Laura Ly

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s health officials are reviewing the new CDC guidance on indoor masking and will have more to say on it in the upcoming days. 

“We are accessing the new information from the CDC right now, we got it less than 24 hours ago. It is complicated information, so our health team is reviewing it and we’ll have more to say on it in the next few days,” de Blasio said during an ongoing press conference Wednesday. 

All five boroughs in New York City are indicated as areas of high or substantial risk of Covid-19 spread and would fall under the CDC guidelines for indoor masking.

11:33 a.m. ET, July 28, 2021

DHS implements mask mandate for employees starting Wednesday

From CNN's Geneva Sands

The Department of Homeland Security is requiring all federal employees, contractors, and visitors to wear a mask inside all DHS workspaces and federal buildings as of Wednesday, according to a memo sent to the workforce.

Masks are mandated across the United States, regardless of vaccination status or level of Covid-19 transmission in the local area. 

The memo, sent late Tuesday night from DHS Deputy Under Secretary for Management Randolph “Tex" Alles, urges employees to get vaccinated and get tested for Covid-19 if they experience symptoms. 

Alles told employees and contractors to "continue to physically distance" and follow workplace protection guidance.

"As part of its updated guidance, CDC reiterated that fully vaccinated people are at substantially reduced risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 compared with unvaccinated people," the memo reads.


The memo was shared with the workforce several hours after the department announced Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will work virtually this week after exposure to a DHS employee who tested positive for Covid-19, according to a department spokesperson.

"The Secretary has no symptoms and has tested negative twice. Official DHS contact tracing is underway," DHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Marsha Espinosa said in a statement Tuesday.


12:24 p.m. ET, July 28, 2021

Mitch McConnell will air an ad encouraging Covid-19 vaccinations in Kentucky

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Alyssa Kraus

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell listens during a news conference with reporters at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2021.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell listens during a news conference with reporters at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2021. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will be airing a 60-second ad in the coming days on more than 100 radio stations in Kentucky, according to McConnell’s spokesperson. 

The decision comes as the Delta variant surges across the country, leading to a new mask guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. McConnell is a polio survivor and has been a strong supporter of Covid-19 vaccinations throughout the pandemic.

According to a source familiar with the news, the ad will reference McConnell's personal experience with Polio. The ad, first reported by Reuters, will be paid for using re-election funds.

“This is not complicated. 97% of people hospitalized for COVID are not vaccinated. If you haven’t been vaccinated, do the right thing for you — for your family — and get vaccinated right now,” McConnell will say, according to a script of the ad. 

11:31 a.m. ET, July 28, 2021

New Jersey “strongly” recommends vaccinated and unvaccinated residents wear masks indoors 

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and health officials say they “strongly recommend” that vaccinated and unvaccinated residents “where masks in indoor settings when there is increased risk,” following the new CDC guidance, according to a statement from the governor’s office Wednesday. 

This includes crowded indoor settings, indoor settings involving activities with close contact with other possibly unvaccinated persons, or where an individual is immunocompromised or at an increased risk for severe disease.

“Our metrics are trending in the wrong direction, and new data suggests the Delta variant is more transmissible even among vaccinated individuals, which is why we are making this strong recommendation,” the governor and Health commissioner Judy Persichilli said in a joint statement.

“We have crushed this virus repeatedly like no other state in the nation, and we are proud to boast among the country’s highest vaccination rates. But at this point, given where our metrics are now, we feel the best course of action is to strongly encourage every New Jerseyan, and every visitor to our state, to take personal responsibility and mask up indoors when prudent," the statement adds.

They also encouraged every resident to get vaccinated.

11:18 a.m. ET, July 28, 2021

State Department mandates masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

The State Department is now requiring masks indoors for everyone in their domestic and overseas buildings regardless of vaccination status, two State Department officials told CNN. 

“All federal employees, onsite contractors, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask inside all Department facilities, domestic and overseas,” says notice the State Department sent to its workforce on Wednesday.  

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment.

For context: The House of Representatives' attending physician also sent out new guidance on Wednesday requiring “well-fitted, medical grade” masks be warn in all interior spaces in the House.

President Joe Biden will announce on Thursday a requirement that all federal employees and contractors be vaccinated against Covid-19, or be required to submit to regular testing and mitigation requirements, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

11:30 a.m. ET, July 28, 2021

Here's what it's like to live in America's most vaccinated state

From CNN's Ray Sanchez

Lisa Pompei and Jean-Elizabeth Shockley lead a swing dance class at the Champlain Club in Burlington, Vermont, on June 20, 2021.
Lisa Pompei and Jean-Elizabeth Shockley lead a swing dance class at the Champlain Club in Burlington, Vermont, on June 20, 2021. Will Lanzoni/CNN

In Vermont, 83.6% of people 12 and over have received at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine, according to health officials.

Throughout the state, hospital Covid-19 units are mostly empty. Bars and restaurants are hopping again. Even in remote rural towns, diners, country stores and campgrounds are filling up.

In comparison to Vermont's 83.6% of one-dose vaccinations, only 66.5% of US citizens have received one dose of the vaccine, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similarly, more than 67% of Vermont's roughly 624,000 residents have been fully vaccinated, compared with about 49% for the US overall.

Vermont also has the "lowest number of deaths on the continental US," according to state health commissioner Dr. Mark Levine. The total: 259 Covid-19 deaths.

The state has maintained one of the country's lowest infection rates as well, currently at 1.7% for a seven-day average, according to the health department's Covid-19 dashboard.

"The whole strategy is, we want a Vermonter to essentially stumble on the vaccine," Levine said of the various vaccine tents around the state. "That's the sort of strategy. We're going to make sure it's all around you ... If there's a state fair, it's got to have vaccine. If there's a farmers' market or a flea market, it's going to have vaccine."

In June and July, the state has had four Covid-19 deaths. Even in the face of the Delta variant, there are six Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the entire state.

Vermont's success in vaccinating its residents is attributed to various factors, including the accessibility of vaccine sites, overall trust in the political leadership and science, an aging, mostly white and liberal populace, and a generally health conscious population with a strong sense of civic responsibility.

"Even if somebody comes into Vermont and has the Delta variant ... and they get sick and they're infectious while they're here in Vermont," Levine said. "If 83-plus% of the population is vaccinated. That variant runs into a wall."

Vermont's state of emergency ended at midnight on June 14, the day that vaccination rates reached 80% of the population over 12 years of age.

"Why? Because it's safe to do so," Gov. Phil Scott said.

Moreover, hospitals in Vermont have not been swamped with patients. Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, a community hospital about 28 miles northeast of Burlington, treated its last Covid-19 patient in early May, according to chief medical officer Dr. John Minadeo.

However, in states such as Florida, Texas and Missouri — which share low vaccination rates accounted for 40% of all cases nationwide — hospitals are filling up with Covid-19 patients again, this time with younger patients than before.

"One really important lesson right now, as I think about what's happening across the country, is the importance of community and solidarity," said Anne Sosin, a policy fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. "And I know that sounds kind of soft but we hear the CDC saying, 'It's in your hands.' This is a very individualistic approach to the pandemic. Yet Vermonters really highlighted the importance of community response and collective action."

Read more about daily life in America's most vaccinated state here.

CNN's Alyssa Kraus contributed to this post.