US Covid-19 cases rise as Delta variant spreads

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

Updated 8:03 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021
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3:01 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

FDA expands authorization for Regeneron's antibody treatment

From CNN's Jen Christensen

The US Food and Drug Administration has expanded the use of Regeneron’s antibody therapy so it could be used as a preventative treatment for certain people who have been exposed to Covid-19, the company said on Friday.

The FDA’s expanded authorization will allow the antibody treatment to be used in people who are not fully vaccinated or are not expected to mount an adequate immune response after they have been exposed to someone who is infectious or for those who are at high risk of exposure to someone with Covid-19 in an institutional setting.

It is not authorized as a substitute for vaccination, the FDA said.

Regeneron’s late-stage trial data showed an 81% reduced risk of symptomatic infections in people who came into close contact with someone with Covid-19. 

Regeneron’s antibody therapy is the only one that is currently authorized to be used both to treat and prevent Covid-19 infections. It was the treatment given to former President Trump when he became infected last year, as well as several other high-profile politicians.

The initial authorization allowed doctors to use the treatment for any patient who is 12 years old or older who tests positive for Covid-19 and is at high risk for severe disease, but is not yet hospitalized.

In May, the US stopped the distribution of Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody treatment since it didn’t seem to be as effective against virus variants.

2:59 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

Some areas of Texas are running short of ICU beds

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

At least one Trauma Service Area (TSA) in Texas had zero intensive care unit beds available on Wednesday, according to the most recent data available on the Texas Department of State Health Services Covid-19 Tests and Hospitals dashboard.

Area N, located around Bryan, Texas which is north of Houston and east of Austin, showed no available ICU beds and 49 available hospital beds on the dashboard.

The dashboard shows Area T, which includes Laredo, had one ICU bed and five available hospital beds left.

At least seven other TSAs had less than ten ICU beds left, the dashboard reports. Those include areas around Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Abilene, Killeen, Waco, Beaumont, and Victoria, according to the dashboard.

2:58 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

AdventHealth Hospital System stops all non-emergency surgeries and procedures

From CNN's Deanna Hackney

AdventHealth Central Florida Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Neil Finkler
AdventHealth Central Florida Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Neil Finkler (AdventHealth)

AdventHealth has elevated its Covid-19 status to "black" due to increased hospitalizations in the Central Florida network. This means that all non-emergency inpatient and outpatient surgeries and procedures will be rescheduled. Time-sensitive pediatric procedures will be carried out with the approval of AdventHealth's chief medical officer. 

Over 90% of the Covid-19 patients currently hospitalized are unvaccinated, AdventHealth Central Florida Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Neil Finkler said at a news conference Friday.

"None of these patients thought they would get the virus, but the Delta variant has proven to be so highly contagious that even the young and the healthy, including pregnant patients, are now starting to fill up our hospitals," he said.

Finkler said that those vaccinated people who end up being hospitalized are there because they have comorbidities that would put them at risk because their immune system is not functioning normally. 

"For the most part, this has really been a tale of two cities," Finkler said. "It's the unvaccinated that are in the hospital. It's by and large the unvaccinated that get ill, it's the unvaccinated that require intubations, as well as further, life-saving support. Those that are in the hospital that are vaccinated, again, we understand for the most part why they're there, because their immune systems aren't normal."

1:53 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

WHO in "very positive" discussions on next stage of the Covid-19 origins investigation, including with China

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

World Health Organization Health Emergencies Program Director Michael Ryan talks during a daily press briefing on Covid-19, at the WHO heardquarters in Geneva on March 11, 2020.
World Health Organization Health Emergencies Program Director Michael Ryan talks during a daily press briefing on Covid-19, at the WHO heardquarters in Geneva on March 11, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization is in “very positive” discussions with countries – including China – on the direction of the next phase of its investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, Dr. Mike Ryan, director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said on Friday. 

“I think we're (in) very positive consultations now with a large number of member states, including our colleagues in China, to look at what we need to move forward next,” Ryan said at a WHO news briefing.

Following the Phase 1 report on the mission, “Many, many studies were proposed going forward, and we do know our Chinese colleagues are implementing some, if not all, of those studies at the moment,” he said.

“We’re expecting all countries, all member states of WHO, to cooperate and support this process. And I suspect that we will get that cooperation.”

Ryan specifically warned against a “politicized” investigation.

“The one consistent thing we've heard from all countries has been, ‘Let's not politicize the science,’ and the next thing that happens is the science is politicized,” Ryan said. “We want to reassure our colleagues in China that this process is still, and is, and has always been, driven by science,” he continued.  

“We have stuck to the principles of the process of this from the very beginning, we've not ceded to pressures on one side or the other. The (director-general) has tried to steer at a path that has been driven by science, by evidence, taking no sides, and trying to reach the objectives that we all want,” Ryan added.

2:10 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

CNN's Sanjay Gupta says CDC study shows Delta variant is "really contagious," but vaccines work

CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta broke down the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new study about the Delta Covid-19 variant spread— and what its findings could mean for vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans across the country.

"The idea that people who were vaccinated still were far less likely to develop severe symptoms, hospitalizations, deaths, all the things that we've talked about since the vaccines were first authorized, remain true. The vaccines work, in that regard, but the idea that someone [who is vaccinated] could test positive and still develop enough virus in their nose and mouth to transmit is really what this data is showing," Gupta told CNN's Ana Cabrera following the release of the study. 

The study, published by CDC Friday, describes 469 Massachusetts residents who were infected in a July outbreak in Barnstable County, which includes the summer vacation destination Provincetown. No deaths were reported among them.

About 74% — or 346 cases —had been fully vaccinated. Of those cases, 79% reported symptoms. Genetically sequenced cases revealed the Delta variant as the main culprit.

"I still want to reiterate just how effective the vaccines can be at doing the things that people I think looked for them to do the most. Prevent severe hospitalization and death. But it is clear that this Delta variant is far more transmissible and as a result of that, probably even vaccinated people are transmitting this at a higher rate than we thought," Gupta said.

In terms of what comes next, Gupta said this study will likely spark new questions about preventative measures, including masking and when Americans may need a booster shot.

"They're saying this is really, really contagious. So even if there's not a lot of viral transmission now, it's likely to increase, because of the contagiousness of this and also because we're going into cooler and dryer weather where we know virus tend to transmit more easily anyway," Gupta said. "So, I think there's going to be some changes that come about here, with regard to those recommendations, both on boosters and masking, you know, throughout the country."

On Tuesday, Walensky previewed these findings while unveiling guidance that people in areas with "high" or "substantial" Covid-19 transmission should resume wearing masks indoors. Over 75% of the US population live in these areas.

Here's a look at some of the key findings of the study:

Read more about the CDC study here.

CNN's Michael Nedelman contributed reporting to this post.

1:16 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

CDC report shows 90% of vaccine side effects in adolescents are non-serious

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Registered nurse Sue Dillon explains the vaccination process to a student before administering a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a three-day vaccination clinic on July 29, in Wilmington, California.
Registered nurse Sue Dillon explains the vaccination process to a student before administering a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a three-day vaccination clinic on July 29, in Wilmington, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Among millions of adolescents who have received the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, new data show that most of those who have reported side effects experienced non-serious conditions – and the heart condition myocarditis was listed among 4.3% of all reports. 

Data published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that among 8.9 million adolescents vaccinated between December and July, reports of adverse events were received for about 1 per 1,000 vaccines. 

Overall, 8,383 or 90.7% of reports were for non-serious events and 9.3% were for serious events, including death. No reports of death were determined to be the result of myocarditis.

Among the rare serious reports only, the most common were: chest pain at 56.4%; increased troponin, which can indicate a problem with the heart, at 41.7%; and myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, at 40.3%, according to the report.

Some more background: Beginning in June, reported cases of myocarditis emerged among young people after receiving the vaccine, primarily among boys. Later that month, the US Food and Drug Administration added a warning to the fact sheets for the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccines.

CDC researchers wrote in the new data that, as of July 16, the federal government's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, received 9,246 reports among 12- to 17-year-olds after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, out of about 8.9 million adolescents vaccinated. The VAERS surveillance system relies on people to submit reports and might not be generalizable to the overall vaccinated population. Common conditions reported were dizziness, temporary loss of consciousness and headache.

"The findings summarized in this report are consistent with the safety data observed in preauthorization trials for Pfizer- BioNTech after vaccination among persons aged 12–25 years, with the exception of myocarditis, a serious adverse event detected in postauthorization safety monitoring," CDC researchers wrote in the report.

"Local and systemic reactions after vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were commonly reported by adolescents aged 12–17 years to U.S. vaccine safety monitoring systems, especially after dose 2," the researchers wrote. "A small proportion of these reactions are consistent with myocarditis."

1:14 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

CDC shares "pivotal discovery" on Covid-19 breakthrough infections that led to new mask guidance

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

A woman wears a mask in Midtown Manhattan in New York on July 29.
A woman wears a mask in Midtown Manhattan in New York on July 29. Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

A new study shows the Delta coronavirus variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected – illustrating a key motivation behind the federal guidance that now recommends most fully vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors.

Experts say that vaccination makes it less likely that you'll catch Covid-19 in the first place – but for those who do, this data suggests they could have a similar tendency to spread it as unvaccinated people.

"High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement Friday.

The study, published by CDC Friday, describes 469 Massachusetts residents who were infected in a July outbreak in Barnstable County, which includes the summer vacation destination Provincetown. No deaths were reported among them. 

About 74% — or 346 cases — had been fully vaccinated. Of those cases, 79% reported symptoms. Genetically sequenced cases revealed the Delta variant as the main culprit.

The researchers found evidence that viral loads were similar among 127 fully vaccinated people and 84 others who were unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown. Viral load is a proxy for how likely someone might be to transmit the virus to others.

The finding that the Delta variant resulted in similar viral loads "was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC's updated mask recommendation," Walensky said Friday.

On Tuesday, Walensky previewed these findings while unveiling guidance that people in areas with "high" or "substantial" Covid-19 transmission should resume wearing masks indoors. More than 75% of the US population live in these areas.

Although these findings motivated CDC to update its guidance, the study notes that Barnstable County was not one of those areas until the outbreak. Between July 3 and 17, daily new cases rose from a 14-day average of 0 to 177 cases per 100,000 residents.

The study suggests that "even jurisdictions without substantial or high COVID-19 transmission might consider expanding prevention strategies, including masking in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status."

CNN previously reported on the outbreak connected to Provincetown. In total, at least 882 cases have been linked to the cluster so far – about 60% of whom were Massachusetts residents, according to local officials.

A source familiar with the CDC's decision to update its recommendations previously told CNN that, in addition to the viral load findings, the overall prevalence of Delta and lower-than-hoped vaccine uptake played key roles in the latest iteration of the guidance.

12:49 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

A CDC document warns the Delta variant appears to spread like chickenpox. Here's what that looks like. 

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc, Maggie Fox and Elizabeth Cohen

The Delta coronavirus variant surging across the United States appears to cause more severe illness and spread as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal document from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The document — a slide presentation — outlines unpublished data that shows fully vaccinated people might spread the Delta variant at the same rate as unvaccinated people.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky confirmed the authenticity of the document, which was first reported by The Washington Post.

The CDC is scheduled to publish data today that will back Walensky's controversial decision to change guidance for fully vaccinated people. 

The Delta variant's comparison to the chickenpox has prompted questions about how easily it can spread within a group of people.

Here's a look at how the Delta variant's spread compares to the early Covid-19 strain, according the CDC:

12:37 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

The latest data on the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, in 3 charts

As the Delta variant continues to spread in the US, 49 states are seeing a surge in cases. Some experts say stricter vaccine mandates may be the best way to prevent a full downward spiral.

Cases and hospitalizations are climbing across much of the US, although numbers are not anywhere near the peaks the country say in January. Deaths have also increased in parts of the country following steady declines.

Here's a look at how Covid-19 data has progressed since the start of the pandemic in the US: