August 2, 2021 US coronavirus news

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT) August 3, 2021
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9:38 a.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Less than 1% of fully vaccinated people experience a breakthrough Covid-19 infection, analysis finds

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Less than 1% of fully vaccinated people experienced a breakthrough infection, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of official state data.

The federal government only reports data on breakthrough infections that result in hospitalization or death.

According to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 0.004% of people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 experienced a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization, and less than 0.001% have died from the disease. That’s about 6,600 severe breakthrough cases out of more than 163 million fully vaccinated people.

But the KFF analysis shows that breakthrough infections of any kind are also extremely rare.

About half of states report data on Covid-19 breakthrough cases, and in each of those states, less than 1% of fully vaccinated people had a breakthrough infection, ranging from 0.01% in Connecticut to 0.9% in Oklahoma.

Also, more than 90% of cases – and more than 95% of hospitalizations and deaths – have been among unvaccinated people, according to the KFF analysis. In most states, more than 98% of cases were among the unvaccinated. 

9:20 a.m. ET, August 2, 2021

NYC mayor expected to encourage more mask wearing — but won't issue a mandate

From CNN's Sonia Moghe

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to issue guidance encouraging more mask wearing, but will stop short of issuing a mandate, according to a source familiar with the plan. 

The mayor has a regularly scheduled briefing today at 10 a.m. ET.

Asked by CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Friday why he was waiting until Monday to make an announcement determining whether NYC will adopt or recommend the new CDC indoor mask guidance, de Blasio said “first of all the whole ball game is vaccination.” He told CNN that any mask approach should not cause the city to lose focus on its vaccination effort.

All five boroughs in NYC fall within the threshold for updated CDC mask guidance. The agency updated its mask guidance to recommend vaccinated people wear masks indoors when they're in areas with "substantial" or "high" Covid-19 transmission to prevent further spread of that variant. 

9:36 a.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Covid-19 vaccinations continue to rise in the US. Here's a look at the latest numbers across the country. 

From CNN's Nadia Kounang and Dakin Andone,

The rate of Covid-19 vaccinations in the United States continues to rise, a positive sign amid skyrocketing cases and hospitalizations after weeks of lagging inoculations.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, hopes the recent surge in cases driven by the Delta variant is changing the minds of the vaccine hesitant, he told CNN's Jake Tapper Sunday. Collins noted that in the last two weeks, vaccination rates have increased 56% nationally.

"This may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant to say, 'OK, it's time,'" Collins said. "I hope that's what's happening. That's what desperately needs to happen if we're going to get this Delta variant put back in its place."

Here a look at the latest US vaccination numbers, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • On Sunday, the US reported 816,203 more doses administered – the fifth straight day recording more than 700,000 shots in arms.
  • The current seven-day average of doses administered is 662,529 per day – the highest average since July 7.
  • According to the CDC, 49.6%, of the US population is fully vaccinated. The number is 58.1% among vaccine-eligible Americans, 12 and older.
  • Twenty states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents. They include: Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C.
  • The two states with the lowest percentage of population vaccinated are Alabama, at 34% and Mississippi, at 35%.

You can track Covid-19 vaccinations in the US here.

8:59 a.m. ET, August 2, 2021

White House makes renewed push to make Covid-19 the focus of President Biden's schedule

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

The White House is making a concerted effort to return the focus of President Biden’s schedule to the Covid-19 pandemic this week, adding multiple events focused on the nationwide and global effort to vaccinate more people and combat the spread of variants.

When he returns from Camp David today, the President will meet with his coronavirus team in the Oval Office before that same team briefs reporters later today at 4:00 p.m. ET. Though these briefings used to be held three times a week, they had been scaled back dramatically in recent weeks.

Administration officials have defended the lack of Covid-19 briefings by pointing to public remarks by Biden and television appearances by his top public health officials. Those officials kept Biden updated on the latest numbers while he was away from Washington this weekend. 

Then on Tuesday, Biden is scheduled to give a speech on increasing vaccinations at home and abroad. The White House sees the global vaccination drive as more important than ever, one official said, given it is a way to tamp down on the spread of potential new variants that could reach the US. 

On Wednesday, Biden will meet with the Dr. Eric Lander, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to discuss his plan for preparing for future pandemics.

There’s a chance the White House could add another coronavirus-related event to Biden’s schedule, depending on how the week plays out.

8:35 a.m. ET, August 2, 2021

How Georgia schools are preparing for students' return to classrooms as Covid-19 cases rise

From CNN's Dakin Andone

As the Peach State resumes classes in the coming days and weeks, it could offer a glimpse at what back-to-school will look like for a country reeling from a summer surge of Covid-19 spurred by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

With 181 school districts, the first day of school varies throughout Georgia. But some of the state's largest districts go back this week, particularly in the Atlanta metro area.

DeKalb County, which includes part of Atlanta, begins Monday, as do Cobb and Clayton counties to the northwest and south. Atlanta Public Schools students begin the year Thursday, and Gwinnett County Schools — the state's largest district — will start Wednesday, but have grades alternating between in-person and remote learning Wednesday, Thursday and next Monday.

Like much of the country, Georgia is seeing Covid-19 infections climb. As of Friday, the seven-day moving average of new daily cases was more than 3,000 cases reported per day for the first time since early March, according to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Georgia's Department of Public Health said Friday the case rate had increased 204% over the prior 14-day period, while hospitalizations had jumped about 50% and deaths about 18% in the same period.

Here's a look at some measures Georgia schools are implementing as they prepare to welcome students again:

  • In Cobb County, there will be social distancing in classrooms when possible, per the district's website, but masks are optional for students and staff.
  • Masks are recommended but optional in Fulton County Schools, where students start August 9.
  • Atlanta Public Schools will require masks for all students and teachers, along with other prevention strategies like physical distancing when feasible, as will Dekalb County and Gwinnett County. The latter previously said masks would be optional, but the district shifted its stance last week, citing CDC guidance, the "rise in COVID-19 cases" in the county and young students' ineligibility for a vaccine.

Some Gwinnett County parents, however, opposed the decision and protested at the district's office on Friday, CNN affiliate WSB-TV reported. One participant held a sign that read, "Masks hurt children more than Covid ever will," video showed.

Read more about how Georgia schools are preparing here.

8:26 a.m. ET, August 2, 2021

The best way to protect children is to get more eligible people vaccinated, NIH director says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said the best way to protect children against Covid-19 is for more people who are eligible to get vaccinated. 

“Well, it is very true that Delta seems capable of not just giving severe illness to older people, but also to adolescents and even children,” Collins told ABC’s Good Morning America Monday when asked about children getting more seriously ill. “Another reason, I think, why we really have to push forward as much as we can with getting vaccination rates up.” 

He said that he was encouraged by increases in vaccinations over the last two weeks, especially in places such as Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida, which are being hit hard by Delta. 

According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 432,399 people are initiating vaccination each day, a 24% increase over last week when there were just about 100,000 new vaccinations each day.

“We need to push that,” he said. “If you’re really worried about the kids, well let’s get the people who can be vaccinated at a higher rate, we’ve got a long way to go in some of those communities to get to the point where people are protected.” 
8:20 a.m. ET, August 2, 2021

There currently isn’t evidence that the US needs to proceed with Covid-19 booster shots, NIH director says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said there is currently no evidence that the United States needs to go ahead with booster shots, although this is something that is being looked at almost daily. 

“Well, we’re certainly looking at it almost daily,” Collins said on ABC’s Good Morning America Monday when asked if the need for booster shots are inevitable in the US. “As you heard, FDA oversees this and the data is gathering both from the US and from what we’ve learned from places like Israel and the UK.” 

“I would say right now, there is not evidence that we need to go ahead with boosters in the United States, but that’s an ongoing debate,” he said. “Let me just be clear, though, that actually the existing approved vaccines in the US, Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, do have high effectiveness against Delta. There is no reason to rush forward at this present time for a booster decision, but we’re going to watch that day by day.” 

Asked what the harm was in moving forward, Collins said that they just want to do the thing that’s going to be most helpful for people and also recognize that there’s a worldwide shortage of vaccines and countries still desperate to get access.

“If the United States, with its large population, decides we need a whole other bunch of vaccines for our country, that means those are not going to be able to go somewhere else,” he said. “We will do that if that’s what’s necessary to protect Americans. At the present time though, the data doesn’t convince us that it’s time to go forward.”