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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7:22 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

While numbers of breakthrough infections may look high, they're really not, Fauci says

From CNN's Maggie Fox

(White House)
(White House)

The number of people who are fully vaccinated who catch coronavirus anyway may look high, but it really is not, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday.

“The vaccines are doing exactly what we're asking them to do when it comes to keeping you out of the hospital, out of serious disease and certainly preventing your death,” Fauci told a White House Covid-19 Response briefing.

“An important point to bring up is that the greater percentage of people that are vaccinated, even with a high degree of protection, the absolute number of breakthrough infections might appear high. That's not the critical number. The critical number is what is the proportion of the vaccinated, people who in fact, are, are getting breakthrough infections, and that's the critical one,” Fauci added. 

He did not give a number there—the denominator of the fraction. But earlier in the briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did. She noted 346 confirmed breakthrough infections in an outbreak involving Provincetown, Massachusetts – and then noted that tens of thousands of people were likely exposed.

“During the summer, some towns in Barnstable county can have up to 240,000 visitors per month,” Walensky noted.

Some of those people will get infected even if they are vaccinated, Fauci said. “You can expect breakthrough infections,” he said. “Most of these infections are going to be asymptomatic or mild,” he added.

“The bottom line of what we are saying is that … Get vaccinated. I say that every single time.” 

Fauci also repeated details of just how strongly the vaccines reduce risk. 

“Covid vaccines give strong protection against the Delta variant, and it protects you, your family and your community,” he added. “For disease itself, it’s an eight-fold reduction. For hospitalization, 25-fold reduction and for death, 25-fold reduction.”

 

6:23 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Home Depot will require employees to wear masks indoors

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

In this photo, taken October 29, 2020, an employee wears a mask indoors while dusting washers on a display, at a Home Depot location, in Boston.
In this photo, taken October 29, 2020, an employee wears a mask indoors while dusting washers on a display, at a Home Depot location, in Boston. Steven Senne/AP

Home Depot announced on Monday that starting immediately, they will require all associates, contractors, and vendors to wear a mask while inside their stores, distribution centers, office locations, and customers’ homes or businesses, regardless of vaccination status, as a result of the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19, according to a release from the company.

Home Depot stores will also ask customers to wear masks and will continue to offer masks to those who don’t have one, the release said.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our number one concern has been for the health and safety of our customers and associates,” the release said. “Home Depot continues to strongly encourage all associates to get the COVID-19 vaccine and offers free resources to cover childcare, transportation and find an appointment.”
6:11 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Breakthrough infections in Provincetown represented a small share of those possibly exposed, CDC director says

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Foot traffic along Commercial street in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Tuesday, July 20.
Foot traffic along Commercial street in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Tuesday, July 20. Barry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Breakthrough infections recorded during an outbreak of virus in the popular Cade Cod town of Provincetown represented a small percentage of people exposed to the virus, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.

“Last week we published data on an outbreak in Barnstable County Massachusetts, where there were 346 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in people who were fully vaccinated,” Walensky told a White House Covid-19 Response briefing. 

“During the summer, some towns in Barnstable county can have up to 240,000 visitors per month,” Walensky noted.

“Those with breakthrough infections had viral loads that were similar to people who were infected and unvaccinated. This new finding, combined with data from other outbreak investigations and surveillance studies across the country, was critical in our decision to update our guidance for those who are fully vaccinated,” she added.

“Since those data were released, several other studies have been released over just this past weekend that have corroborated these findings. Taken together, the Delta variant is different from prior strains. I understand this is all frustrating news and I share this frustration.”

Walensky did not detail which other studies released over the weekend she was referring to. But she said these details help make clear the Delta variant of coronavirus is different and more transmissible.

“First, the Delta variant is highly contagious. To put this in perspective, if you get sick with the Alpha variant, you could infect about two other unvaccinated people. If you get sick with the Delta variant, we estimate that you could infect about five other unvaccinated people — more than twice as many as the original strain,” Walensky said.

“Second, infections with a Delta variant resulted in higher viral load. This means that those who are infected have a larger burden of virus that they can spread to others. Third, those higher viral loads are seen not just in those who are unvaccinated and infected, but also, and importantly, in the small proportion of those who are vaccinated and become infected.”

5:58 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Federal Covid-19 surge teams are working in 10 states, White House official says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

The federal government is working “directly” with 10 states fighting rising Covid-19 case numbers, White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday.

“Since launching our Covid-19 surge teams, we've been working directly with 10 states to support their efforts to combat rising cases with federal assistance and support,” Zients said in a White House Covid-19 Response Team Briefing. 

“For example in Missouri, CDC experts are on the ground, providing epidemiology, data analysis and other public health support,” Zients said. 

“We're working with states like North Carolina on mobile vaccination clinics, in Tennessee on public health staff, and the administration is doing extensive outreach in states like Wyoming and Arizona to encourage more physicians to use life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments,” he added.

“The bottom line is we're doing everything we can to help more Americans get vaccinated and to help states fight spread in their communities.”
5:56 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

"No more beds left" at Louisiana's largest hospital as Covid-19 cases surge

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Father Don Ajoko, Phd., left, prays for blessings for the healing hands of nearly three dozen healthcare workers from around the country who arrived to help supplement the staff at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, on Monday, August 2.
Father Don Ajoko, Phd., left, prays for blessings for the healing hands of nearly three dozen healthcare workers from around the country who arrived to help supplement the staff at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, on Monday, August 2. Ted Jackson/AP

There are “no more beds left” at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, which is Louisiana's largest hospital, Chief Medical Officer Katy O’Neal said at a news conference Monday.

Currently there are 23 patients waiting for a transfer into the Baton Rouge hospital for an intensive care unit bed.

“We have almost 800 beds, we have 713 people admitted today, and no one diagnosis should take up one quarter of your hospital,” O’Neal said, noting that there are at least 155 Covid-19 patients at the hospital today. “We no longer think we're giving adequate care to anybody, because these are the darkest days of the pandemic.”

“You have people with chest pain sitting in an ER right now, where their families sit in the waiting room and they are wringing their hands and they're calling everybody they know,” O’Neal added. “Because there are no more beds left. Those 23 patients are a glimpse of what we have been doing for the last two weeks while we have been trying to get everybody vaccinated. And it's not helping enough, because it's not happening fast enough.”

 

5:13 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Vaccination rates are improving where they are most needed, White House says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Jeff Zients, White House Covid-19 coordinator, left, wears a protective mask while listening as President Joe Biden speaks on Wednesday, April 21.
Jeff Zients, White House Covid-19 coordinator, left, wears a protective mask while listening as President Joe Biden speaks on Wednesday, April 21. Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Vaccination rates are increasing in states with high case rates, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday.  

“In the states with the highest case rates, daily vaccination rates have more than doubled,” Zients said in a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing. 

“The eight states with the highest current case rates have seen an average increase of 171% in the number of people newly vaccinated, each day over the past three weeks,” he said.

He added: “Louisiana has seen a 302% increase in the average number of newly vaccinated per day, Mississippi 250%, Alabama 215%, and Arkansas 206%.”

Zients said this increase means people are understanding the risks of going unvaccinated.

“This increase in vaccination rates in states that have been lagging is a positive trend. Americans are seeing the risk and impact of being unvaccinated and responding with action. And that's what it's going to take to get us out of this pandemic.”

4:52 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

White House says US reaching goal of 70% of US adults partially vaccinated is "a significant step"

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, on Monday, August 2.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, on Monday, August 2. Susan Walsh/AP

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the White House is still “forging ahead” after meeting its goal to get 70% of US adults with at least one Covid-19 shot about one month late, arguing that the milestone is still a  “significant step.”                                   

When CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked Psaki during the press briefing for President Biden’s reaction to hitting the goal, Psaki said, “It was a goal he set – we set as an administration because we believe in bold, ambitious goals.”

“I would say it’s a significant step that we have hit 70% of people in this country, of adults, who are vaccinated. That’s a good sign. It will help protect communities. It will help protect families and save more lives. But we’ve said from the beginning, even as we set this goal, our work would not be done even when we reached it. And so we’re forging ahead,” she continued.

4:34 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Louisiana expects Covid-19 hospitalizations to reach highest level in pandemic tomorrow, official says

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Louisiana expects Covid-19 hospitalizations to reach its highest level in the pandemic on Tuesday, the state's health officer said.

There were at least 1,984 Covid-19 patients hospitalized throughout the state on Monday, Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said.

“I have every shred of confidence, unless something miraculous happens, that tomorrow we will have the largest number of hospitalized Covid patients throughout Louisiana than at any point prior in the pandemic,” Kanter said.

As of Monday, Louisiana was averaging at 8.2 new Covid-19 cases per day, per 100,000 residents, the highest point it has been in the state at any point in the pandemic, according to Kanter.

The state health officer urged residents to take Gov. John Bel Edwards’ new mask order seriously. 

“We did not come to it lightly,” Kanter said. “If we intend to prioritize the things that are important to us, like keeping our kids back in school and in-person, and maintaining our growing economy by keeping businesses open — masking is the best way to ensure that, so please take this masking order seriously, both in your personal lives, and your professional lives.”

4:20 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

University of Tennessee requiring masks for much of Knoxville campus

From CNN's Dave Alsup

The University of Tennessee issued a mandate Monday requiring indoor mask wearing for faculty and students on much of the Knoxville campus. They'll be required in classrooms, labs and indoor academic events. 

UT issued the following statement: 

“Students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear masks in classrooms and labs, and for indoor academic events required for students such as orientation. We will continually re-evaluate the need for masks based on COVID-19 case counts in our community.
We encourage every member of our campus community—especially those who are unvaccinated—to consider CDC guidance related to mask wearing in other indoor public spaces.
This is not how we wanted to begin this semester—we had hoped for different circumstances. Let’s do the right thing now in hopes of relaxing these requirements when conditions improve.
We plan a full campus experience, with classrooms and residential spaces at capacity. We do not plan to limit dining options or seating but will maintain the ability for students to take meals to go if they choose.”