August 4, 2021 US coronavirus news

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT) August 5, 2021
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10:07 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Trump getting vaccinated on television could have helped, former Covid-19 testing czar says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Admiral Brett Giroir on August 4, 2021.
Admiral Brett Giroir on August 4, 2021. CNN

Admiral Brett Giroir, former coronavirus testing czar under President Trump, told CNN that former President Donald Trump getting vaccinated on television could have helped the vaccination effort. 

Trump has a “very large and loyal followership,” Giroir said on New Day Wednesday, adding that anything Trump did or can do, including getting vaccinated on television, could be important. 

“I get very nervous about, even a President, during medical procedures, doing that in public, I think we need to respect some of that privacy,” Giroir said. “But yes, I think President Trump has come out in favor of vaccines, anything he could do to support that would be very well received and important at this critical time.” 

Asked again by Berman whether Trump getting his Covid-19 shot on television could have made a difference, Giroir said “I think I answered the question and that is yes, anything President Trump could have done or can do could be important and I think it might have been helpful. But you know, these are personal medical decisions, and you remember the time, it was quite a divisive time, so it’s hard to go back and turn those pages.”  

Giroir said he believes “we did try to do everything we could on vaccine hesitancy, and we often did not get the cooperation of national media when we did that.” 

On Tuesday, Alex Azar, former US Secretary of Health and Human Services under Trump, penned an opinion essay in the New York Times, writing “I’m glad former President Trump got vaccinated, but it would have been even better for him to have done so on national television so that his supporters could see how much trust and confidence he has in what is arguably one of his greatest accomplishments.” 

In the interview on New Day, Giroir said all US presidents, current and former, need to set the best example they can when it comes to the coronavirus.

“Obviously, President Obama is an important national leader, and we really need all our presidents, current and former, to set as best of an example as possible,” Giroir said, when asked about former president Obama’s decision to scale back his birthday celebrations. “Our hospitalizations and cases are higher this year than they were last year at this time, which is almost hard to believe, but the Delta variant is serious. And if President Obama is scaling back, I think that’s an important message and very good leadership for the country.” 
9:20 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Florida Covid-19 hospitalizations up 13% from previous peak in July 2020

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos 

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations are up 13% from Florida’s previous peak on July 23, 2020, according to the Florida Hospital Association. FHA said they expect 60% of hospitals in the state to face a “critical staffing shortage” in the next 7 days.

According to a press release Tuesday, there are currently 11,515 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in the Sunshine State. FHA reports 84% of all in patients beds and 86.5% of ICU beds are currently occupied. 

According to FHA, of those hospitalized with Covid-19, 21% are in the ICU and 13% are on ventilators. 

“Current hospitalizations and the growth rate continue to be extremely troubling,” Mary C. Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association, said in the statement. “But vaccines work! The fact that less than 3% of current hospitalizations arrived from nursing homes and long-term care facilities shows the state’s focus on vaccinating and protecting Florida’s seniors and most vulnerable has worked.”

Data released by FHA Tuesday is from a survey of hospitals completed August 2 and represents 82% of Florida’s acute care hospitals. Statewide data is taken from the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

9:35 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Delta variant now accounts for more than 93% of Covid-19 cases in the US

From CNN’s Michael Nedelman

A health care worker prepares a Covid-19 test in Los Angeles on July 29, 2021.
A health care worker prepares a Covid-19 test in Los Angeles on July 29, 2021. Eric Thayer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Delta variant now accounts for an estimated 93.4% of coronavirus circulating in the United States, according to figures published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This includes several sub-lineages of Delta, all of which are classified as variants of concern. Together, they made up about 93.4% of cases during the last two weeks of July.

This number is even higher in certain parts of the country, including the region that includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, where Delta accounts for more than 98% of circulating virus.

These figures have shown a rapid increase over the past two months. In the two weeks ending May 22, for example, Delta's prevalence was estimated around 3%.

At that same time in May, another variant first identified in the UK – Alpha, or B.1.1.7 – was the dominant one in the US, causing 69% of cases. Now, CDC's most recent estimates put that variant at just under 3%.

9:21 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Students are going back to school soon. Here's how campuses should respond to a possible Covid-19 outbreak.

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

An elementary school classroom is set up in Buxton, Maine, on June 4, 2021.
An elementary school classroom is set up in Buxton, Maine, on June 4, 2021. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

Getting children back in classrooms has been a top priority for the United States – but if a coronavirus outbreak were to happen within a school, how should schools respond?

Institutions must respond quickly – with contact tracing, testing, the quarantining of people who were exposed to the virus and the isolation of people with infections, Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told CNN.

“The first thing that would happen – or one of the very first things – is that you would notify the health department,” Schaffner, who is not associated with the Drew Charter School, said about a potential outbreak.

“They likely would do a fair amount of testing,” Schaffner said.

“The larger community would find out what was going on, and that there was a response to provide some reassurance in that regard,” he said. “And in this context, a local health department may actually get some help from the state health department – send in personnel and other health department folks who could help with the testing, or perform the testing.”

Overall, testing would play a big role in responding to an outbreak – as well as local health departments.

Some schools may turn to certain resources – such as the online tool, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health’s RADx Tech program – to help with implementing an effective Covid-19 testing program for their institution to either prevent or respond to an outbreak.

At Drew Charter School in Atlanta, five Covid-19 cases were detected before the start of the school year on Tuesday following the testing of about 1,900 students and staff, according to Peter McKnight, the head of the school. All staff and employees are tested weekly, and students are highly encouraged to also participate in weekly testing through the school.

“The best way to contain outbreaks that do occur in schools is to detect them early so that you can stop the outbreak before it becomes widespread. The goal is to prevent disease with the least disruption to education,” Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah, wrote in an email to CNN.

If an outbreak is confined to a classroom or team, people who had “significant exposure” initially may quarantine but “that does not necessarily include everyone if masks are worn at all times and there is adequate distancing which limits exposure,” Pavia wrote.

Whether masks and other mitigation measures are required or enforced in schools varies across states and school districts. At Drew Charter in Atlanta, for instance, all staff and students are required to use their masks at all times, except when eating or drinking.

However, again, rules can vary across districts.

Read more about schools and what the CDC advises here.

9:18 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Covid-19 positivity rate in kids has risen "significantly" in 6 weeks, Louisiana doctor says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Dr. Katherine Baumgarten on August 4, 2021.
Dr. Katherine Baumgarten on August 4, 2021. CNN

Louisiana physician Dr. Katherine Baumgarten said the positivity rate of Covid-19 in kids has increased "significantly" in her community.

"Our rates of positivity in our children has gone up significantly from less than 2% in our 0-to-19-year-olds about six weeks ago to now 23% positivity rate in our kids in the community in just six weeks time," Baumgarten, medical director of infection control and prevention at Ochsner Health, said on CNN's "New Day."

She said the state is seeing a rise in kids who are hospitalized.

"Our hospital has seen a slight increase in the number of kids in our units and in our hospitals, but across our state we are seeing increased numbers of children in the hospital. We had a 19-year-old that died here two weeks ago despite everything that we did. And that's disheartening. It's heartbreaking. No one should die from Covid at this point, especially not our kids," Baumgarten said.

Baumgarten also said the medical staff is feeling stretched due to the sharp increase in patients.

"We are filling wards. We've opened additional ICUs, additional hospital wards, over five over the past four weeks to take care of our Covid patients at this point. We went from less than 100 patients across our system about six weeks ago to now over 800 patients across our system that are sick with Covid," she said, with the vast majority being unvaccinated.


8:54 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

US Covid-19 cases in children and teens jumped 84% in a week, pediatrician group says

From CNN's Jen Christensen and Theresa Waldrop

Almost 72,000 children and teens caught Covid-19 last week – a “substantial” increase from a week earlier, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday.

The group counted 71,726 new cases from July 22 to 29. That is a “substantial” increase from the nearly 39,000 cases reported a week before, and five times as many kids who were sick at the end of June. The definition of a child varies by state but generally includes those up to age 17 or 18.

After decreases in reported cases over the past couple of months, the July numbers started trending upward again as the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus became dominant in the country.

“That’s high and considering the fact that we are vaccinated now, what that’s telling us is that unvaccinated people are getting infected in higher numbers because the virus is more infectious with the Delta variant,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chief of the division of infectious diseases in the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford Medicine and chair of the AAP committee on infectious diseases.

Nearly 4.2 million kids have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. Children and teens represented 19% of reported cases in the latest weekly data.

The report comes as schools have just started or will soon start, with some requiring no masks or social distancing, and as cases in many parts of the country are surging and hospitalizations at levels not seen in months.

At one Georgia school, more than 100 students were in quarantine after nine students and five staff members tested positive for Covid-19 just days after the first day back.

Children under 12 years old are not eligible for any of the three vaccines currently used in the United States, and the fast-spreading Delta variant has put them especially at risk, health experts say.

Vaccines are being tested now in children as young as 6 months, but they probably won’t be available for children younger than 12 for several more months.

“Our sense is because kids can’t get vaccinated, parents should clearly be vaccinated themselves, and if their kids are 12 and older they should be vaccinated as well,” Maldonado said.

Leaders around the country are taking various approaches to keep children safe, from Utah Gov. Spencer Cox saying the state will give away KN-95 masks to children, to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson calling on the state’s legislature to amend a law in order to give school districts the flexibility to require masks.

The academy, which represents pediatricians, pointed out that severe illness still appears to be rare among children. The number of hospitalizations has remained steady through much of the pandemic. Children accounted for 1.3%-3.5% of the hospitalizations, depending on the state.

Seven states have reported no child deaths from Covid-19 during the pandemic. As of Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 526 deaths among children ages 0 to 17.

Among the some 25 million US children between 12 and 17 years old, about 10.9 million have been vaccinated with at least one dose of vaccine, according to CDC data.

CNN’s Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.

8:40 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Global number of Covid-19 cases will exceed 200 million cases next week, WHO says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

New global Covid-19 cases have been increasing for more than a month and the world is on track to hit more than 200 million cases next week, according to the weekly epidemiological report published Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

More than 4 million cases were reported in the last week, and the increasing trend is largely attributed to substantial increases in the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific regions, the WHO update says.  

The Eastern Mediterranean region reported a 37% increase compared with the week before, and the Western Pacific region at 33% increase. There was a 9% increase in the South-East Asia region and the three other WHO regions, the Americas, Africa and Europe, reported similar weekly case incidence or a slight decrease compared to the previous week.  

The cumulative number of globally reported cases is now nearly 197 million.

The highest numbers of new cases in the past week were reported by the US, India, Indonesia, Brazil and the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

The global number of deaths decreased by 8% compared with the previous week, with more than 64,000 deaths reported, however it differed between regions. 

The Western Pacific and Eastern Mediterranean regions both reported “a sharp increase” in new deaths compared to the week before, with 48% and 31% increases respectively. The region of the Americas, however, reported a 29% decrease.

Cumulative global deaths now reach 4.2 million. 

The Alpha variant has now been reported in 182 countries. The Beta variant has been reported in 132 countries, and the Gamma variant in 81 countries, both of these variants were reported in one new country in the past week. The Delta variant has now been reported in 135 countries, with three new countries reporting in the past week. 

9:24 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

It could be February before all eligible Americans get at least 1 Covid-19 vaccine dose, analysis shows

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

A health care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Boston on June 17, 2021.
A health care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Boston on June 17, 2021. Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg/Getty Images

At the current pace of vaccinations, it will take until mid-February to get at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine to all eligible Americans, according to a CNN analysis of data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 90 million eligible people in the US are still unvaccinated. And though the seven-day average of people initiating vaccination each day is the highest it has been since July 4 at 446,300, many experts say the US is still not where it needs to be to get the pandemic – and the rapidly spreading Delta variant – under control.

With less than half of the population fully vaccinated, cases have surged again, causing serious illness.

On Tuesday, for the first time since February, more than 50,000 hospital beds across the country were occupied by Covid-19 patients, according to new data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. That number is more than triple what it was a month ago.

“We are not crying wolf here. This surge that we’re going through right now has every potential to be – and already looks to be – the worst surge we’ve faced so far,” former US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said during a live online interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday he would like the US to be at upwards of one million vaccinations per day to close the vaccination gap.

“We may get there when mandates come, but it can’t be 250,000, 500,000 a day, otherwise it’s going to go well into the winter. I want to get there sooner,” Fauci said.

With the spread of the Delta variant, it might not be possible to stop the spread of coronavirus completely, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said Tuesday.

“But we could still get to a place where this becomes a nuisance instead of a threat to your life.”

Although experts have said data so far does not indicate a need for the general population to get vaccines boosters, Fauci said there is an effort underway to get them for immunocompromised people.

Some conditions – including autoimmune diseases, transplants and cancer treated with chemotherapy – compromise people’s immune systems.

“Those individuals we know almost invariably do not have an adequate response, so the need to give them an additional boost is much more emergent than the general population,” Fauci said during a virtual event hosted by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Tuesday.

Vaccine advisers to the CDC have met to discuss whether immunocompromised people may need additional protection from a vaccine booster but have not yet presented a formal recommendation or voted on guidance.

“We are trying very hard to get the regulatory mechanism in place very soon to get those individuals a boost that might bring up their immunity to the level where it should be, if possible,” Fauci said.

During a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies Tuesday, Fauci said it’s “very likely” Covid-19 variants evolved in the bodies of those who are immunosuppressed.

People with immune suppression may be unable to fight off Covid-19 infections for weeks or even months, meaning the virus has plenty of time to evolve and change.

“Variants, we all know, have emerged because of the pressure that the human immune system has put on the virus, very likely from people who are immunosuppressed … and had virus in them for days and days and days before they cleared it and/or died, and then essentially led to the emergence of a variant,” Fauci said.