The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic after FDA approves first vaccine

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

Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT) August 25, 2021
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2:23 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Daily Covid-19 deaths in Florida reach record high, data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Florida reported a record high number of Covid-19 deaths last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

There was an average of about 212 Covid-19 deaths reported in Florida each day last week – about 15% higher than the previous record high of about 185 deaths per day on Jan. 28.

About one in five Covid-19 deaths reported in the United States last week were in Florida, JHU data shows.

Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida are also the highest they’ve ever been.

Florida broke its January record for daily cases about two weeks ago, and they’ve grown each week since. Now, the state is averaging about 21,534 new cases each day. Florida’s per capita case rate – about 100 new cases per 100,000 residents each day – is the third highest in the country and more than double the national rate.

Florida has the highest per capita hospitalization rate in the country, and more than 17,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 in the state, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. That’s about 5,000 more people hospitalized than last July when hospitalizations had last hit a peak in Florida.

In June, Florida scaled back to report Covid-19 data weekly. The latest data was published Friday, reflecting data from Aug. 13 through Aug. 19.

1:19 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

More than 14,000 Covid-19 cases and nearly 30,000 quarantined in Florida's largest school districts

From CNN's Mallory Simon and Elizabeth Stuart

At least 11,851 students and 2,610 employees have tested positive for Covid-19 throughout the 15 largest school districts in Florida since the start of school, according to a CNN analysis.  

That's more than 14,461 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the school districts started keeping track of cases for the 2021-22 school year.

The data compiled by CNN comes from Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Duval, Pinellas, Polk, Lee, Brevard, Pasco, Seminole, Osceola, Volusia and Manatee school districts.

An additional 724 people have tested positive in the Seminole school district, which didn't separate student and staff Covid-19 cases.

At least another 29,801 students and staff members have been quarantined or put on "stay home" directives due to possible exposure to Covid-19. 

Several school districts in Florida have not provided details about the number of students and employees in quarantine or isolation

Some more context: Eight counties have defied Gov. Ron DeSantis by introducing mask mandates for schools as Covid-19 cases have grown. Orange County, Pinellas County and Monroe School Boards have meetings scheduled today where mask mandates are expected to come up for discussion.

2:47 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Physicians' group pushes for Covid-19 vaccine mandates 

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A nurse reaches for a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a pop up vaccine clinic in Los Angeles on August 23.
A nurse reaches for a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a pop up vaccine clinic in Los Angeles on August 23. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

The American Medical Association is urging the public and private sectors to adopt vaccine mandates, especially now that the US Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

For months, physicians have advocated for people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, and states have even offered numerous incentives – such as million-dollar lotteries, free tuition and cash prizes, Dr. Gerald Harmon, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement on Tuesday. 

"But these incentives have not gotten us where we need to be. With the highly transmissible and more virulent Delta variant wreaking havoc and emergency departments once again overwhelmed, physicians and all frontline health care workers need help," he said.

"The only way to regain the upper hand in this fight is requiring vaccinations—specifically vaccine mandates," he added. "The simple fact is unless a significant percentage of our population is vaccinated against COVID-19—we could be stuck fighting this virus for many more months or years to come. Now is the time for the public and private sectors to come together, listen to the science, and mandate vaccination.”

Vaccine mandates have been used to battle polio, measles and other preventable diseases, the AMA said.

"Physicians and frontline health care workers have taken tremendous risks during this pandemic, and we continue today risking our own safety and well-being—putting our families at risk—largely to treat unvaccinated people afflicted with COVID-19. Help us win this fight, follow science, and end this pandemic by mandating vaccination,” Harmon said.

11:41 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

LSU to require proof of vaccination or negative PCR test to enter football stadium

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

In this October 12, 2019 file photo, LSU fans are seeing during a game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In this October 12, 2019 file photo, LSU fans are seeing during a game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Marianna Massey/Getty Images)

Louisiana State University announced Tuesday that it will require all guests at Tiger Stadium who are 12 and older to provide either proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of entering the venue. 

The university cited “the significant threat presented by COVID-19 across the state of Louisiana due to the highly transmissible Delta variant” as the reason behind the latest requirements. 

“As the flagship institution of the state of Louisiana, our foremost responsibility is to ensure the safety of our students, our supporters, and our community,” LSU President William F. Tate IV said in a statement Tuesday. “While we are aware of the diverse perspectives across the nation regarding masks and vaccinations, we must take all reasonable measures to protect our campus and community, not only on gamedays, but long after guests have left Tiger Stadium. The current threat to our lives, our health, and to our medical systems due to COVID-19 is overburdening our hospitals, and we must do our part to stop the spread.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards tweeted his thanks to the university "for helping keep fans safe in Tiger Stadium this year. You still have time to Geaux Get Vaccinated before kickoff!"

The policy will be in effect beginning on September 11.

LSU said a vaccination card, a photo or photocopy of a vaccination card, or verified digital proof of vaccination, including LA Wallet or another government-sanctioned mobile app, will be accepted as proof of vaccination status. The university will allow individuals inside who have only had one dose, the statement says. 

10:20 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Top health officials anticipate vaccine will be available for kids under 12 by end of the year 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Brandon Rivera, a Los Angeles County emergency medical technician, gives a second does of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a teenager at a pop up vaccine clinic in Los Angeles on August 23.
Brandon Rivera, a Los Angeles County emergency medical technician, gives a second does of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a teenager at a pop up vaccine clinic in Los Angeles on August 23. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said it’s possible that the process for authorizing a Covid-19 vaccine for younger children could be completed by the end of the calendar year.   

The US Food and Drug Administration will work “incredibly hard” to review the data on children as soon as they have it from the companies, he told CNN on Tuesday.

“I think it’s possible that we might see that process complete by the end of the calendar year, which would be wonderful for kids like mine and many kids out there who can’t get vaccinated,” Murthy said. 

“Until then, Brianna, there is something really important we can do to protect our children,” he said. “And that’s to make sure that the people around them are vaccinated.”

Also on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, both suggested that vaccines for younger children could come by the end of this year. 

On NBC’s Today Show, Fauci said “I think there’s a reasonable chance that that will be the case,” when asked about the likelihood that under 12s could get the vaccine before the Christmas holidays.  

Pfizer and Moderna are working with the NIH clinical trials group and to get data on the safety, the correct dose and the immunogenicity of their vaccines. This data will be given to the FDA ultimately for them to review.

“I hope all of that process will take place expeditiously,” he said. “And that we will have it on the timetable that you just mentioned, hopefully, by the mid late fall and early winter.” 

On ABC’s Good Morning America, Collins said that he thinks realistically, approval for vaccines for people under the age of 12 will come late this year.  

“Pfizer has not submitted their data to the FDA on five to 11-year-olds, that’s expected maybe by late September,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “Keep in mind, kids are not just scaled down adults, they have different immune systems and metabolism, you really have to do the careful trials to make sure you got the dose right and there aren’t any surprises."

9:42 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine is a milestone in US vaccination efforts, Surgeon General says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General, told CNN’s on Tuesday that the US Food and Drug Administration approval of the Pfizer vaccine is a milestone in US vaccination efforts. 

“I do think that the approval the FDA announced yesterday for the Pfizer vaccine is a milestone in our vaccination efforts and it reaffirms what we have been seeing for months,” Murthy said. “Which is that the vaccines are highly effective, they’ve a very strong safety profile and they’re what we need to get through this pandemic.”  

Murthy said that the FDA is assessing Moderna’s application for full approval, and anticipating that Johnson & Johnson will submit their application in the near future. 

“Despite the news yesterday, there are two things that don’t change,” Murthy said. “One is that if you are unvaccinated, getting vaccinated now with any of the three vaccines is still your fastest path to protection against, particularly against hospitalization and death from the virus.”

The other thing that doesn’t change, he said, “is the plan that we announced last week, which is in the week of September 20, pending the review of the FDA and the CDC advisory committee, we plan to start booster shots, third shots, for those who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.” 

9:01 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

The FDA approved the first Covid-19 vaccine yesterday — and new mandates are already rolling out

From CNN's AJ Willingham

A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a community vaccination event in Los Angeles on August 11.
A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a community vaccination event in Los Angeles on August 11. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

The FDA has granted full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people 16 and older, paving the way for more vaccine mandates and hopefully encouraging more hesitant people to get the shot.

New mandates are already rolling out for teachers in New York City and state employees in New Jersey. The US military also will now require all service members to be vaccinated.

The daily pace of vaccinations in the US has been over 400,000 every day through August, and Dr. Anthony Fauci says if most eligible people get vaccinated, the US could have control of Covid-19 by this coming spring in 2022.

But for now, case rates are still soaring, with about 147,000 new cases a day in the US. In Kentucky, the National Guard has been called in to help overwhelmed hospitals, much to the relief of desperate health care workers.