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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7:55 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Louisiana's largest healthcare system announces vaccination requirement for all employees

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Ochsner Health, Louisiana’s largest healthcare system, announced a mandatory vaccination requirement for all its physicians, providers and employees by Oct. 29.

The announcement comes a day after the US Food and Drug Administration granted full approval of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

According to the healthcare system, approximately 69% of Ochsner Health employees are currently vaccinated.

“Ochsner cares for physically vulnerable people, and we have an ethical obligation to protect them,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Hart said.

The vaccination mandate includes all leaders, physicians, employees and new hires and applies to clinical and corporate full-time and part-time workers at Ochsner Health-owned facilities. In addition all vendors, medical and allied health students, contract employees, PRN, agency nurses and volunteers will also be required to demonstrate proof of vaccination before working at an Ochsner Health campus.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Ochsner has 979 Covid-19 patients hospitalized across its system, 151 of whom are on ventilators. Twenty of the system’s Covid-19 patients are pediatric patients, Ochsner Health said.

6:45 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Global Covid-19 cases plateau after nearly two months, WHO reports

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

After nearly two months of rising Covid-19 cases, the number of new cases reported globally “seems to be plateauing,” the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

WHO reported more than 4.5 million new cases and 68,000 new deaths globally in the week ending Aug. 22. That brings the cumulative global case count to more than 211 million and the cumulative number of deaths to more than 4.4 million, WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update.

The number of new global cases now appears to be stable, after increasing since mid-June, WHO noted in the report.

The US reported the highest number of new cases – 1,020,072, a 15% increase from the prior week – followed by Iran, India, the UK and Brazil.

 The Western Pacific region reported a case increase of 20% in the last week, while the Americas reported an increase of 8%. Other regions saw stagnant or declining cases in the last week.

With several variants of concern, including the Delta variant, circulating globally, WHO highlighted the importance of vaccination and public health and social measures. The report cites a modeling study in England showing a delay in lifting these safety measures reduced the peak in daily hospitalizations by nearly three-fold.

“Relaxation of public health and social measures should therefore be carefully and cautiously balanced against levels of vaccination coverage, and the circulation of Variants of Concern,” WHO wrote.

5:26 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

New Covid-19 vaccinations have topped 400,000 people per day throughout August, CDC data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Debbie Bonnett, left, administers a COVID-19 vaccination dose to a person in a popup vaccination clinic at Maple Leaf Bar on August 14 in New Orleans.
Debbie Bonnett, left, administers a COVID-19 vaccination dose to a person in a popup vaccination clinic at Maple Leaf Bar on August 14 in New Orleans. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

New vaccinations have topped 400,000 people per day in the US throughout August, according to the latest data published Tuesday from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An average of 860,114 doses is being administered each day, according to the CDC.

The average daily number of people newly vaccinated is down 5% compared to last week, but the average daily number of doses administered is up about 13% compared to last week. The additional doses may be second or third shots. 

Here is some more CDC data on vaccination efforts in the US:

  • Fully vaccinated: 51.6% of the total US population (all ages)
  • Not vaccinated: 28.8% of the eligible population (ages 12 and older)
  • Current pace of vaccinations (seven-day average): 444,607 people are initiating vaccination each day.
  • 25 states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as Washington, DC.

 

4:11 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Floridians largely support mask mandates and oppose governor's efforts to block them in schools, poll finds

From CNN’s Ariel Edwards-Levy

Students attend their first day of school after summer vacation at the St. Lawrence Catholic School in Miami on August 18.
Students attend their first day of school after summer vacation at the St. Lawrence Catholic School in Miami on August 18. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

Florida residents largely support mask mandates and oppose the effort by Gov. Ron DeSantis to block them in schools, a new Quinnipiac poll of the state finds, with most also saying the recent rises in Covid-19 cases was preventable.

Here are some of the poll's findings:

  • Florida residents, 60% to 36%, say that they support requiring students, teachers and staff to wear masks in schools. A near-universal 98% of Democrats support this, as do 63% of independents and 24% of Republicans.
  • In a separate question, 54% of Florida residents say they think schools should be able to require masks for all students, while 44% think parents should decide whether or not their own student will be wearing a mask. Of Florida adults with children in school, 70% say their kids will be wearing a mask to school this year.
  • A 69% majority of Florida residents say DeSantis' statement that school leaders' salaries may be withheld if they require masks for students is a bad ideawith just 25% calling it a good idea. Most Democrats (91%), independents (70%) and Republicans (52%) call this a bad idea.
  • A 63% majority of Florida residents say they consider the issue of wearing masks to be primarily about public health, rather than personal freedom. A similar 64% say they believe masks or face coverings are effective in slowing the spread of coronavirus.
  • Adult Florida residents, 46% to 41%, say that DeSantis is hurting, rather than helping, efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus in Florida. They say, 61% to 33%, that the recent rise in Covid-19 cases in the state over the past few weeks was preventable.
  • A 73% majority say the spread of Covid-19 in the state is currently a serious problem, with one-quarter saying it's not. A 59% majority say that the spread of Covid-19 in the state is currently out of control, compared to 34% who say it's under control. Most, 63%, also say they're concerned about the Delta variant.

The Quinnipiac poll of Florida was conducted Aug. 17 to 21, using live telephone interviews. It surveyed 997 adults, with a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.

4:00 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Oregon governor announces new statewide outdoor mask mandate

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown delivers a statement on August 24.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown delivers a statement on August 24. Oregon Governor's Office

Masks will be required in many public outdoor settings in Oregon starting Friday.

Gov. Kate Brown announced that the new rule applies to people in any outdoor event or venue where social distancing is not possible, and regardless of a person’s vaccination status.

“The Delta variant is much more contagious than previous variants we’ve seen, and it has dramatically increased the amount of virus in our communities,” Brown said in a written statement Tuesday. “Masks have proven to be effective at bringing case counts down, and are a necessary measure right now, even in some outdoor settings, to help fight COVID and protect one another.”

Exceptions are allowed for people who are actively eating or drinking outdoors, people involved competitive sports or public performance, the homeless and children under the age of five.

2:54 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Vaccines less protective against Delta infection, but still reduce risk by two-thirds, CDC study shows

From CNN's Michael Nedelman

A nurse fills a syringe with Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Covid-19 vaccine at a clinic on August 19 at Tournament House in Pasadena, California.
A nurse fills a syringe with Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Covid-19 vaccine at a clinic on August 19 at Tournament House in Pasadena, California. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Vaccine effectiveness against Covid-19 infection dropped from 91% to 66% once the Delta variant accounted for the majority of circulating virus, according to a study published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The study is in line with others from the US and around the world showing Delta’s increased tendency to cause largely minor infections among fully vaccinated people.

Still, the effectiveness of vaccines against severe disease – including hospitalization and death – has remained high against all known variants. Disease severity was not covered in the current study, however.

Instead, the new paper is the latest chapter in an ongoing study that has been following “health care personnel, first responders, and other essential and frontline workers” who receive weekly PCR tests in eight locations across six US states. The vast majority are vaccinated.

Regular testing makes it possible to capture a more complete picture of Covid-19 infections in a group, since people with mild or no symptoms may be less likely to get tested overall. Even in the official vaccine trials, efficacy was calculated against symptomatic Covid-19 – not all infections.

Still, the authors warn there is some uncertainty in these estimates, in part because they found relatively few infections in the first place. During the months when Delta was predominant, researchers found 19 infections among 488 unvaccinated people and 24 infections among 2,352 fully vaccinated people.

While waning immunity may also contribute to some degree of reduced protection, the current study was unable to show this to a significant degree.

“Notably, this analysis did not show difference over time, which suggests [vaccine] effectiveness is also decreased against Delta, independent of when you were vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week, previewing some of the study’s early findings while making the case for booster shots down the line.

The authors of the latest paper said that, while the data shows a “moderate reduction” in the effectiveness of vaccines against infection with the Delta variant, “the sustained two-thirds reduction in infection risk underscores the continued importance and benefits of COVID-19 vaccination.”

Separate research suggests that even if a fully vaccinated person gets infected with the virus, they may be less likely to spread it.

“While we did see a reduction in the protection of the Covid-19 vaccine against the Delta variant, it's still two-thirds reduction of risk,” lead author Ashley Fowlkes, an epidemiologist for CDC COVID-19 Emergency Response, told CNN Tuesday.

She said that researchers are getting new data every two weeks on this group – known as the HEROES-RECOVER cohort. They are planning future analyses comparing the different Covid-19 vaccines, as well as the types of symptoms experienced by vaccinated and unvaccinated people who become infected.

 “It’s still a very powerful vaccine,” Fowlkes added, especially when it comes to more severe outcomes. “But we are also looking towards continuing to use masks for a little bit longer.”
2:27 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Mississippi sets a new record for coronavirus-related deaths in the state

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

Mississippi State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said Tuesday the state has set a new record on Covid-19 related deaths.

Byers said there are currently 3,291 new cases of Covid-19 in the state with 111 new deaths.

“This is the highest total of deaths we’ve had so far to date during the pandemic,” he said noting the previous high was in January during the winter surge.

About 87% of new deaths are among the unvaccinated, and more than 50% are over the age of 65, according to Byers.

“We are still seeing an impact in our older individuals,” Byers said adding that vaccinations have been a highly effective tool in protecting against the virus and serious or deadly infections.

Byers said there are 1,655 people hospitalized with the virus, which is higher than the previous day. Byers said, “when you look at the trends over time it looks like we are leveling off in the number of hospitalizations.”

Gov. Tate Reeves told reporters there are 465 patients in ICUs with the virus. Reeves said this week is the sixth week in a row the state has seen a week-over-week increases in vaccination but stated he had no intention of mandating them.

 

2:34 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Biden administration acting "aggressively" while making booster shot plans, official says

From CNN's Betsy Klein

White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Jeffery Zients listens during a briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 10.
White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Jeffery Zients listens during a briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 10. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is acting “aggressively” against Covid-19 and planning toward the expected changing guidance on booster shots, convening two separate meetings on the matter Tuesday. 

“We are acting aggressively to stay ahead of the virus, and are planning for booster shots starting the week of September 20 pending FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) and ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) approval,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters.

Zients continued, “We expect the rule will be simple: Get your booster shot eight months after you got your second shot. We're working closely with states, pharmacies, and others who will get the job done at the low level.”

Last week, CNN reported US health officials and medical experts announced in a joint statement on Wednesday that booster doses of Covid-19 vaccine will be offered this fall, subject to authorization from FDA and sign off from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Boosters will be offered to people who received two-dose mRNA vaccines, those made by Pfizer and Moderna. Officials said they are still waiting on data about the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Earlier Tuesday, Zients said, the Biden administration convened two separate meetings on preparations underway for booster shots. 

One, he said, was with governors and their teams. The other meeting was with pharmacy CEOs “to discuss their operational planning, so they're ready to hit the ground running” on booster shots, Zients said. 

“Our message is clear: We will mobilize the unprecedented level of federal support we've provided states pharmacies and other partners, since the President took office, and help in any way that we can to get booster shots in arms,” Zients said. 

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.