The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic as Olympics approach

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

Updated 0418 GMT (1218 HKT) July 22, 2021
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11:01 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Global number of Covid-19 cases could exceed 200 million in the next 3 weeks, WHO says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

The cumulative global number of Covid-19 cases could exceed 200 million in the next three weeks if cases continue at the same rate, according the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update, published Wednesday. 

From July 12 to 18, over 3.4 million new cases were reported globally, the update says – that's a 12% increase compared to the week before. Global Covid-19 weekly case incidence increased with an average of around 490,000 cases reported each day over the past week compared with 400,000 daily cases reported the week before. 

Cumulatively, the global number of cases reported is over 190 million, the report says, and “at this rate, it is expected that the cumulative number of cases reported globally could exceed 200 million in the next three weeks.”

Other than the regions of the Americas and Africa, all WHO regions reported an increase in case incidence over the last week, with the Western Pacific Region recording the largest increase, followed by the European Region. 

“Despite efforts to extend vaccination coverage, many countries across all six WHO Regions continue to experience surges in Covid-19 cases,” said the update. The highest numbers of new cases were reported from Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, India and the United States. 

On variants: Cases of the Alpha variant have been reported in 180 countries, the Beta variant in 130 countries, the Gamma variant in 78 countries and the Delta variant in 124 countries. In the past week, six new countries reported the Alpha variant, seven new countries reported the Beta variant, three new countries the Gamma variant and 13 new countries reported the Delta variant. 

The update says that increases in transmission appear to be driven by these four factors:

  • Circulation of more transmissible variants of concern
  • Relaxation of public health social measures
  • Increases in social mixing
  • A large number of people who remain susceptible to infection as a result of inequitable vaccine distribution globally. 
10:51 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

CDC ensemble forecasts project Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations likely to increase over the next 4 weeks

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Ensemble forecasts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Wednesday project that new Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations will likely increase over the next four weeks, while the number of new cases will likely remain stable or have an uncertain trend.

The forecast predicts between 615,000 to 625,000 Covid-19 deaths reported in the US by Aug. 14, 2021.  

The previous ensemble forecast, published July 14, projected up to 619,000 deaths reported by Aug. 7. 

For the second projection in a row, the CDC’s weekly ensemble forecast projects an increase in hospitalizations. Previously, US Department of Health and Human Services data showed them on a steady decline since late April. 

The ensemble forecast predicts there will be 3,800 to 14,000 new confirmed Covid-19 hospital admissions likely reported on Aug. 16, 2021. 

10:48 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Team USA volleyball player will miss Olympics after testing positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Homero DeLaFuente and Alyssa Kraus

Taylor Crabb stands on the court during the AVP Gold Series Championships at Oak Street Beach on September 1, 2019, in Chicago.
Taylor Crabb stands on the court during the AVP Gold Series Championships at Oak Street Beach on September 1, 2019, in Chicago. (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

US men's beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb has tested positive for Covid-19 and will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics, according to NBC News. Crabb is now the fourth US athlete to test positive for Covid-19.

“The health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority. We can confirm that a member of Team USA tested positive upon their arrival into Japan,” USA Volleyball said in a statement today.

Crabb, 29, joins Coco Gauff, Katie Lou Samuelson and Kara Eaker as US athletes who will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for the virus.

Crabb is expected to be replaced by Tri Bourne, according to California newspaper, The Orange County Register. Bourne will join four-time Olympian Jake Gibb for Team USA’s opening match against Italy at Shiokaze Park on Sunday.

11:21 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

CDC vaccine advisor fears widespread spread of coronavirus in schools 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Jose Romero, chair of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, speaks during an interview on July 21.
Dr. Jose Romero, chair of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, speaks during an interview on July 21. CNN

Dr. Jose Romero, chair of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told CNN that one of his major fears for his home state Arkansas is that there will be widespread of coronavirus in school settings. 

“We’re seeing outbreaks in sites that we didn’t see last year, so we’re seeing closures in daycares, we’re seeing closures in summer camps, and all that leads me to believe that in a setting where you don’t have strict mitigation, that it will spread very, very quickly, like our schools,” said Romero, who is also Arkansas Secretary of Health. 

“The reason I’m saying this is that, because we know now from experience, from watching it over the last five or six weeks, that this virus is highly transmissible," he added.

Doctors in the state are publicly pleading on social media for people to get vaccinated as hospitals yet again become full. 

Romero said Arkansas hospitals are now seeing young, healthy and unvaccinated people sicker than they’ve ever seen.

“Our evaluation of these hospitalizations show that 95%…to 99.5%, excuse me, of all individuals that are currently hospitalized are not vaccinated,” he said. 

He said that he believes the reason that they are not being vaccinated is multifactorial. First, they don’t see it as a serious illness that can affect them because they’re young and healthy, and second is the misinformation “that is being propagated through social media at this time.” 

Some background: Arkansas is one of at least nine states that have banned districts from requiring masks in schools, according to a CNN analysis and is the state with the third lowest rate of vaccination of its population.

According to the most recent data, just over 35% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated – nationally, nearly 49% of the total US population has been fully vaccinated. The state currently has the highest number of new cases per capita in the country, with the latest daily average being 38 cases per 100,000 people each day. 

10:33 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

J&J projects $2.5 billion in Covid-19 vaccine sales, but faces "uncertainty" due to boosters and variants

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

A dose from a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is drawn at an event in Thornton, Colorado, on March 6, 2021.
A dose from a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is drawn at an event in Thornton, Colorado, on March 6, 2021. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

Johnson & Johnson projects $2.5 billion in annual global sales of its Covid-19 vaccine for 2021 alone, as it continues to expand its manufacturing capabilities for the vaccine at 10 sites that will handle various stages of production, according to Joe Wolk, J&J’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. He spoke Wednesday on the Johnson & Johnson second quarter 2021 earnings conference call.

Since its authorization J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine has been plagued by manufacturing problems and delays, largely due to contamination issues at Emergent BioSolutions, the contracted plant that makes the drug substance that goes into its vaccine.

“We continue to work with health authorities on the approval of additional drug substance manufactured at Emergent,” Wolk said. He added that the US Food and Drug Administration has so far authorized the release of five batches of drug substance made at the Emergent facility in Bayview.

Wolk added that it is not clear what 2022 will look like for the Covid-19 vaccine.

“It is simply too early to provide specific information on a 2022 outlook for our COVID-19 vaccine given the uncertainty on the need for boosters and new variants,” Wolk said. He added that the company defers to health officials on when, or if, there was a need for a booster.

Clinical data, published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week suggests that a single dose of its vaccine protected well against the Delta variant, with protection lasting at least eight months.

“We do like the durability of at least eight months for our vaccine,” Wolk said. “We think that’s better than some of the other vaccines that are out there, not to disparage them in any manner whatsoever.”

Tuesday, researchers said they found some evidence that contradicts the New England Journal of Medicine and other study results and concluded that people who got the single-dose J&J vaccine might benefit from a booster dose to protect them from new variants of the virus. The study was done in the lab and does not reflect real-world effects of the vaccine and it’s published online as a preprint, meaning it was not subject to careful peer review.

12:04 p.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Austin Public Health officials urge masking indoors  

From CNN’s Carma Hassan 

People stand in Valhalla Esports Lounge on March 2 in Austin, Texas.
People stand in Valhalla Esports Lounge on March 2 in Austin, Texas. Josie Norris/USA Today Network

Austin Public Health officials are urging people in the community to wear masks indoors and get vaccinated if they haven’t yet, warning that Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are continuing to increase in Travis County, Texas.  

Austin-Travis County has exceeded “30 new hospital admissions on the 7-day moving average,” the health department reported in a news release, meaning “moving into Stage 4 of the Austin Public Health (APH) Risk-Based Guidelines is now imminent.”

“We know the Delta variant is here and is running rampant in our community,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes with the Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “It will continue to cause a surge in cases and hospitalizations if we don’t come together to stop it. Do your part – wear a mask indoors and get vaccinated if you haven’t already.” 

Health officials also “strongly encourage” children over the age of 2 to wear masks in order for “students to be able to safely return to in-person classes in the fall.”

“Protecting children from the virus and its variants is critically important to break the chain of transmission, prevent the spread of disease and additional mutations,” Austin Public Health said in a statement.

10:41 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

NYC mayor calls initiative to vaccinate or test healthcare workers weekly "fair" 

From CNN's Mirna Alsharif and Alyssa Kraus

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during an interview on July 21.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during an interview on July 21. CNN

Starting in August, workers at New York City hospitals and health clinics will be required to either get vaccinated or take weekly Covid-19 tests, a decision New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called "fair."

"I understand why a lot of people are hearing misinformation and being affected by it, but enough is enough," de Blasio told CNN. "We need our health care workers to be vaccinated and it's getting dangerous with the Delta variant."

De Blasio said he hopes the initiative will convince health care workers who are on the fence regarding the vaccine to get vaccinated or push others to choose the vaccine over the hassle of weekly testing. 

"I think it's time to do something different, and New York City is ready to lead the way. We're saying, get vaccinated, or get tested weekly. And that's fair," he said.

However, de Blasio said he didn't mandate the vaccine for all health care workers because the voluntary approach "did get us a substantial distance" but added that now "it's time to up the ante, say 'no longer a choice, you got to do one or the other.'"

De Blasio said he hopes to see initiatives like this one all over the country. In addition, he said he'd consider this approach for other professions, such as police officers and teachers.

However, when asked if he'd consider reissuing the mask mandate, as Los Angeles County did this past weekend, de Blasio said "a mask is a pea shooter and the vaccine is a cannon."

"The thing that will make a difference is the vaccine," said de Blasio. "The thing that stops the Delta variant, the thing that turns the tide and saves lives is the vaccine."

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9:59 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

Singapore reports more than 150 Covid-19 daily caseload for 3rd consecutive day

From CNN’s Jake Kwon

Singapore reported at least 179 local and 2 imported Covid-19 cases as of noon on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said in a press release. 

According to the ministry, 130 of the new cases were linked to the Jurong Fishery port cluster.

It’s the third consecutive day of more than 150 new cases were reported in the country, according to the Ministry’s data.

About 48% of Sinagpore’s population has received two doses of coronavirus vaccines, and 71% has received one dose. 

11:35 a.m. ET, July 21, 2021

US diver says athletes are following Covid-19 restrictions inside Olympic Village

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

A bus leaves the Tokyo Olympics Village on July 19 in Tokyo.
A bus leaves the Tokyo Olympics Village on July 19 in Tokyo. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

Jordan Windle, a diver for Team USA, said that athletes inside the Olympic Village are taking Covid-19 guidelines seriously as more than 70 coronavirus cases tied to the 2020 Summer Games have been identified.

"Overall, you know, everyone is a little, you know, wary about where they're going and what we're doing obviously. We're restricted on where we can go. We can't leave the Village. We have to keep our distance obviously, keeping everyone safe and following Covid guidelines within our teams," he said.

"So overall, you know, everyone is doing a great job and we're following the rules and we're going to keep it going, so hopefully have a great Olympics," he said.

Windle said the Olympics atmosphere is "definitely different" without the support of spectators and loved ones.

"It was difficult because I wanted it to be a normal Olympics. I wanted to have the atmosphere, you know, the roar of the crowd when someone hits a big dive. But also it gives off less pressure to a lot of the athletes, which makes it a little easier ... No matter what, I think this is a great experience for me and I'm going to give it my all," he said.

WATCH: