July 27, 2021 coronavirus news

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

Updated 10:02 PM ET, Tue July 27, 2021
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12:17 p.m. ET, July 27, 2021

Vaccinated people can still spread Covid-19, health official says as reason to wear masks

From CNN’s Kaitlan Collins

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to update it guidelines on Tuesday to urge vaccinated people in certain areas of the country to resume wearing masks because of Covid-19.

A senior administration official said the decision was spurred by the more transmissible Delta variant.

"It's based on the fact that the Delta variant is clearly more transmissible than the prior ones,” the official said.

A health official says, based on the latest data, officials believe vaccinated people only represent a small amount of coronavirus transmission and the overwhelming majority of spread is still by unvaccinated people. But they know breakthrough cases can happen and emerging data suggests some vaccinated people can spread it, which is the driving factor behind Tuesday’s decision, as they continue to study it. 

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is expected to explain the decision at the 3 p.m. Tuesday briefing, the official said. 

12:17 p.m. ET, July 27, 2021

New CDC mask guidance is coming soon, but some states are banning mask mandates in schools

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus, Jacqueline Howard and Elizabeth Stuart

As students return to school in the coming weeks, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to announce today that it is recommending everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

However, some states have enacted legislation that prohibits districts from requiring masks in schools. Those states include: Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont.

Although the list of those banning mask mandates has been constantly changing, so far they are all states with Republican governors.

In states such as Utah and Iowa, governors cemented into law the ban on school mask mandates. However, in response to concerns that the bill in Utah oversteps local control, it includes a provision allowing schools to require masks during outbreaks only if the decision is made in collaboration with local health departments.

In South Carolina, Texas and Georgia, the governors all signed executive orders taking steps to limit schools' abilities to implement mask mandates. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster was the first to issue an executive order preventing schools from issuing mask mandates.

"With regard to mask requirements in public schools, the governor has directed DHEC - in consultation with the S.C. Department of Education - to develop and distribute a standardized form a parent or legal guardian may sign to opt their child out of mask requirements imposed by any public school official or public school district," the May 11 order said.

These different state laws prohibiting mask mandates in schools conflict with the expected guidance of the CDC later today, which will likely recommend everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new Covid-19 guidance on July 19 that recommends universal masking in schools for everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status. 

There are some states — including Connecticut, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, Virginia and Washington — that follow the AAP guidance to require masks among both vaccinated and unvaccinated students.

Moreover, California quickly reversed its school mask policy last week after announcing that students who refused to wear a mask indoors would be turned away. For now, the state will require masks but leave decisions on how to handle enforcement up to the districts.

12:05 p.m. ET, July 27, 2021

CDC to recommend everyone wear a mask in school settings 

From CNN’s Kaitlan Collins

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to announce Tuesday that it is recommending everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, an administration health official tells CNN.

A health official says, based on the latest data, officials believe vaccinated people only represent a small amount of coronavirus transmission and the overwhelming majority of spread is still by unvaccinated people. But they know breakthrough cases can happen and emerging data suggests some vaccinated people can spread it, which is the driving factor behind Tuesday’s decision, as they continue to study it.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is expected to make the announcement at a 3 p.m. ET briefing.

Current CDC guidance says that all people age 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated wear masks at school.

11:55 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

These places are urging residents to mask up – regardless of vaccination status

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

As long as vaccination rates are low and if cases continue to surge, some experts say returning to masks may be a necessary layer of protection for everyone.

“The only way to get the unvaccinated to mask up is to mask everyone up,” CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, said Sunday.

Several places have made the push to get their residents back in face coverings.

A group of eight health directors in the Puget Sound area of Washington state are recommending masking indoors regardless of vaccination status.

“The health officers of King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan, and Grays Harbor counties have joined together to pass on their best public health advice to protect you, your family, and our communities,” the group said in a joint statement.

The city of Savannah, Georgia, has moved beyond recommendations, instead reinstating a mask mandate effective immediately.

During a news conference on Monday, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear facial coverings inside all city government facilities, as well as Savannah city schools and early childhood centers. The mandate does not apply to private businesses or institutions, but the mayor is strongly encouraging owners to implement the mask requirement.

In St. Louis, city and county official also implemented an indoor mask mandate that went into effect Monday, but Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit in hopes of stopping it.

Schmitt blasted the reinstated mask mandate as “unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious, unconstitutional, and unlawful,” in a statement Monday evening.

“This continued government overreach is unacceptable and unconstitutional, especially in the face of a widely available vaccine,” Schmitt said in the statement announcing the lawsuit. “There is absolutely no scientific reason to continue to force children to wear a mask in school,” he added.

Many health experts and agencies have recommended the use of masks to protect against infection, especially for children who are too young to be vaccinated.

11:53 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

Government bodies are starting to embrace vaccination requirements

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

As the Covid-19 Delta variant continues to spread throughout the US, some health experts have suggested mandating that people be vaccinated in order to work in certain venues or attend school. They say it could be a necessary measure to getting the country to a fully protective level of vaccination. Now, some government entities are taking the suggestion.

In August, California will require all state employees and healthcare workers to provide proof of vaccination status or get regular tests, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

Unvaccinated state employees will be required to get tested at least once a week and will be required to wear N95 masks at all times. Unvaccinated healthcare workers will have to get tested at least two times a week, state health officials said.

A similar requirement will be implemented in New York City, where all of the workforce for the city’s agencies, including schools, fire and police, will be given the choice between vaccination or regular testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced Monday that Covid-19 vaccines will be mandatory for certain healthcare workers in the agency. Those workers include “physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors – who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those VA serves.”

“We’re mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it’s the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” McDonough said.

Despite initial reluctance to support vaccine mandates, the White House said Monday it supports the call made Monday by a large collective of medical associations that vaccines be mandated for all US health personnel.

“These actions, in our view, are meant to keep patients and employees safe and in fact, I expect our own federal health care providers may look at similar requirements as they do with other vaccines,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We certainly believe that health officials are on the frontlines of being vulnerable to getting Covid and we certainly support these actions by these hospital associations.”

11:49 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

St. Louis reinstates indoor mask mandate

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus and Kay Jones

St. Louis reinstated an indoor mask mandate on Monday to stop the spread of the Covid-19, especially as the Delta variant surges across the country.

The mandate requires people ages 5 and older to wear masks indoors and on public transportation.

At a news conference, Mayor Tishaura Jones said St. Louis is still at a "dangerous point" with the virus, facing infection numbers not seen since December. The mask mandate, she said, applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

The mandate comes only a day before the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to announce that it is recommending everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

About 41% of Missouri's population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. St. Louis has fully vaccinated just 35.4% of its residents, the most recent dashboard by the state shows.

Moreover, St. Louis is not the only city implementing mask mandates. Los Angeles County in CaliforniaProvincetown, Massachusetts; and Savannah, Georgia have similarly returned to universal indoor mask requirements recently.

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against St. Louis' mask mandate, calling it "unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious, unconstitutional, and unlawful."

11:40 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

Updated CDC mask guidance spurred by "more transmissible" Delta variant, official says

From CNN’s Jeremy Diamond

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to update it guidelines on Tuesday to urge vaccinated people in certain areas of the country to resume wearing masks because of Covid-19.

A senior administration official said the decision was spurred by the more transmissible Delta variant.

"It's based on the fact that the Delta variant is clearly more transmissible than the prior ones,” the official said.

New evidence found that the levels of virus found in breakthrough cases among the vaccinated people are similar to those found in unvaccinated individuals who contract coronavirus, raising concerns that vaccinated individuals may be able to spread the virus, the officials said.

Versions of the virus that dominated in the past generally did not appear to be transmitted by people who had been fully vaccinated.

"When you get information about risks and how to mitigate risks, there's a public health obligation to let people know about it,” the official said.

The White House is hoping that the new guidance will give local officials "a lot of cover" to implement new mask mandates where appropriate.

10:59 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

CDC expected to recommend vaccinated people in some areas of the US resume wearing masks

From CNN’s John Harwood and Kevin Liptak

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to update it guidelines on Tuesday to urge vaccinated people in certain areas of the country to resume wearing masks because of Covid-19.

People in areas with high or substantial Covid-19 transmission should resume wearing masks, the CDC is expected to say, according to sources familiar with the announcement.

Nearly two-thirds of US counties have high or substantial transmission of Covid-19, according to CDC data; 46% of counties have high transmission and 17% have substantial transmission.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is expected to announce the decision at a 3 p.m. ET briefing on Tuesday.

CNN reported on Tuesday that top officials met on Sunday night to go over the new data and evidence regarding the transmissibility of the variant and breakthrough cases, according to a person familiar with the meeting. 

The CDC updated mask guidance two months ago to say most people who are fully vaccinated could go without masks indoors. The guidance moved so quickly that administration officials were informed less than a day before.

11:09 a.m. ET, July 27, 2021

The US could see 200,000 Covid-19 cases a day within the next 6 weeks, former CDC director warns

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

The US could see about four times the current rate of Covid-19 cases in the next four to six weeks as the Delta variant spreads and the population hits a wall on vaccinations, the former CDC director told CNN.

“We’re heading into a rough time. It’s likely, if our trajectory is similar to that in the United Kingdom, that we could see as many as 200,000 cases a day,” Dr. Tom Frieden said, adding the US likely won’t see the “horrific death tolls” of earlier in the pandemic thanks to the number of vulnerable people who are vaccinated.

But, he said, “You will see a steady increase in deaths, and these are preventable deaths.

The last time there were more than 200,000 new US cases in one day was in January, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The Delta variant is believed to be more transmissible than other strains – so much so, Frieden said, that it is essentially finding people who are unvaccinated.

And much of the country remains unvaccinated, despite incentive programs and urging from health experts. Only 49.1% of the US population is fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Daily vaccination rates are slowing, with only about two thirds of the eligible population having received at least one dose, the CDC said.

Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, Dr. Paul Offit, said vaccination rates have hit a wall and that could have serious consequences.

“Now we are at a point where there is a solid 25 or 30 percent of the population that’s saying they don’t want to get vaccinated, that they are okay with allowing this virus to continue to spread, continue to do harm and, worst of all, continue to possibly create variants that are going to be resistant to vaccine-induced immunity,” he said.

And vaccinated people will likely pay a price for those choices, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said. Even though vaccines offer strong protection against the virus, being surrounded by unvaccinated people could lead to infection spillover, and vaccinated people could get sick or pass on the infection to their loved ones, she said.

“By people saying ‘I’m not going to get vaccinated,’ they’re actually choosing to endanger everybody else, and they are prolonging the pandemic,” Wen said.

Despite the risk posed by a large swath of unvaccinated people, Frieden said vaccines are still helping to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.

“For every (case) that ends in death in the coming weeks, there would have been hundreds that end in death if there hadn’t been vaccinations,” Frieden said.