July 29, 2021 US coronavirus news

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:52 PM ET, Thu July 29, 2021
32 Posts
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5:52 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Biden: "We can and we must open schools this fall, full-time" with proper safety measures

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

(Susan Walsh/AP)
(Susan Walsh/AP)

President Biden said the country "must open" schools in the fall with proper safety measures and protocols, including masking indoors.

"I also want to speak to families with children in school. We can and we must open schools this fall, full-time. It's better for our children's mental and emotional well-being, and we can't afford another year out of the classroom. Every school should be open, and we're giving them the tools to be able to do so safely, even in those areas where... they have a higher rate of Covid. Through the American Rescue Plan we provided schools billions of dollars to implement safety measures, better ventilation, social distancing and other measures," the President said in remarks from the White House.

Biden noted that vaccination rates among teachers are high and promoted the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mask guidelines for students.

"Almost 90% of educators and school staff are now vaccinated. Additionally, the CDC has provided clear guidance on how all schools can safely protect the kids and bring them back to the classroom. Every student wear a mask. It's that simple. So we funded safety measures at schools. We've vaccinated teachers and staff, and we can mask up our kids for further protection. Once again, there's one more thing we need to do. Get more adolescents, ages 12 and up, vaccinated now that they've been cleared," the President said.

Biden also said the government is prepared to provide vaccinations to children 12 and under once the vaccines are "deemed safe for them."

Some more background: The CDC recommended on Tuesday that localities encourage all teachers, staff, students, and visitors in schools to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Previously, the CDC updated its Covid-19 guidance for schools earlier this month, noting that fully vaccinated people did not have to wear masks, and then about a week later the American Academy of Pediatrics issued stricter guidance recommending that everyone older than 2 wear a mask in schools, regardless of their vaccination status.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard contributed reporting to this post. 

4:53 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Biden calls on Defense Department to make Covid-19 vaccine required for service members

President Biden has tasked the Defense Department with making the Covid-19 vaccine one of the required vaccinations for all active-duty service people.

"Since many vaccinations are required for active-duty military today, I'm asking the Defense Department to look into how and when they will add Covid-19 to the list of vaccinations that our armed forces must get. Our men and women in uniform will protect this country from grave threats should be protected as much as possible from getting Covid-19," Biden said this afternoon during remarks from the White House.

"I think this is particularly important because our troops serve in places throughout the world, many where vaccination rates are low and disease is prevalent," the President continued.

5:52 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Biden: "Every federal government employee will be asked to attest to their vaccination status"

President Biden announced new vaccine rules for federal workers as part of his administration's efforts to get more Americans vaccinated and curb the spread of the pandemic.

"Every federal government employee will be asked to attest to their vaccination status. Anyone who does not attest or is not vaccinated will be required to mask no matter where they work, test one or two times a week to see if they've acquired Covid, socially distance, and generally will not be allowed to travel for work," Biden said in White House remarks.

Biden noted that similar steps will be applied to all federal contractors.

"If you want to do business with the federal government, get your workers vaccinated," the President said.

5:19 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Biden: There's nothing political about vaccines

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden urged people to get vaccinated saying they're "highly effective" and that there's "nothing political about them."

Biden commended Republicans who have advocated for Covid-19 vaccines.

"From the start I have to compliment Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he hasn't made it political. He's encouraged people to get vaccinated, he's encouraged people to get vaccinated, he's continued to do so and his state's in pretty good shape. Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey recently spoke out to encourage vaccinations, and even the commentators on Fox who have been belittling us for a long time, some haven't but many have, are arguing get vaccinated. Look, this is not about red states and blue states, it's literally about life and death... that's what it's about," Biden said.
4:44 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Biden: "If you're out there unvaccinated, you don't have to die"

(Susan Walsh/AP)
(Susan Walsh/AP)

President Biden shared a somber warning for the millions of Americans who have yet to get the Covid-19 vaccine, warning them that "you don't have to die."

"This is an American tragedy," Biden said during remarks from the White House, specifically discussing those who are unvaccinated and hospitalized: "People are dying and will die who don't have to die. If you're out there unvaccinated, you don't have to die."
4:32 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Biden calls the Covid-19 vaccine "highly effective"

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden championed the Covid-19 today during remarks from the White House, adding that the US has "enough vaccine for everyone to get vaccinated."

"[W]e've administered over 325 million vaccinations doses in the past six months," Biden said Thursday afternoon. "We have the tools to prevent this new wave of Covid from shutting down our businesses, our schools, our society as we saw happen last year. I've said from the beginning that we will be guided by the science."
4:40 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Biden on misinformation and Covid-19 spread: "We need some straight talk right now"

(Susan Walsh/AP)
(Susan Walsh/AP)

President Biden highlighted the dangers of misinformation as the Delta variant fuels the spread of Covid-19 among the unvaccinated population across the country.

"I want to talk about what's really happening, what it means, what it doesn't mean, and what we need to do this week and the months ahead. From the moment I was elected, I said I'd always give to you straight from the shoulder, and we need some straight talk right now," the President during remarks at the White House.

"There's a lot of fear and misinformation in the country, and we need to cut through it with facts, with science, with the truth. So what's really happening today? After months and months of cases going down we're seeing a spike in Covid cases. They're going up. Why? Because of this new form, this new variant called the Delta variant. This is a much different variant than the one we dealt with previously. It's highly transmissible, and it's causing a new wave of cases in those that are not vaccinated," he said.

Biden continued: "Our experts told me that cases will go up further before they start to go down. While cases are on the rise, what we're not likely to see, according to experts, is a comparable rise in hospitalizations or deaths in most areas of the country. You have to ask yourself, why is that? Because 164 million Americans are fully vaccinated, including 80% of the most vulnerable, our seniors. So there's a challenge, as you knew there could be."

The President noted that despite the challenges, the good news is that the Covid-19 vaccines are "highly effective" and the US has "enough vaccine for everybody to get vaccinated."

4:28 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

NOW: Biden delivers remarks on Covid-19 response and announces new vaccine rules for federal workers

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

(Pool)
(Pool)

President Biden is delivering remarks from the White House on his administration's next efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and get more Americans vaccinated.

According to a White House fact sheet, Biden will announce that, in an attempt to protect workers, “every federal government employee and onsite contractor will be asked to attest to their vaccination status.”

Employees who have not been vaccinated “will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.”

It's not a mandate, officials insist, and most federal employees who do not get vaccinated will not lose their jobs as a result. Still, the shift toward placing the onus for the current situation on those who have refused to get vaccinated reflects Biden's growing impatience that still-hesitant Americans are prolonging a crisis he said earlier this month was no longer paralyzing the nation.

During his speech Thursday, he also plans to directly address the millions who have procrastinated or outright refused to get vaccinated.

What the latest vaccination and case numbers show: As of Wednesday, cases rose in all but one state in the past seven days compared to the week before, and cases rose at least 50% in 36 states in that time, according to Johns Hopkins.

The rate of people getting their first Covid-19 vaccine shot has risen in recent days. The current pace of vaccinations (seven-day average) shows 389,963 people are initiating vaccination each day — a 31% increase over last week’s pace.

Still, only 49.4% of the total US population is fully vaccinated, according to data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is far from the 70% to 85% that experts have estimated would be needed to slow or stop the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, nearly 80% of seniors (65+) are fully vaccinated and nearly 90% have at least one dose.

Read more about Biden's speech here.

CNN's Deidre McPhillips, Jason Hanna and Madeline Holcombe contributed reporting to this post.

4:08 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

These are the new actions Biden will announce on vaccinations, according to a White House fact sheet 

From CNN's DJ Judd

The White House has shared a fact sheet detailing new actions the Biden administration is taking aim at getting more Americans vaccinated and slowing the spread of the Delta variant.

Per the fact sheet, President Biden will announce that, in an attempt to protect workers, “every federal government employee and the onsite contractor will be asked to attest to their vaccination status.”

Employees who have not been vaccinated “will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice-weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.”

In addition, the President is expected to announce a directive ordering the Department of Defense “to look into how and when they will add Covid-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military.”

More on the actions: Also included in the administration’s efforts announced Thursday — expanded paid leave for employees who take time off to get themselves and their family members vaccinated.

The President will also call on states, territories, and local governments to do more to incentivize vaccination, including offering $100 to Americans getting vaccinated (Treasury released an announcement touting the incentive Thursday).

Finally, the President will call on school districts nationwide to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks “in an effort to get more kids 12 and older vaccinated.”