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
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3:25 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Biden will call on states to provide $100 payments to newly vaccinated people

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The Treasury Department says President Biden will call on state and local governments to provide $100 payments for every new vaccinated American.

"Today, the President is calling on state, territorial, and local governments to provide $100 payments for every newly vaccinated American, as an extra incentive to boost vaccination rates, protect communities, and save lives. Treasury stands ready to give technical assistance to state and local governments so that they may use the funds effectively to support increased vaccination in their communities, and Treasury will partner with the Department of Health and Human Services throughout this effort," the department said in a news release.

Biden is set to deliver remarks at 4 p.m. ET and is expected to announce that all federal employees must attest to being vaccinated against Covid-19 or face strict protocols including regular testing, masking and other mitigation measures, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

3:42 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Biden is expected to issue vaccine rules for federal workers. Here's what the White House hopes it does. 

From CNN's DJ Judd

Ahead of President Biden's remarks on Covid-19, White House Principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre acknowledged that the Biden administration is hoping private companies will follow its example in requiring employees be vaccinated for Covid-19.

“We see ourselves as a model for other for other companies and other organization, and that's something that we don't take lightly.”

“We see ourselves as a model for other for other companies and other organization, and that's something that we don't take lightly," Jean-Pierre told CNN. "The President's goal these last six months is to really work to curb this pandemic, this virus, to fight against it, but it's going to take all of us, it's going to take all of us to do that, and our push, our message continues to be, we have to make sure that people get vaccinated, and we're going to continue to do that, as we've done these last six month."

Earlier Thursday: Biden hopes steps announced Thursday requiring vaccinations for federal employees will lead to more federal workers getting shots, he views the broader goal of providing an example — and political and legal cover — to other employers as equally important. 

“As a large employer — the largest in this country, who cares about the individuals who keep the government running, we have an obligation to be good stewards of the workforce and ensure their health and their safety. We're taking action to protect the federal workforce so that they can continue to execute on the hard and important work of government,” Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday.

Jean-Pierre would not share the percentage of federal employees already vaccinated, nor would she share any changes to the testing protocol for the President or those who work in close contact with him.

3:07 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Arkansas declares public health emergency due to climb in Covid-19 cases 

From CNN’s Shawn Nottingham and Hannah Sarisohn

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced today he was reinstating the public health emergency in the state because of the rise in Covid-19 cases.

“Anytime you are having staffing shortages in hospital(s). Whenever, today I believe, it’s four Covid patients that are waiting in ambulances to be able to find a hospital to go to. That constitutes an emergency and a public health crisis,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson acknowledged the state legislature must review the order but said, “as of today, I've signed the proclamation for the public health emergency declaration, which will extend for 60 days."

"Yes, this has to be reviewed by the General Assembly, it is in effect today the emergency is in effect today, but they will be able to convene as a committee of the whole to review that. But I am declaring that emergency today," the governor added.

2:53 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Hospitalizations are nearly 3 times higher in states with less than half of their residents vaccinated

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

Average Covid-19 hospitalization rates are nearly three times higher among states that have fully vaccinated less than half of their residents vs. the average among those that have vaccinated more than half of their residents, according to a CNN analysis of federal data.

And Covid-19 case and death rates over the past week are more than twice as high among states that have vaccinated less than half of their residents, on average. 

Here's a breakdown of the data:

Current hospitalizations, according data from the US Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Average among states that have vaccinated less than half of residents: 14.4 per 100,000 residents
  • Average among states that have vaccinated more than half of residents: 4.9 per 100,000 residents

Daily Covid-19 case rate over past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University:

  • Average among states that have vaccinated less than half of residents: 23.7 per 100,000 residents
  • Average among states that have vaccinated more than half of residents: 9.3 per 100,000

Daily Covid-19 death rate over past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University:

  • Average among states that have vaccinated less than half of residents: 129 per 1 million residents
  • Average among states that have vaccinated more than half of residents: 55 per 1 million residents

Vermont has the highest vaccination rate (more than 67% fully vaccinated) and the lowest current Covid-19 hospitalization rate (less than 1 per 100,000 residents). Meanwhile, Florida has the highest current Covid-19 hospitalization rate – about 38 people hospitalized per 100,000 residents, and less than 49% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

Note: Data on state vaccination rates is from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2:50 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

"We let our children down" with slipping vaccination rates, expert says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

Falling vaccination rates put children in a tough position as schools return to in-person learning, and necessitate decisions on masking and vaccine boosters, Dr. Paul Offit told CNN on Thursday. Offit is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“I just feel like we let our children down by not keeping up the vaccination rates we had a couple months ago,” Offit told CNN’s Ana Cabrera. 

“We were at 3 million doses a day a couple months ago. If we’d stayed on that pace, we’d probably be at at least 80% population immunity from vaccination,” he said, “which would mean we wouldn’t have had to have these discussions about things like booster dosing and masking.”

Problems stemming from low vaccination rates are now converging with schools returning in the fall, he said. 

“We have a school population that is now, a young population between 6 and 12 years of age who are unlikely to get a vaccination when they go back to school,” he said, “And it’ll be fall and winter when it spreads more easily and there’s a very contagious variant out there.”

2:25 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Kentucky governor recommends school districts require masks for K-12 students and staff 

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

(Kentucky Governor's office)
(Kentucky Governor's office)

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear recommended that all school districts in the state require K-12 students and staff to wear face masks this fall. 

"To the schools, you teach science in your classroom, you should have to consider it when making decisions," Beshear said at a briefing Thursday.

Beshear urged every superintendent and school board "to do the right thing, just make the right decision" to require face masks indoors at schools. 

"We have to continue to fight this battle until it's done," said Beshear. 

Some more context: Beshear said the state is seeing an "exploding number of cases in summer camps "where, unlike schools, "you're not putting...unvaccinated kids, without masks, in a poorly ventilated room, for hours at a time."  

Beshear also emphasized the dangerous spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant. 

"It's going to spread through unvaccinated workplaces and classrooms, resulting in a loss of productivity, where parents and caregivers cannot go to work due to long quarantines," the governor said. "I'm not currently considering reinstating the mask mandate, we will watch what's happening and again, it's on the table, if it's needed."

The governor stressed that all state employees are still required to wear face masks at work. 

2:06 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Oregon will require masks in K-12 schools

From CNN’s Chris Boyette

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Thursday that K-12 schools will require masks to be worn indoors.

Consistent with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance, Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education to create a rule to require masks indoors for K-12 schools statewide for the 2021-22 school year, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“The science and data are clear: the Delta variant is in our communities, and it is more contagious,” Brown said. “My priority is to ensure our kids are able to safely return to full-time in-person learning this fall, five days per week and with minimal disruptions. With many children still ineligible to be vaccinated, masks are an effective way to help keep our kids safe in the classroom, the learning environment we know serves them best.”

Brown added that the state is recommending Oregonians statewide wear masks in public indoor spaces and stressed the importance of getting more people vaccinated.

“Vaccines remain the most effective and best way to protect ourselves and our families,” the governor said.

2:14 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Covid-19 booster shot still a question of data, FDA vaccine advisory committee member says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

Dr. Paul Offit
Dr. Paul Offit (CNN)

Any decision on a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the US is still awaiting more data, a prominent member of the US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee told CNN on Thursday.

“It depends on the data,” Dr. Paul Offit told CNN’s Ana Cabrera.

“Right now, as you said, the people who are over 65 who have gotten two doses of the vaccine still are highly protected against severe critical disease, having to seek medical care, go to the hospital, or worse – die,” he said.

“I think as long as we’re there, I don’t see any pressing need for a booster dose.”

“Right now what we’re pressed to do,” Offit said, “is vaccinate the unvaccinated.”

1:32 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Israel will offer 3rd Covid-19 vaccine dose to people over 60

From CNN's Andrew Carey

Israel’s Prime Minister has announced a program rolling out a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people over the age of 60, one of the first countries in the world to make such a move.

People will need to show they received their second dose of the vaccine at least five months ago.

The announcement follows a strong recommendation overnight from the government-appointed team of experts on the pandemic to offer older adults a third dose. The experts’ advice was based on data suggesting significant waning immunity from infection over time. 

The number of new cases in Israel has topped 2,000 for each of the last three days, reaching levels not seen in the country for four and half months. Some days in May and June, the number of new daily cases was down to single figures.

The number of severe cases currently stands at 151. The infection co-efficient, or the average number of people infected by someone with the virus, has been fairly steady for weeks between 1.3 and 1.4.

Some background: Israel began vaccinating its population in December. Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first to receive a dose which he did on live television. 

The vaccination program progressed apace and won plaudits for the fast rate at which Israel made the vaccine available to the entire adult population, and more recently children ages 12 and over.