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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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


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.”

6:02 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

New Mexico requires all state employees to be either fully vaccinated or take to regular Covid-19 tests

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Employees of the state of New Mexico are the latest to be told the Covid-19 vaccine is no longer optional, unless they want to be subject to regular coronavirus testing. 

“Right now, it’s very simple: Get a vaccine, or else you will be tested,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a news release. “There will be no quarter for this virus within state government offices. I will not tolerate any unnecessary risk within the workforce under my authority.”

The governor’s order takes effect Monday. Her announcement comes on the same day President Biden is expected to announce a similar order for federal workers. State employees who are not fully vaccinated are also required to wear a mask indoors while working under the new order. The governor’s office says employees who do not comply may be disciplined, including the possibility of losing their jobs. 

“I have absolutely zero appetite for another unnecessary surge of infections, hospitalizations and death,” the governor said. “This isn’t a debate. The vaccines are safe, and they work.”

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.