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
17 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
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.

12:45 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

New York attorney general urges Facebook to fight Spanish-language vaccine misinformation

From CNN’s Brian Fung

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks at a news conference on Friday, May 21, in New York.
New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks at a news conference on Friday, May 21, in New York.

New York Attorney General Letitia James called for Facebook to crack down on Covid-19 misinformation on Thursday, particularly for Spanish-speaking users of the social media platform. 

In a letter to Facebook's VP of state policy, Will Castleberry, James said Latino vaccination rates are among the lowest in the country, making it imperative that Spanish-speaking Americans receive accurate information about the coronavirus vaccine. 

It is not enough for social media platforms to supply reliable information, James continued, adding that platforms such as WhatsApp could be doing more such as notifying users when a claim on the app has been previously fact-checked and identified as misinformation, or preventing the sharing of the claim altogether.

"With Facebook as the primary platform of choice for most Latino social media users, it is critical that Facebook improve its Spanish-language moderation and efforts to combat misleading information," she wrote. 

"We request that Facebook share with our office its policies and procedures regarding misinformation targeted towards the Latino community as well as any initiatives that Facebook has underway to amplify evidence-based and scientifically accurate material to Latino users," James added.

James' comments come as the Biden administration continues to battle misinformation surrounding vaccinations. Earlier this month, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned health misinformation is "a serious threat to public health," and the administration has put pressure on social media giants like Facebook to do more to stop the spread of false information.

12:26 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Israel releases data supporting recommendation to give 3rd Covid-19 vaccine dose to older adults

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard and Amir Tal

A man receives his third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on July 14, in Ramat Gan, Israel.
A man receives his third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on July 14, in Ramat Gan, Israel. Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israel's Ministry of Health on Thursday published the data that was presented to its Vaccine Advisory Committee last night in support of its recommendation to administer a third dose of coronavirus vaccine to older adults.

The Ministry of Health "recommended the provision of a third vaccine in the older adult population," noted an announcement from the Ministry on Thursday.

Some of the data considered by the Ministry come from research on the "justification, safety and efficacy" of a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for hemodialysis patients that was posted as a pre-print paper earlier this month to the server medrxiv.org. The research found that about two-thirds of hemodialysis patients who had a suboptimal immune response after a second dose of vaccine developed "optimal" antibody titers and T cells after a third dose.

Israel’s health care system has been instructed to make arrangements to begin vaccinating people over the age 60 with a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine beginning on Sunday, according to a source with knowledge of Israeli health care planning, pending a final government decision to proceed. 

Recipients of a third dose will need to show that more than five months have passed since they received their second dose, the source said.

12:09 p.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Covid-19 vaccines estimated to have prevented 60,000 deaths in England

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

People wait on socially distanced chairs to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination center at the Tate Modern in central London on Friday, July 16.
People wait on socially distanced chairs to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination center at the Tate Modern in central London on Friday, July 16. Tolga Akmen/AGP/Getty Images

Covid-19 vaccines are estimated to have prevented 60,000 Covid-19 related deaths in England up to July 23, according to the latest report from Public Health England (PHE).

The report also estimated that Covid-19 vaccines have now prevented more than 22 million cases of infection – more than double the estimated number published previously, a PHE press release said Thursday.  The data is based on modeling analysis from PHE and Cambridge University’s MRC Biostatistics Unit.

“These figures show the vaccine programme’s remarkable impact on saving lives and reducing the spread of the virus. As cases have increased, the true scale of protection from the vaccine programme has become clear,” Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, Consultant Epidemiologist at PHE, said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jonathan Van Tam told BBC Newsbeat on Thursday that scientists "do not know whether there will be a fourth wave" of infections in the UK. 

Van Tam added that although he hoped "the worst is behind us" it is "quite possible that we're going to have one or two bumpy periods through autumn and winter, not through COVID, but also through flu and other respiratory viruses as well."

Once the UK has a "highly vaccinated adult population" including young people ages 18 to 25, "the chances of us needing another lockdown are much lower," he added.

11:38 a.m. ET, July 29, 2021

More than 71% of the US population lives in a county where people should be wearing masks indoors

From CNN's Michael Nedelman and Deidre McPhillips

A sign on a storefront advises shoppers to wear masks inside on Monday, July 19, 2021, in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Los Angeles County has reinstated an indoor mask mandate due to rising COVID-19 cases. 
A sign on a storefront advises shoppers to wear masks inside on Monday, July 19, 2021, in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. Los Angeles County has reinstated an indoor mask mandate due to rising COVID-19 cases.  Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

More than 71% of the US population — or nearly 237 million people — live in counties considered to have “high” or “substantial” Covid-19 transmission, according to a CNN analysis of data published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only 1% of the population — just 3.2 million people — live in areas with “low” transmission.

That means the latest mask CDC guidance, which advises even fully vaccinated people to mask up indoors in areas with "substantial" or "high transmission," would apply to more than seven in 10 Americans.

About 48% are in “high” transmission counties, and 23% are in counties with “substantial” transmission.

This is up from a week ago, when just over half — 50.5% — of Americans lived in counties that fell into either category. Two weeks ago, that number was even lower: 38.5%. 

In early June, 2.4% of the population lived in a county with “high” Covid-19 transmission, and another 13% in areas with “substantial” transmission.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases in the US continue to rise. The country is now averaging 63,698 new each day, according to Johns Hopkins University — that’s a 59% increase over last week’s seven-day average. 

According to the CDC, the US is experiencing an uptick in vaccinations. An average of 382,106 people are initiating vaccination each day, the agency's data published Wednesday shows. This is the highest it’s been in three weeks and a 35% increase over last week. At least 49.2% of the total US population is fully vaccinated.

Some more context on the data: The CDC considers a county to have “high” transmission if there have been 100 or more cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 residents in the past week, or a test positivity rate of 10% or higher during the same time frame. For “low” transmission, those numbers must be fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 or a test positivity rate under 5%.

Here's a look at the latest community spread trends:

10:53 a.m. ET, July 29, 2021

Texas teachers association calls on governor to reverse ban on mask mandates

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is pictured speaking at a news conference in Austin, Texas on June 8.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is pictured speaking at a news conference in Austin, Texas on June 8. Eric Gay/AP

A Texas teachers group is calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to reverse his stance on banning mask mandates in schools, as the new school year approaches and Covid-19 cases are on the rise.

The Texas State Teachers Association, the Texas affiliate of the National Education Association, said that individual school districts should be allowed to require masks in school based on the local health conditions in their communities, according to a statement released Tuesday.

"If Gov. Abbott really cares about the health and safety of Texas students, educators and their communities, he will give local school officials and health experts the option of requiring masks in their schools," said TSTA president Ovidia Molina.

The statement came on the same day the CDC adjusted its school guidelines, recommending all K-12 students wear masks in school. Abbott is standing by the executive order he signed in May, before the Delta variant was spreading at high rates.

"The time for government mask mandates is over—now is the time for personal responsibility," he tweeted Tuesday. "Every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a mask or have their children wear masks."

The TSTA noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics has also recommended everyone older than 2 wear a mask in school, and that children under 12 are not yet eligible for Covid-19 vaccines.

"Educators are eager to return to the classroom, but the pandemic is still dangerous," Molina said.