US Covid-19 cases rise as Delta variant spreads

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

Updated 8:03 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021
25 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
6:46 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

Florida governor signs executive order to prevent mask mandates in schools

From CNN's Deanna Hackney

Joann Marcus of Fort Lauderdale, left, cheers as she listens to the Broward School Board's emergency meeting, Wednesday, July 28, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A small but vocal group spoke vehemently against masks, saying their personal rights were being eroded and their children were suffering socially. 
Joann Marcus of Fort Lauderdale, left, cheers as she listens to the Broward School Board's emergency meeting, Wednesday, July 28, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A small but vocal group spoke vehemently against masks, saying their personal rights were being eroded and their children were suffering socially.  (Marta Lavandier/AP)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order that directs the state's health and education departments to issue emergency rules that prevent the implementation of a mask mandate in schools. 

A news release from the governor's office said that executive order 21-175 was issued "in response to several Florida school boards considering or implementing mask mandates in their schools after the Biden administration issued unscientific and inconsistent recommendations that school-aged children wear masks."

It added that this was done "to protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks." 

The executive order states that if the State Board of Education finds a school district board unwilling or unable to comply, they are able to withhold the transfer of state funds,  discretionary grant funds, or discretionary lottery funds until they do. They may also declare the school ineligible for competitive grants.

The latest data: DeSantis' order comes after the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled guidance earlier this week that people in areas with "high" or "substantial" Covid-19 transmission should resume wearing masks indoors. Over 75% of the US population live in these areas.

The CDC released a new study Friday that shows the Delta Covid-19 variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected.

The finding that the Delta variant resulted in similar viral loads "was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC's updated mask recommendation," Walensky said Friday.

"The masking recommendation was updated to ensure the vaccinated public would not unknowingly transmit virus to others, including their unvaccinated or immunocompromised loved ones," the CDC director said.

6:01 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

Fauci says latest CDC data on Delta variant demonstrates the importance of getting vaccinated

From CNN's Sarah Braner

New evidence about the contagiousness of the Delta variant shows it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study earlier Friday showing that three-quarters of people infected during an outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts, were vaccinated. Most cases involved the Delta variant. And infected people who were vaccinated had just as much virus in their bodies as unvaccinated patients did.

“What we did know was how transmissible the virus was among unvaccinated people,” Fauci told NPR. “So it was very clear that when you compare the Delta variant with, for example, the Alpha variant, it was clearly, considerably more transmissible. The new data show that it is so transmissible that even a vaccinated person who has a breakthrough infection can now transmit it. That is the new data.”

The Provincetown study prompted the CDC to change its guidance on mask use and advise vaccinated people to resume mask use indoors in areas of sustained or high transmission of the virus.

“There's a difference between knowing that is transmissible in general versus it's also transmissible when you have a breakthrough infection of a vaccinated person,” Fauci said.

“I think the simplest way to get people to understand is that we are dealing with a different virus,” he added. “The Delta virus has characteristics that's different than the Alpha variant and other variants we've dealt with. So when someone says the war is changed, what it really means [is that] the virus has changed. And we have got to keep up in our understanding, and what our policies are related to the fact that we're dealing now with a more formidable virus.”

Some background: The Alpha, or B.1.1.7 variant, dominated the US until early summer. Now Delta, also known as B.1.617.2, accounts for more than 80% of cases, according to the CDC. It’s driven a fresh surge of infections.

“The solution to all of this is to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can,” Fauci said. “There’s a really, really good reason to get vaccinated, and that is to save yourself from getting a severe infection that would lead to hospitalization and deaths."

“There's one striking number that people who choose to remain unvaccinated should remember: in the United States… look at all of the Covid deaths, 99.5% of them occur among unvaccinated people, and 0.5% occur among vaccinated people. So if ever there was a statistic that's striking, to tell you the difference between a vaccinated and unvaccinated person, that's it," Fauci added.

5:39 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

Arkansas attorney general warns of price gouging during Covid-19 emergency declaration

From CNN's Kelsie Smith

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is warning consumers to be aware of potential price gouging on goods, products, and services following Gov. Asa Hutchinson's Covid-19 public health emergency declaration. 

“Just as we saw in 2020, some people will exploit a crisis by charging astronomical amounts for items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but this illegal activity will not be tolerated on my watch,” said Rutledge in a news release. “Unfortunately, during emergency declarations, we must be diligent and report businesses charging prices for items that appear beyond legal limits.”

Rutledge released tips in a news release to avoid price gouging, including knowing the average price for goods like hand sanitizer, soap and non-perishable food items before purchasing. 

The state's price gouging law bans businesses from excessive and unjustified increases in the prices charged for essential goods and services during emergencies. Arkansas businesses may legally charge a higher price if they can show that the higher price is directly attributable to additional costs incurred by the retailer, its supplier or as the result of additional costs for labor or materials.

5:16 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

Walt Disney Company sets Covid-19 vaccinations rules for employees

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Fireworks go off at the Magic Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World Resort on July 1,  in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Fireworks go off at the Magic Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World Resort on July 1, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Liao Pan/China News Service/Getty Image)

The Walt Disney Company is requiring full Covid-19 vaccinations for all salaried and non-union hourly employees working at sites in US, the company said in a statement Friday.

The company will give employees who aren’t vaccinated and working on-site 60 days to get vaccinated, according to the statement. Employees working from home will need to provide verification of vaccination before returning to work, the company said, with limited exceptions. 

All new hires will be required to be fully vaccinated before beginning employment, the company said.

Discussions with unions representing employees under collective bargaining agreements have also begun, the company said.

“Vaccines are the best tool we all have to help control this global pandemic and protect our employees,” the company said.
4:19 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

Vaccinations in New York state jump over last 24 hours

From CNN's Laura Dolan

More than 84,400 vaccination doses were administered over the last 24 hours in New York state, according to a news release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. 

This is higher than the daily average during the month of July, which was just over 31,900.   

The seven-day positivity average for Covid-19 cases remains over 2% in the state. The highest rate is in the capital region at 3.21%, according to the release.

The rise in vaccinations comes after Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced certain vaccine requirements for state and city workers this week.

To note: The July vaccination average of 31,907 was computed by adding up all of the daily vaccine doses reported by the New York State Department of Health via the governor’s press office and dividing by total number of days.

3:46 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

The FDA is pulling in extra help to speed full approval of Covid-19 vaccines

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

The US Food and Drug Administration is pulling in extra help from across the agency to speed final approval of Pfizer/BioNtech’s coronavirus vaccine, an agency spokesperson told CNN Friday.

“We have taken an all-hands-on-deck approach, including identifying additional resources such as personnel and technological resources from across the agency and opportunities to reprioritize other activities, in order to complete our review to help combat this pandemic surge,” the FDA’s Abby Capobianco told CNN in an email.

“Our ongoing review of the biologics license application for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is moving forward as rapidly as possible in keeping with the high-quality complete assessment that the public expects from the FDA,” she added.

The three vaccines in current use in the United States — Pfizer’s, Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s — have emergency use authorization. Pfizer has filed for full approval in a process known as biologics license application or BLA. 

“We recognize that for some, the FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccines may bring additional confidence and encourage them to get vaccinated,” Capobianco said. She said acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock was helping reassign people and other resources.

“FDA staff will conduct a thorough review process, while balancing the incredible sense of urgency necessary, both of which are needed to ensure that any vaccine that is authorized or approved meets our rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness, and quality. In this regard, Dr. Woodcock has reiterated her appreciation for the diligence and integrity to this process and offered all agency resources to the team to make this happen.”

3:41 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

White House says a national vaccine requirement "not under consideration at this time"

From CNN's DJ Judd

(Andrew Harnik/AP)
(Andrew Harnik/AP)

The White House is not considering a national vaccine requirement at this time, principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at Friday’s press briefing.

Jean-Pierre declined to say whether President Biden has asked the Department of Justice if a federal vaccine mandate was possible, telling reporters Friday, “I don't have any more to add to that,” but pointed to the President’s remarks Thursday during remarks from the East Room.

“I had asked the Justice Department to determine whether that is, they're able to [pass vaccine mandates] legally,” Biden said Thursday, “and they can, local communities can do that, local businesses can do that. It's still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country. I don't know that yet.”
3:20 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

More than 80% of Americans live in counties impacted by latest CDC mask guidance

From CNN’s Deidre McPhillips

More than 80% of the US population — about 274 million people — live in a county considered to have “high” or “substantial” Covid-19 transmission, according to a CNN analysis of data published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This includes more than half of the US population — nearly 55% — who live in areas with "high" transmission, and another 28% live in counties with "substantial" transmission. 

That’s about 25 million additional people since Thursday who live in a county where, according to the latest CDC guidance, even fully vaccinated people should mask up indoors.

Less than 1% of the population — fewer than 2 million people — live in areas with “low” transmission.  

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%.

3:15 p.m. ET, July 30, 2021

White House defends communication efforts around new Covid-19 mask guidance

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (Andrew Harnik/AP)

White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the administration’s communication efforts after it updated Covid-19 guidance following rising cases and the dominance of the Delta variant, telling reporters at Friday’s briefing that while they haven’t held a Covid-19 briefing this week or had any health officials join the White House briefings, “I would argue that we had the President of the United States speak to this yesterday, he gave a more than 30 minute speech about where we are as a country.”

“We heard from the President yesterday, we heard from the President about the Delta variant and vaccinations in general the day before yesterday when he was in Pennsylvania where he was supposed to talk about ‘Buy American,’ which he did, but he led off talking about the vaccinations, we have had our doctors on your networks on many of the networks that are here talking probably all of them, talking about the Delta variant, all throughout these last couple of days, so they have been out there, they've been talking about it,” Jean-Pierre said.

“The doctors have been on national television all week, speaking to this, answering the questions on your networks, so they've been out there talking about, they're not hiding,” she added.

Jean-Pierre also told reporters, “our message has always been clear throughout — we need more people to get vaccinated to stop the spread of this variant, and so, we have to continue to make that effort.”

Jean-Pierre also pointed to data released by the CDC today in their weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) that led to new mask guidance, telling reporters Friday, “The CDC’s first and foremost priority is getting the American people information as quickly as possible, and so, that's what they did on Tuesday, they got it as quickly as they can.”

“They're going to be releasing this data today, as you know, and it was clear that the vaccine — it was clear that vaccinated people have the ability to transmit, and action needed to be taken quickly, and that's why they did it.”