June 21 coronavirus news

By Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:58 PM ET, Mon June 21, 2021
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8:55 a.m. ET, June 21, 2021

US air travel hits highest level since March 2020

From CNN's Pete Muntean

Travelers line up to pass through the south security checkpoint at Denver International Airport on June 16 in Denver.
Travelers line up to pass through the south security checkpoint at Denver International Airport on June 16 in Denver. David Zalubowski/AP

The Transportation Security Administration screened 2.1 million people at airports across the country on Sunday, the most since March 7, 2020. 

The new pandemic record marks the fifth day this month that air travel figures have exceeded 2 million passengers, about 75% of a normal day for the airline industry pre-pandemic. 

But carriers are struggling to keep up with the crush of passengers. Flight-tracking site FlightAware says American Airlines canceled 6% of all flights on Sunday.

The airline cites labor issues with both its own crews and contractors and says it is rebooking passengers on new flights in advance through mid-July.

8:18 a.m. ET, June 21, 2021

The Delta variant is growing faster in US counties with lower vaccination rates, research finds

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

The Delta variant, or the B.1.617.2 first identified in India, is one of the variants overtaking the Alpha, or B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, as the dominant variant in the United States, and it’s happening faster in counties with lower vaccination rates, according to a new study by scientists at Helix, scheduled to be published as a preprint in the coming days.

Scientists at Helix analyzed nearly 20,000 Covid-19 tests collected since April 2021 and just under 250,000 Covid-19 sequence results of samples Helix collected since January 2021. 

What the research showed:

  • They found that the percentage of positive cases of the B.1.1.7 variant dropped from 70% in April 2021 to 42% six weeks later.
  • Their results show that “the variant of concern B.1.1.7 is rapidly being displaced in the United States,” they said, and most of this displacement can be attributed to the Delta variant and the Gamma variant, also known as P.1 and first identified in Brazil. “In the United States, this analysis showed that the growth rate of B.1.617.2 was faster than P.1,” said the research.
  • However, growth rates of the two variants differed by the county vaccination rate.The samples the study looked at came from 747 counties. The sequence data from the counties was compared to county vaccination rates that came from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The growth curve for B.1.617.2, which is more transmissible but against which vaccines are highly effective, shows faster growth in counties with lower vaccination rates,” said the study. “In contrast, P.1, which is less transmissible but against which vaccines have somewhat less efficacy, has a higher prevalence in counties with higher vaccination rates.”

More on the study: They defined a county with a lower vaccination rate as one which had less than 28.5% of the population completely vaccinated on May 1, the others were considered counties with a higher vaccination rate.

An important limitation is noted by the researchers: the relatively small number of positives that have been analyzed in the last two months, partly because of the lower numbers of cases in the US and the decrease in test positivity rate. The data is not homogenous across the US and the samples “do not proportionally represent the different areas of the United states by population”, they say, which is another limitation.

8:49 a.m. ET, June 21, 2021

Spectators will be allowed at the Summer Olympics — but there will be capacity limits

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto, left, Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa, right, and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, attend a five-party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo on June 21.
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto, left, Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa, right, and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, attend a five-party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo on June 21. Reyes Marin/Pool/AP

Tokyo 2020 announced on Monday that it will allow spectators at the Olympics this year amid the pandemic, setting a 50% cap at venues, up to a maximum of 10,000 people.

Organizers did however warn that it could restrict the number of fans in the event of a state of emergency or amid any other restrictions to curb the rise of Covid-19 infections.

Those attending the postponed Olympics will have to abide by a number of protocols aimed at stopping the spread of cases.

"Masks should be worn in venues at all times; speaking in a loud voice or shouting will be prohibited; congestion should be avoided by means of appropriate announcements; and visitors should leave venues in a staggered manner," read a statement outlining the guidelines.

"Spectators will be requested to travel directly to venues and return home directly, and to take all necessary precautions when moving between prefectures," the statement continued.