June 29 coronavirus news

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha and Mike Hayes CNN

Updated 8:12 PM ET, Tue June 29, 2021
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10:41 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Moderna says lab results show its vaccine is protective against Delta and other variants

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Colleen D Amico, a clinical pharmacist with Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB) administers a shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to frontline workers at the SIHB on December 21, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. 
Colleen D Amico, a clinical pharmacist with Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB) administers a shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to frontline workers at the SIHB on December 21, 2020 in Seattle, Washington.  Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Biotechnology company Moderna announced on Tuesday that its coronavirus vaccine was found in lab experiments to work against emerging variants, including the Delta variant first identified in India.

Studies showed that serum collected from people who had been vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine showed activity against all variant strains tested, including versions of the B.1.617 variant first identified in India and the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, among others, according to the company. The study results have not been peer-reviewed yet and were published to the online server biorxiv.org as a pre-print paper. 

"These new data are encouraging and reinforce our belief that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should remain protective against newly detected variants," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement on Tuesday. "These findings highlight the importance of continuing to vaccinate populations with an effective primary series vaccine." 

The serum samples, from eight participants, were obtained one week after the participants completed a second dose of vaccine in Moderna's Phase 1 clinical trial, the company noted.

While the serum showed neutralizing activity against the variants, researchers also noted some variation in how that activity was reduced – for instance, compared with the original strain of the coronavirus, the study results showed a 1.2-fold reduction against the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, 2.1-fold reduction against the Delta variant and up to 8.4-fold reduction against versions of the B.1.351 variant.

"Such data are crucial to inform necessary modifications to COVID-19 mRNA vaccines going forward, which may help to mitigate the ongoing spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the emergence of new variants," the researchers wrote in the pre-print paper. Moderna's vaccine involves mRNA technology and SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

Moderna added in its announcement that the company is currently studying the potential need for booster shots against emerging variants "to proactively address the pandemic as the virus continues to evolve."

10:13 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Now is not the time "to encourage mass events, especially without precautions," says WHO chief scientist

From CNN's Sarah Braner

It’s not time to let your guard down when it comes to Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan. 

Swaminathan told CNN’s Hala Gorani on Monday that everyone should continue to practice caution since variants such as Delta—which has been identified in 85 countries—still pose a threat to the international community. 

Coronavirus vaccines may provide up to 90% protection against variants, but that means even vaccinated people are still at risk for Covid-19, says Swaminathan. 

“There will be vaccinated people who end up in [the] hospital, but the majority of vaccinated people who get the infection will be mild, will be asymptomatic, is not going to require this kind of intensive care that we've seen.”

When asked if it’s wise to open borders to international travel, Swaminathan said “everyone should recognize that this pandemic is not over… It's not that we can’t travel or do anything, but this is really not the time for us to encourage a lot of social mixing, to encourage mass events, especially without precautions, wherever you live in the world because these variants, you know, they travel around the world even before you recognize there’s a new variant.”

“I think this is the time still to be very cautious and we should remember that a large part of the world still doesn't have enough vaccines even to protect their most vulnerable people, and we need to be getting vaccines out to them.”

10:08 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Here's what you need to know about the Delta variant

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

In this October 22, 2020 file photo, a healthcare worker conducts a Covid-19 test at Mercy Health Anderson Hospital in Cincinnati.
In this October 22, 2020 file photo, a healthcare worker conducts a Covid-19 test at Mercy Health Anderson Hospital in Cincinnati. Liz Dufour/The Enquirer/USA Today Network

As the US passes 600,000 confirmed Covid deaths, there are also warnings about the rise of a new Covid strain, the Delta variant, taking over in the US.

Officially called the B.1.617.2 variant, it was first detected in India in February and has now spread across the globe. Some fear it could overwhelm health care systems and reverse reopening plans before vaccinations take hold.

Here are the answers to other commonly asked questions:

  • How does the Delta variant compare with other variants? It is more contagious, perhaps 60% more contagious than the Alpha variant, which was responsible for a surge in Michigan this spring.
  • How worried is the US government? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled the Delta variant a "variant of concern," which means scientists think it is more transmissible or may cause a more serious version of the disease. The WHO made a similar determination in May, as the Delta variant was tearing through India.
  • How prevalent is the Delta variant in the US? It accounted for 9.9% of US cases as of June 5, according to the CDC. By Sunday it accounted for 10.3% of cases, according to the website outbreak.info, which tracks variants. The Delta variant could be the dominant strain in the US within a month.
  • Do vaccines work against the Delta variant? Yes, but there is a catch. People who are fully vaccinated seem to have good protection against it. But people who have gotten only one shot of a two-dose vaccine do not. Right now, nearly 45% of Americans are fully vaccinated.
  • There's wild variation within states. What used to be a divide has turned into a chasm between states with high rates of vaccination and those with low rates of vaccination. For example, Bay Area counties in California are near or exceed 60% vaccination. Many Central Valley counties are well below 40%. In Florida, Miami-Dade County is at 50% fully vaccinated, while many Panhandle counties in the northern part of the state are at less than 30%. Health officials say they are worried about outbreaks of the Delta variant in communities with low vaccination rates.

10:05 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Here's the latest on vaccinations efforts in the US

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

In this Wednesday, May 19, photo, a licensed practical nurse draws a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine into a syringe at a mass vaccination clinic at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
In this Wednesday, May 19, photo, a licensed practical nurse draws a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine into a syringe at a mass vaccination clinic at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Steven Senne/AP

Four US states have vaccinated less than half of adults against Covid-19, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows, with just days to go until the Biden administration’s July 4 goal to reach 70% of adults with at least one dose.

Here’s latest data on vaccination efforts in the US, published Monday by the CDC:

  • 46.3% of the US population is fully vaccinated (153,776,118 people)
  • 16 states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents: Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, as well as Washington, DC.
  • 16 states have reached Biden’s goal to vaccinate 70% of adults with at least one dose: Virginia, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as Washington, DC.
  • With less than a week until the July 4 benchmark, four states have reached less than half of adults with at least one dose: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming
  • Current pace of vaccinations (a seven-day average): 532,873 people fully vaccinated per day; 833,990 doses per day. 


9:48 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

New poll shows decline in Americans practicing Covid-19 safety measures despite Delta variant

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Most Americans – 84% – have heard of the Delta coronavirus variant, but the number of people practicing safety measures such as social distancing and masking continues to decrease, according to new poll results published Tuesday by Axios-Ipsos

One in 10 said that they were very familiar with the Delta variant, 38% said they were somewhat familiar and 36% said they have heard of it but know almost nothing, according to the poll which was conducted June 25 to 28 and made up of a nationally representative sample of 1,106 adults.

The levels of concern about the variant vary. Of those who have heard of Delta, 36% each say that they are extremely or very concerned and somewhat concerned. Around a quarter are not too concerned or not concerned at all. Ipsos points out that “levels of concern are higher among those who are more aware,” for example, a majority of people who say they are very familiar with the Delta variant a either very or somewhat concerned about it.  

Although most Americans have heard of this variant, it is not affecting behavior when it comes to returning to pre-Covid life. 

Around two-thirds of respondents reported visiting friend or relatives or going out to eat in the past week, on par with the Axios-Ipsos poll in early June. One in three, or 34%, said they social distanced in the past week, down 10 percentage points from the start of June. Only a quarter are wearing a mask at all times when leaving the house. Those who say they’re wearing a mask at all times or sometimes hit 55% – a 13-point decline from earlier in June and the lowest share since the question was first included in the poll in April. 

Over half – 64% – said that going on a vacation poses a small risk or no risk. 

Americans feel that going to a July 4 celebration is less risky than they did last year, with 14% saying it’s a large risk, 27% a moderate risk, 36% a small risk and 23% no risk at all. Last year, 45% said it was a large risk, 33% a moderate risk, 17% a small risk and 6% no risk. 

Under half – 43% – said that they would self-quarantine if there was a spike in cases in their state and 57% said that they would stop having social gatherings outside the home. Ipsos said that these numbers are “dramatically lower” than when respondents were asked about stopping behaviors in light of the second wave in June 2020. 

Around half of respondents said that they would reduce non-grocery shopping trips if there was a spike in cases. 

More people said that they would cut down on socializing outside the home if the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or their governor advised that they should do so. 


9:41 a.m. ET, June 29, 2021

Delta variant is forcing officials to rethink Covid-19 measures

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe

The more dangerous and more transmissible Delta variant has spread to nearly every state in the US, feeding health experts' concern over potential Covid-19 spikes in the fall.

The variant was first identified in India and is now considered a variant of concern by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning scientists believe it can spread more easily or cause more severe disease.

The Delta variant now accounts for about one in every five new coronavirus infections in the US, the CDC has said. And with more than half of the population still not fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, health experts and officials worry that regions with low amounts of virus protection could see surges in the fall and winter.

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS that in terms of Delta spread, the US is about a month or two behind the UK – a country that has been dealing with high numbers of cases despite relatively high vaccination rates. For those such countries, the World Health Organization advised last week that even the fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks.

Already in Los Angeles County, the pace of this variant's spread has motivated officials to reinstate mask guidance for public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Calling it a "precautionary measure," the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued the voluntary mask guidance Monday, saying it was necessary until health officials can "better understand how and to who the Delta variant is spreading."

Experts have said that evidence points to vaccines like those from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech providing high amounts of protection against the variant, but LA Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said it is not clear what the future of the variant will be as it becomes more prevalent.

But not all local leaders are reinstating preventative guidance at this time.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday that masks will not be mandatory in the state's school buildings.

With more than two months until schools open, Murphy noted these rules could change depending on how the virus spreads and what the CDC decides.

"This is our best sense of what back to school looks like. It's far more than an educated guess," Murphy said.