July 16 coronavirus news

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

Updated 11:08 a.m. ET, July 19, 2021
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11:08 a.m. ET, July 19, 2021

At least 6 states will require grade school students to wear masks regardless of vaccination status

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

As school districts across the country prepare to welcome back students for full time in-person learning, some states are planning to require mask-wearing for all students; while in other states, executive orders have been signed to ban school districts from enacting mask mandates.

​The ever-changing rules, combined with a decision by many states to leave it to school districts to decide locally, is confusing parents, teachers and students.

Six states have announced that they will require K-12 students to wear masks in school, regardless of their vaccination status:

  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • Washington.

"All school personnel, volunteers, visitors, and students must wear cloth face coverings or an acceptable alternative (e.g., surgical mask) at school when indoors regardless of vaccination status," according to guidance from Washington's Department of Health, which was updated earlier this month.

However, in Washington, masks are not required outdoors — the varying rules adding to confusion over when masks are required versus not required.

On Monday, California quickly reversed its school mask policy after announcing that students who arrived at school without a mask on would be turned away.

For now, the state will leave decisions on masks up to the districts.

"California's school guidance will be clarified regarding masking enforcement, recognizing local schools' experience in keeping students and educators safe while ensuring schools fully reopen for in-person instruction," the California Department of Public Health tweeted. 

Even among the states requiring masks, there's indication policies are still in flux.

New Mexico is standing by its guidance issued in April for now, in which masks are required for all students in school. But New Mexico's Public Education Department is revisiting its policy now that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance.

"We expect our updated guidance, which will be announced upon completion, to align closely with the CDC's recommendations and to continue making the health and safety of children a priority," the department said in a statement to CNN.

Where health officials stand: The CDC updated its guidance for schools earlier this month, recommending that unvaccinated individuals over the age of two wear a mask when indoors, but saying that people generally do not need masks outdoors.

"Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained," the CDC guidance said.

Despite that guidance, seven states have enacted legislation that would ban districts from requiring masks in school, according to CNN's analysis. Those states are: Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont.

​To make matters even more complicated, two states — Illinois and Michigan — have statewide policies declaring that masks are required only for unvaccinated students. With Covid-19 vaccines only approved for children 12 years old and up, that means you could have junior high and middle schools where a combination of vaccinated and unvaccinated students are in classes together.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post included Delaware on the list of states requiring masks in school. As of last week, Delaware's state of emergency order expired, and there is no longer a state mask requirement. For now, the decision on requiring masks will be left to local school districts.

1:42 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Decision on full approval for Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine will come much sooner than January, FDA official says

From CNN's Maggie Fox 

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

A decision on full approval for Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine will come “much sooner” than January and likely within two months, an official at the US Food and Drug Administration told CNN Friday.

Pfizer began its submission for full approval—called a Biologics License Application (BLA) – in May. The application has been given priority review designation. 

As a matter of bureaucratic procedure, that means the FDA must make its decision by January – but the decision will come much sooner than that, the official told CNN. The FDA considers this matter a priority, said the official, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

All three vaccines being used in the US – Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson – are being used under emergency use authorization.

Last year, Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Review – the agency’s vaccine arm – said the EUA would only be granted after scrutiny that came close to what would be required for full BLA approval.

12:49 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Arizona governor says schools can't force unvaccinated students to quarantine if exposed to Covid-19

From CNN’s Mallory Simon

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks during a bill signing in April.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks during a bill signing in April. Ross D. Franklin/AP

Arizona’s governor has told two school districts their policy requiring unvaccinated students exposed to Covid-19 to quarantine is against state law.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s education adviser sent a letter to two school districts stating the mandatory quarantine practice is contrary to state law because Arizona does not require students to be vaccinated or wear a face covering to attend school.

Ducey’s office sent the letter and tweeted it after the Catalina Foothills Unified School District No. 16 of Pima County and the Peoria Unified School District No. 11 of Maricopa County sent out guidance to parents ahead of the school year.

“The policy must be rescinded immediately,” Ducey’s education adviser Kaitlin Harrier wrote to the two school districts.

Ducey’s letter has stoked tensions at a time when students and teachers are preparing to return back to school amid rising Covid-19 case numbers and concerns by some in the state that Ducey is turning return to school policies into a political football.

Lawyers hired by the two schools responded by saying the schools are in “full compliance” with the law and do not require vaccines or face coverings. And with regard to quarantine measures for unvaccinated students, they are merely following state health and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when it comes to quarantining after Covid-19 exposure.

Arizona’s health department has issued guidance which notes that “a person who had known close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case should quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure to the case. However, individuals may be eligible for shortened quarantine or may not be required to quarantine if certain conditions are met.”

Nothing “restricts a school district from following guidance provided by federal, state and local public health authorities with regard to students who have been exposed to COVID-19,” lawyer John C. Richardson wrote in response to the governor’s letter.

“These authorities uniformly provide that a temporary quarantine is the appropriate course of action except for students who can demonstrate that they have been fully vaccinated. It would not be appropriate or reasonable for school districts to ignore these public health standards, and [state law] does not mandate that they do so,” the letter also said.

The law firm is asking the governor’s office to rescind their letters, arguing the districts aren’t acting unlawfully.

“Simply stated, a student's temporary quarantine in conformance with guidance published by the CDC, the Arizona Department of Health and the Pima and Maricopa County Health Departments does not violate either the letter, or sprit of [the state law],” the lawyer for the school districts wrote. “Instead, this practice promotes public health.”

The Arizona Department of Education’s state superintendent and the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) both blasted the letter issued by Ducey’s administration.

Arizona State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman said the governor has actually left students vulnerable because of the prohibition of masks and vaccine required and that means many schools have “limited lines of defense against the virus.”

“A quarantine period for exposed, unvaccinated individuals is one of the only tools left to maintain a safe in-person learning environment,” Hoffman said in a statement to CNN. “Schools have a responsibility to ensure that our young, unvaccinated students are not needlessly exposed to COVID-19 or any other illness. I applaud public school districts and charters for following the guidance of public health officials to ensure student and staff safety this upcoming school year.”

The ASBA declared Ducey’s directive as “nonsensical” and said it “is in direct conflict with the guidance of his own department of health services, and places students at risk for political gain.”

The ASBA said it continues to advise schools to follow the state health department policy.

“Arizona’s school districts are tired of being the battleground for a political argument over response to COVID that has nothing to do with science or public health,” the group wrote in a statement to CNN.

Hoffman added that it was “beyond frustrating” that Ducey single out schools in contradiction of current guidance “just says before the next academic year starts for many schools.”

“I am tired of Arizona’s public schools being a leverage point for the Governor’s political conversation on COVID-19 that growingly has nothing to do with science or public health,” Hoffman wrote.

12:31 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

1 in 5 US Covid-19 cases this week were in Florida, White House says

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez 

White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said on Friday that one in five US Covid-19 cases this week came from Florida.

Zients underscored that as the contagious Delta variant of the virus spreads, “we will likely continue to experience an increase in Covid cases in the weeks ahead, with these cases concentrated in communities with lower vaccination rates.” 

“In fact, just four states accounted for more than 40% of all cases in the past week, with one in five cases occurring in Florida alone,” he said.

Zients' comments come as data shows cases are increasing across the country. According to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU), for the first time since early January, Covid-19 cases are rising in all 50 states.

The United States recorded an average of 26,448 new Covid-19 cases each day over the past week – up 67% from the week before.

12:24 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

No plans so far to reinstate mask mandate in New York City, mayor says

From CNN's Lila Watts

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said there were no immediate plans to reinstate a mask mandate during his weekly “Ask the Mayor” segment on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show."

“We do not have a plan to change course at this point,” De Blasio said on Friday morning.

De Blasio’s comments come after Los Angeles reinstated its mask mandate for all residents regardless of vaccination status. The mandate, announced by Los Angeles Health Commissioner Dr. Muntu Davis on Thursday, will go into effect Saturday night.

De Blasio pointed to stable hospitalization numbers in New York City as evidence that such a change in masking policy is not needed, but emphasized that his administration will adapt to any shifts in data.

“If we see something that we need to change, we’ll say it immediately, and we’ll call people to arms, as we’ve done many times,” De Blasio said. “I have no question that New Yorkers will respond to that.”


12:22 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Unvaccinated people face "extreme vulnerability" to Delta variant, Fauci says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

People who are unvaccinated face the greatest risks from the Delta variant, while people who are fully vaccinated appear protected from much of the disease burden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday.

“The bottom line is we are dealing with a formidable opponent in the Delta variant,” Fauci said at a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing, “and the extreme vulnerability of people who are not vaccinated, which will account for infections, hospitalizations and, ultimately, deaths.”

“The message loud and clear that we need to reiterate is that these vaccines continue to strong protection against SARS-CoV-2, including the Delta variant.”

Fauci spoke about data from the United Kingdom and Israel showing the protection provided by vaccines against the Delta variant.

“Take a look at what's going on worldwide with hospitalizations,” he said.

“Although Israel has the same issue with the dominance of the Delta strain, their hospitalizations have dramatically diminished,” Fauci said, adding that the UK also saw “a dramatic diminution in hospitalizations.”

“The Pfizer, Moderna and the J&J, both in lab studies and in clinical effectiveness studies, show the effectiveness of these vaccines against the Delta variant continually, and importantly, against hospitalization,” he said.

12:20 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

Covid-19 cases are rising in all 50 states for the first time since January, data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

For the first time since early January, Covid-19 cases are rising in all 50 states, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU). 

The United States recorded an average of 26,448 new Covid-19 cases each day over the past week – up 67% from the week before. Among states, the week-over-week change ranged from a 5% increase in Montana to more than a 100% increase – or doubling – in Vermont (155%), Alabama (142%), Michigan (137%), Massachusetts (127%), Kentucky (120%) and Iowa (113%).

The last time new cases increased over than the week before in all 50 states was on Jan. 5 – just a few days before the US reached its peak of more than 251,000 new cases each day, JHU data shows.

At that time, only about 5 million people had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and less than 1 million people were fully vaccinated, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now, Covid-19 case rates are highest in states that have lower vaccination rates. Among states that have fully vaccinated less than half of their residents, the average Covid-19 case rate was 11 new cases per 100,000 people last week. But among stats that have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents, the average case rate was four per 100,000 people.

12:14 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

White House predicts continued rising US cases as Delta variant spreads among unvaccinated

From CNN's Betsy Klein

White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients, front, speaks during a virtual briefing on July 16, 2021.
White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients, front, speaks during a virtual briefing on July 16, 2021. White House

As US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky outlined a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” the White House on Friday predicted continued rising Covid-19 cases in the coming weeks.

The pandemic “predominately threatens unvaccinated people,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday, adding, “As the more transmissible Delta variant continues to spread across the country, we will likely continue to experience an increase in Covid cases in the weeks ahead, with these cases concentrated in communities with lower vaccination rates.”

He predicted that the US will likely see smaller increases in hospitalizations due to vaccines, similar to trends in the US and Israel. 

The administration continues to deploy “trusted messengers,” from pop superstar Olivia Rodrigo to doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, educators, and school administrators.

But Zients pointed to some good news. In the past week, he said, the five states with the highest case rates, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada, have had “a higher rate of people getting newly-vaccinated compared to the national average.” 

He noted that the administration is deploying 100 people to the state of Nevada at the governor’s request. That group will help with vaccine access and outreach efforts. The administration is also providing CDC technical expertise to the state of Missouri to help with its response on genetic sequencing data analysis and outbreak response. 

Zients reiterated that the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration still believe that fully-vaccinated Americans do not need a booster shot at this time, however, he added, “The science will guide this… This is a question that they are continually evaluating. We are ready for whatever the science tells us.”

 Zients did say there is enough supply that Americans will be able to get a booster “quickly and easily” if the science warrants.

The bottom line of Zients’ Friday message: “If you’re unvaccinated, please get vaccinated now. The vaccines work. It’s safe, it’s free, it’s readily available, and it’s never been more important.”

12:06 p.m. ET, July 16, 2021

If you missed your second vaccine dose, there's "no bad time" to complete vaccination, CDC head says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid and Deidre McPhillips

A health care worker prepares Moderna Covid-19 vaccines in Immokalee, Florida, on May 20, 2021.
A health care worker prepares Moderna Covid-19 vaccines in Immokalee, Florida, on May 20, 2021. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Explaining the importance of being fully vaccinated, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Friday appealed directly to people who may have delayed getting their second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. 

“We encourage that people get vaccinated, on a schedule, three or four weeks after your first dose, but if you are beyond that window, I want to reiterate, there is no bad time to get to your second shot,” Walensky said during a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing.

According to CDC data through mid-June, almost 11% of people who are able to receive their second dose of a vaccine – about 15 million people – have not. Adults under the age of 30 and children under the age of 18 were the two groups most likely to have missed their second dose.

“Both vaccines are most effective two weeks after the second dose, with each exceeding 90% effectiveness against severe disease, hospitalization and death in real world studies,” Walensky said. “Not completing the series puts those partially vaccinated at risk of illness.”

“Do it for yourself, your family and for your community. And please do it for your young children who right now, can’t get vaccinated themselves,” she said.