August 2, 2021 US coronavirus news

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

Updated 10:00 PM ET, Mon August 2, 2021
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5:13 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Vaccination rates are improving where they are most needed, White House says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Jeff Zients, White House Covid-19 coordinator, left, wears a protective mask while listening as President Joe Biden speaks on Wednesday, April 21.
Jeff Zients, White House Covid-19 coordinator, left, wears a protective mask while listening as President Joe Biden speaks on Wednesday, April 21. Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Vaccination rates are increasing in states with high case rates, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday.  

“In the states with the highest case rates, daily vaccination rates have more than doubled,” Zients said in a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing. 

“The eight states with the highest current case rates have seen an average increase of 171% in the number of people newly vaccinated, each day over the past three weeks,” he said.

He added: “Louisiana has seen a 302% increase in the average number of newly vaccinated per day, Mississippi 250%, Alabama 215%, and Arkansas 206%.”

Zients said this increase means people are understanding the risks of going unvaccinated.

“This increase in vaccination rates in states that have been lagging is a positive trend. Americans are seeing the risk and impact of being unvaccinated and responding with action. And that's what it's going to take to get us out of this pandemic.”

4:52 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

White House says US reaching goal of 70% of US adults partially vaccinated is "a significant step"

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, on Monday, August 2.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, on Monday, August 2. Susan Walsh/AP

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the White House is still “forging ahead” after meeting its goal to get 70% of US adults with at least one Covid-19 shot about one month late, arguing that the milestone is still a  “significant step.”                                   

When CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked Psaki during the press briefing for President Biden’s reaction to hitting the goal, Psaki said, “It was a goal he set – we set as an administration because we believe in bold, ambitious goals.”

“I would say it’s a significant step that we have hit 70% of people in this country, of adults, who are vaccinated. That’s a good sign. It will help protect communities. It will help protect families and save more lives. But we’ve said from the beginning, even as we set this goal, our work would not be done even when we reached it. And so we’re forging ahead,” she continued.

4:34 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Louisiana expects Covid-19 hospitalizations to reach highest level in pandemic tomorrow, official says

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Louisiana expects Covid-19 hospitalizations to reach its highest level in the pandemic on Tuesday, the state's health officer said.

There were at least 1,984 Covid-19 patients hospitalized throughout the state on Monday, Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said.

“I have every shred of confidence, unless something miraculous happens, that tomorrow we will have the largest number of hospitalized Covid patients throughout Louisiana than at any point prior in the pandemic,” Kanter said.

As of Monday, Louisiana was averaging at 8.2 new Covid-19 cases per day, per 100,000 residents, the highest point it has been in the state at any point in the pandemic, according to Kanter.

The state health officer urged residents to take Gov. John Bel Edwards’ new mask order seriously. 

“We did not come to it lightly,” Kanter said. “If we intend to prioritize the things that are important to us, like keeping our kids back in school and in-person, and maintaining our growing economy by keeping businesses open — masking is the best way to ensure that, so please take this masking order seriously, both in your personal lives, and your professional lives.”

4:20 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

University of Tennessee requiring masks for much of Knoxville campus

From CNN's Dave Alsup

The University of Tennessee issued a mandate Monday requiring indoor mask wearing for faculty and students on much of the Knoxville campus. They'll be required in classrooms, labs and indoor academic events. 

UT issued the following statement: 

“Students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear masks in classrooms and labs, and for indoor academic events required for students such as orientation. We will continually re-evaluate the need for masks based on COVID-19 case counts in our community.
We encourage every member of our campus community—especially those who are unvaccinated—to consider CDC guidance related to mask wearing in other indoor public spaces.
This is not how we wanted to begin this semester—we had hoped for different circumstances. Let’s do the right thing now in hopes of relaxing these requirements when conditions improve.
We plan a full campus experience, with classrooms and residential spaces at capacity. We do not plan to limit dining options or seating but will maintain the ability for students to take meals to go if they choose.”
4:19 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Montel Williams: Had I not been vaccinated, "I might not be talking to you today"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Montel Williams speaks at the “Gathering for Cure” Awards Gala for the Brain Mapping Foundation on Saturday, July 10, in Los Angeles.
Montel Williams speaks at the “Gathering for Cure” Awards Gala for the Brain Mapping Foundation on Saturday, July 10, in Los Angeles. Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

TV talk show host Montel Williams, who recently contracted and recovered from coronavirus, said he believes the vaccine is the only thing that kept him out of the hospital. 

"Had I not gotten [the vaccine], I might not be talking to you today," said Williams, speaking today on CNN.

"Because of my compromised immune system this infection would have probably been much worse than what it was," he said. "So I am blessed that I am able to talk to you."

Williams, who has multiple sclerosis, said he and his family have exercised the utmost caution throughout the pandemic. He believes he contracted the virus after encountering an unmasked man who appeared ill at a testing site.

"I looked him in the face ... he looked like he was a little sick," said Williams. "...I texted my wife at that moment and said 'you can't believe that some butthead walked in here where it said 'no entry no mask' without a mask on.'" 

"How dare you step in on another person," said Williams on the interaction. "The rules are out there... stay away from another person, especially if you think you are sick."

Williams went on to urge all Americans who are not yet vaccinated yet to get the shots now, for themselves and for their fellow Americans.

"If you care anything about another human being, then get the vaccination," he said. "...Be selfish.... be ignorant. Think about only yourself."

4:09 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Biden and Covid response team appear masked at Monday meeting

From CNN's Kyle Blaine

President Biden and members of his Covid-19 response team wore masks in a picture of their Monday meeting in the Oval Office. 

The picture was released on the President's Twitter.

4:05 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

CDC adds 16 destinations to "very high" Covid-19 travel risk list

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Travelers walk along the waterfront in Kokkari, on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, Greece, on Tuesday, June 8.
Travelers walk along the waterfront in Kokkari, on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, Greece, on Tuesday, June 8. Petros Giannakouris/AP

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added 16 destinations to its very high Covid-19 risk level on Monday, including Greece, Ireland, and the US Virgin Islands.

According to the CDC, a designation of “very high” means people should avoid travel, and those traveling to these destinations should be fully vaccinated first. 

Direct travel of non-citizens from both Ireland and Greece to the United States has been suspended since Jan. 25, 2021, under an executive order limiting travel from multiple countries.

Among other movements on the travel list, Puerto Rico, a US territory, was upgraded from moderate risk to high risk. The CDC currently designates the United States as high risk.

3:18 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

Sen. Lindsey Graham says he has tested positive for Covid-19 after being fully vaccinated

From CNN's Clare Foran

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, July 30, 2021. 
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, July 30, 2021.  Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham has tested positive for Covid-19 after being fully vaccinated and has experienced “flu-like symptoms,” he announced Monday. 

“I was just informed by the House physician I have tested positive for #COVID19 even after being vaccinated. I started having flu-like symptoms Saturday night and went to the doctor this morning,” he tweeted.

He wrote in a follow-up tweet: “I feel like I have a sinus infection and at present time I have mild symptoms. I will be quarantining for ten days. I am very glad I was vaccinated because without vaccination I am certain I would not feel as well as I do now. My symptoms would be far worse.” 

Read the tweets:

 

3:20 p.m. ET, August 2, 2021

California's Bay Area counties reinstate indoor mask requirement

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

A "Masks Required" sign posted at the entrance to the Ferry Building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, July 19, 2021. 
A "Masks Required" sign posted at the entrance to the Ferry Building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, July 19, 2021.  David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A mandate to wear face coverings in indoor public places regardless of vaccination status is back for millions of residents living in the San Francisco Bay Area as the highly contagious Delta variant causes a spike in new Covid-19 cases.

Health officers from San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Sonoma counties, and the city of Berkeley announced the decision in a joint briefing Monday, joining similar mandates in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Yolo counties that require masks indoors.

The reinstated order affects more than 7 million residents of the San Francisco Bay Area and will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. The new order means nearly half of California’s population will now be under a mask mandate regardless of vaccination status.

“Indoor masking is a temporary measure that will help us deal with the Delta variant, which is causing a sharp increase in cases, and we know increases in hospitalizations and deaths will follow,” said Dr. Naveena Bobba, San Francisco acting health officer.

San Francisco is seeing its fourth surge of Covid-19 cases, which are increasing at a faster rate than the previous three and infecting even those who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said Friday.

Additionally, the group of health officers is urging all residents 12 and over to get vaccinated as soon as possible. About 63% of California’s nearly 40 million residents have been fully vaccinated.