August 3, 2021 US coronavirus news

By Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 4:07 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021
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10:30 a.m. ET, August 3, 2021

New York City's plan to require proof of vaccination at some indoor venues will be enforced in September

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press briefing in New York on August 3.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a press briefing in New York on August 3. NYC Media

New York City will require proof of vaccination at many indoor places of business, including restaurants and gyms, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today.

The program is called "The Key to NYC" pass, the mayor said. It will require proof of vaccination at indoor dining, fitness, entertainment and performance venues.

The mayor called it a "first in the nation approach."

“This is going to be a requirement,” he said. “Climbing this ladder is giving us more and more ability to fight back,” he said.

The program is set to launch on Aug. 16 and enforcement will begin on Sept. 13, the mayor said.

“If you are unvaccinated unfortunately you won’t be able to participate in anything,” de Blasio said.

Some context: The move is similar to action taken in Europe, with France's parliament recently passing a law that requires a "health pass" showing proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test in order to enter restaurants, bars and for travel on long-distance trains and planes, starting in August.

Acknowledging that the move will get pushback, de Blasio said “for so many people this is going to be the life-saving act.”

10:17 a.m. ET, August 3, 2021

Catch up: What to know about Covid-19 in the US today

The Delta variant is spreading rapidly across the country, leading to a drastic rise in Covid-19 cases in the US. As cases rise and hospitals overflow in areas with low vaccination rates, experts continue to urge citizens to get vaccinated.

Here's what you need to know about Covid-19 in the US today:

Covid cases: The seven-day average of daily new coronavirus cases is up by more than 40% over the previous week, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. Furthermore, according to White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients, one-third of all US Covid cases reported in the last week were from two states: Florida and Texas. Cases are surging in areas of the two states with low vaccination rates, Zients added.

Hospitalizations: Covid-19 hospitalizations are now reaching wintertime levels. According to new data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 50,000 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized on Monday, a number that hasn't been reached since Feb. 27. The 50,625 hospitalizations are more than triple the amount of people hospitalized one month ago for Covid. Moreover, the ICU of Louisiana’s largest hospital is stretched to its limit with 23 people waiting for a bed as of Monday.

However, US vaccination rates are on the rise, according to the White House's coronavirus response coordinator.

Vaccinations: As the state battles a rapid increase in Covid cases, Louisiana's vaccination rate is increasing quickly, with a 302% increase in the average number of newly vaccinated people per day. Zients said vaccination rates have more than doubled in the states with the highest case rates. For example, Mississippi has increased vaccinations by 250%, Alabama by 215% and Arkansas by 206%. According to Dr. Francis Collins, "People are waking up to" the dangers of the Delta variant and getting vaccinated. In addition, it had been President Biden's plan to vaccinate 70% of Americans with at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine by July 4. On Monday, nearly a month later than anticipated, the Biden administration reached its goal.

Schools: Some students are heading back to school this week, leaving many school districts wondering how best to protect their students. For example, South Florida's Broward County Public Schools announced last week that the district would require everyone in their buildings to wear masks. The decision came after the CDC issued new guidance recommending everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. However, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order preventing mask mandates in schools on Friday. The school district must now will withdraw its mask mandate after the governor threatened to withhold funding from districts that require face coverings. Other school districts are struggling with the same issue, such as those in Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott banned mask mandates in schools, and some Texas teachers are calling for the governor to reverse his decision.

Travel: The CDC has added 16 destinations to its "very high" Covid-19 risk level. A risk designation of "Level 4: Covid-19 Very High" means people should avoid travel to these locations. This category also means the destinations have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days, according to CDC parameters. The following 16 locations have been added to the "Level 4" category: Andorra, Curaçao, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Iran, Ireland, Isle of Man, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Libya, Malta, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin and US Virgin Islands.

CNN's Alyssa Kraus, Madeline Holcombe, Ralph Ellis, Theresa Waldrop, Holly Yan, Joe Sutton, Jason Hanna, Jacqueline Howard, Christina Maxouris and Elizabeth Stuart contributed to this post.

10:06 a.m. ET, August 3, 2021

McDonald’s will require masks for employees and customers in high-risk areas

From CNN’s Kwegyirba Croffie

A McDonald's store is shown on July 28 in Houston, Texas.
A McDonald's store is shown on July 28 in Houston, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

McDonald’s has updated its mask policy, joining the growing number of companies reinstating mask mandates for some of their employees, even if they are fully vaccinated.

McDonald’s told CNN on Tuesday that customers and staff inside restaurants in areas with high or substantial transmission will be required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. The chain added the policy change reflects guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

The fast-food giant also said masks were already required for staff and customers who are not vaccinated.

“McDonald's is closely monitoring the impact coronavirus is having on the communities in which we operate," McDonald's said in a statement on its website. "As always, our number one priority is protecting the well-being of employees and customers, and this principle guides each and every decision we make.”

The move from McDonald’s follows a similar updated mask mandate from Target.

9:46 a.m. ET, August 3, 2021

Fully vaccinated people should get Covid-19 tests if they have mild symptoms, health official says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A registered nurse stirs a nasal swab in testing solution after administering a COVID-19 test at Sameday Testing on July 14 in Los Angeles.
A registered nurse stirs a nasal swab in testing solution after administering a COVID-19 test at Sameday Testing on July 14 in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on New Day Tuesday that people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 should get a test if they experience mild symptoms of the virus. 

“Let’s be clear, breakthroughs are extremely unusual, but they are happening,” Collins said in answer to a viewer question about when a vaccinated person should get a Covid test. “The people who have breakthroughs, for the vast majority of them, have mild symptoms like a cold, some nasal congestion, maybe a little bit of a cough, maybe a low grade fever. If that is happening to you and your fully vaccinated, that would be a good reason to go get a test, see whether you might in fact be carrying the virus and therefore should isolate yourself so that you’re not spreading it to other people.”

Collins emphasized that the vaccines do work. 

“They don’t completely prevent these mild symptoms,” he said. “But it is still so critical to get the vaccination because otherwise your likelihood of hospitalization or even death is substantial, as you’ve heard from the stories that are being told all over the place today.” 

According to the most recent guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated people who’ve been exposed to a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 case need to be tested 3-5 days after exposure and should wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.

9:30 a.m. ET, August 3, 2021

Pandemic is currently "the absolute worst that we have seen," Louisiana hospital official says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Dr. Catherine O’Neal
Dr. Catherine O’Neal (CNN)

Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said the Covid-19 pandemic right now “is the absolute worst that we have seen.”

“We are admitting more patients than we're able to discharge each day, so our numbers in the hospital are accumulating and that continues to put a crunch on our staff, because we don't have any more beds,” O’Neal said on CNN’s “New Day.”

She has called the current situation the "darkest days of the pandemic."  

O’Neal said patients are younger than earlier in the pandemic. 

“We continue to have about half of our admissions under the age of 50, knowing all are unvaccinated and all of those would have been preventible hospitalizations,” she said. 

She also said the number of children with Covid-19 is increasing.

“We were seeing about four to five kids in the emergency department each week in June with Covid-19 and admitting very few of those, if any. Now we're seeing 40 to 60 kids a week diagnosed with Covid-19 in the emergency department and admitting more and more of those,” she said. 

9:18 a.m. ET, August 3, 2021

NIH director: CDC mask recommendations meant to keep vaccinated from getting sick and from infecting others

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Dr. Francis Collins
Dr. Francis Collins (CNN)

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN’s John Berman that the new mask recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are meant to both keep those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 from getting sick and also to stop them transmitting the virus to the unvaccinated. 

“Certainly we know the main benefit of masks is that they prevent somebody who’s carrying the virus from actually spreading it to those around them. That’s the reason why we’ve been wearing masks for this last year or so,” he said on CNN's New Day Tuesday. “But there is also some protection for the mask wearer against virus that might be floating in their vicinity.” 

While the likelihood of someone who is fully vaccinated getting the virus is pretty low, it’s even lower when they have a mask on, Collins said. 

“The main reason is, once again, we’ve got a lot of community spread,” he said. “We have people in indoor settings, where some are vaccinated, some are not. If we want to try to tamp down this terrible Delta variant outbreak, the best thing we can do is get everybody vaccinated and get people to wear masks in those settings.” 

He said that he knows people are tired of this, and that they think it “seems like a flip flop,” but the data changed. 

“We are not making this recommendation now just for random reasons,” he said. “We have new evidence that the masks really are going to be important to get us through this if you’re indoors.” 

9:06 a.m. ET, August 3, 2021

Qantas airline group "stands down" 2,500 staff after Australia announces internal travel restrictions

From CNN's Mia Alberti

Qantas planes sit lined up at Melbourne's International Airport on February 22.
Qantas planes sit lined up at Melbourne's International Airport on February 22. (Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Qantas group, owner of Qantas and Jetstar airlines, will temporarily "stand down" 2,5000 employees for two months, as Australia battles a Covid-19 outbreak which has prompted internal travel restrictions.

"The stand down is a temporary measure to deal with a significant drop in flying caused by COVID restrictions in Greater Sydney in particular and the knock-on border closures in all other states and territories", the company said in a statement.

Qantas said the "decision will directly impact domestic pilots, cabin crew and airport workers, mostly in New South Wales" but that "no job losses are expected."

The company says it will stop paying employees in mid-August and refers to the Australian government income support as an alternative for its staff.

“This is clearly the last thing we want to do, but we’re now faced with an extended period of reduced flying and that means no work for a number of our people", Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said. 

The aviation company says it has reduced its domestic operations from 100% in May to less than 40% in July. In 2020, Qantas stood down 20,000 employees during the first wave of the pandemic.

Qantas says it is hopeful the vaccine rollout and the success of the current lockdown will allow the company to resume its operations soon, without specifying when.

9:02 a.m. ET, August 3, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine booster shots are not necessary right now in the US, NIH director says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said he and top health officials in the US assess the possibility of needing Covid-19 vaccine booster shots "virtually every day."

"At the present time, though, the data in the United States does not indicate that that's necessary. ... If we change that based upon the concerns about whether immunity wanes over time, then we're prepared to start offering boosters particularly to high-risk individuals. But right now, looking at that data, we're not quite there, so people should be pretty reassured," Collins said on CNN's "New Day."

Collins said the current vaccines are highly effective in protecting against the Delta variant.

"The big message today is if you're not already vaccinated, then by all means get started," he said.

Israel will start to offer third doses to people over 60, and Germany will begin offering booster shots to at-risk people starting in September.

8:57 a.m. ET, August 3, 2021

Americans’ pessimism about the Covid-19 pandemic outweighs their optimism, poll finds

From CNN's Ariel Edwards-Levy

Americans’ concerns about coronavirus are again on the rise after previously hitting their lowest point in the pandemic, according to two surveys released Monday.

Still, worries remain far lower than they were through much of last year, and in many cases, those already vaccinated express more acute concerns than those who have yet to get a shot.

Just 45% of Americans now say the coronavirus situation in the US is getting better, a new Gallup poll finds, significantly down from the 89% who thought things were improving in June. The results mark the first time this year that Americans’ pessimism about the pandemic outweighed their optimism, although belief that the situation is improving remains higher than it was in any of Gallup’s polling on the question last year. In June, just 17% of the public expected disruption to travel, school, work and public events in the US to continue into 2022; now, 42% does.

Americans’ personal concerns about Covid-19 have also risen, the survey finds, although less dramatically. Just 29% say they’re even somewhat worried about getting the virus, up from 17% last month but far below the majorities that said the same through most of last year.

The findings come amid a new rise in cases driven by the rapid spread of the Delta variant, which has sent a surge of largely unvaccinated patients to hospitals and spurred a return to mask mandates in some locales. The pace of new vaccinations has also rebounded in the past two weeks.

Notably, the survey finds “little evidence that people are altering their behavior” from earlier this summer to avoid the virus, with the shares of the public currently isolating themselves, avoiding crowds or public places, opting out of small gatherings, and staying off mass transit all similar in late July to where they stood in June. In the most recent survey, for instance, 40% say they’re avoiding events with large crowds, virtually identical to the 39% who were staying away from those events the month before.

Although the virus poses far more danger to the unvaccinated than those who’ve had the vaccine, a third of vaccinated Americans currently say they’re at least somewhat worried, compared with 20% of those who are not vaccinated.

You can read more about the poll's findings here.