Live Updates

August 3, 2021 US coronavirus news

Sanjay Gupta answers viewers' questions about the Delta variant
22:55

What we covered here

  • Louisiana is battling one of the worst Covid-19 surges in the country, and the state’s largest hospital ran out of beds on Monday as Covid-19 cases surged in the area.
  • As the Delta variant spreads, New York City’s mayor announced a “first in nation” requirement of vaccines at gyms, restaurants and other indoor places of business.
  • Meanwhile, US vaccination rates continue to tick upward, especially in states with the highest case rates, according to the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator.

Our live coverage has ended for the day. Follow the latest on the pandemic here.

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FDA is moving as fast as possible to approve Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, federal official says

The US Food and Drug Administration is moving as fast as possible to get to final approval of Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine but doesn’t have a set date in mind, a federal official told CNN Tuesday.

The New York Times reported that the FDA was aiming to make a decision of full approval by Labor Day, citing multiple sources familiar with the matter. 

“That’s an outside date. We don’t have a set date,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because they did not have approval to speak to the media about the matter.

FDA officials have said multiple times they are working as fast as they can to fully approve Pfizer’s vaccine, which is being distributed now under emergency use authorization. The FDA posted a statement last Friday saying it was pulling in help from across the agency, including “sprint teams,” to speed final approval.

“We have to make sure we dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, or else people will say we did not do the approval correctly,” the official said.

Facing likely eviction, Las Vegas woman overwhelmed by donations from strangers 

Update: After CNN aired a story about her potential eviction, Dasha Kelly clarified to CNN that she is not the mother of the three children featured in the story. CNN has verified she takes care of the children in her home for periods of time. She says she originally described herself to CNN as a mother because she considers herself to be like one to them.

CNN has learned the children are also cared for by their mother, Shadia Hilo, and their father, David Allison, who is Kelly’s boyfriend.

GoFundMe tells CNN they are in close contact with Kelly and funds will stay on hold until they verify her information. GoFundMe says no funds have been withdrawn.

A Las Vegas woman has avoided eviction for herself after their GoFundMe account brought in more than $150,000.

Dasha Kelly, who lost her casino job during the pandemic, appeared on “Erin Burnett OutFront” Monday evening detailing the challenges she’s faced making ends meet. Twenty-four hours later, thanks to the generosity of strangers, Kelly said she will no longer have to worry about donating blood or pawning furniture simply to pay rent.

“I just want to tell everybody, ‘thank you so much.’ I’m still in denial. It’s a lot to take in,” Kelly told Burnett in a follow-up interview Tuesday night. Kelly was joined by her boyfriend’s three daughters, Sharron, 8; Kia, 6; and Imani, 5, who she says she cares for part-time. 

The family was featured in a CNN story that aired on Monday about the federal eviction moratorium that ended this past weekend.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued a stop on certain evictions. The new ban applies to areas of the country with high or substantial transmission of Covid-19 and will last until Oct. 3, according to the announcement.

The new moratorium comes after President Biden and his administration allowed a previous freeze to expire, setting off fury among members of his own party, including Rep. Cori Bush who participated in a protest on the steps of the US Capitol. On Tuesday, Bush said of the effort, “our movement moved mountains.”

There is an effort to get immunocompromised people a Covid-19 vaccine booster "very soon," says Fauci

People with compromised immune systems may need additional protection after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, and there is an effort to make vaccine boosters available to that population “very soon,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.

“There are those individuals who are immune compromised – transplant patients, patients on cancer chemotherapy, patients on immunosuppressive regimen, for example, for autoimmune diseases,” Fauci said during a virtual event hosted by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Tuesday. “Those individuals we know almost invariably do not have an adequate response, so the need to give them an additional boost is much more emergent than the general population.”

Vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have met to discuss whether immunocompromised people may need additional protection from a vaccine booster, but have not yet presented a formal recommendation or voted on guidance.

“We are trying very hard to get the regulatory mechanism in place very soon to get those individuals a boost that might bring up their immunity to the level where it should be, if possible,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

New York City only requiring one vaccine dose with new mandate

New York City’s decision to require one vaccine dose for its newly announced vaccine mandate for restaurants, gyms, and entertainment was meant to incentivize people to get vaccinated, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“This is a strategy very clearly, we want to encourage people right now if you aren’t vaccinated we are not telling people you don’t have to wait a long time to experience all the great things in life. Get that dose and get that card you are in business,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio said that he believes more mandates like the one announced in New York will be implemented across the country.

A source familiar with the making of the policy said the vast majority of people who get one dose will also get their second in a two-dose series. 

“The plan as it stands is the plan for now — if things change we’ll make further adjustments,” the source said. 

San Francisco health department will allow J&J vaccine recipients to get supplemental mRNA vaccine dose

A health care worker prepares a Johnson & Johnson Covid19 vaccine on May 7, in Los Angeles.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health said Tuesday it will allow people vaccinated with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine to receive a supplemental mRNA vaccine dose. Doses will be available at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Department officials said they were making an “accommodation” for those who have consulted with a physician and said it was not a recommendation or policy change. They said the health department aligns with the US the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which does not currently recommend a booster shot for anyone, including J&J vaccine recipients.

“We are not recommending. We are accommodating requests,” Dr. Naveena Bobba, deputy director of health for the department, said during a media briefing. “We have gotten a few requests based on patients talking to their physicians and that’s why we are allowing for the accommodation.”

Bobba said the supplemental vaccinations will be recorded the same way all Covid-19 vaccinations are. “These get entered into the system, just like other doses have as well, and the patients that have gotten them will be followed, just as others have gotten the vaccines throughout the country have continued to be followed,” Bobba said.

When asked whether anyone can walk in and receive a supplemental mRNA vaccine dose, Bobba said that each vaccine site in the city will choose how to proceed with the accommodation, but “the expectation is that they have had a discussion with a healthcare provider when they come in.”

The mRNA vaccines are made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, and require two doses for full immunization.

CDC issues new pandemic eviction moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, center, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, right, and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson speak at a rally against the end of the eviction moratorium at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, August 3.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a fresh stop on certain evictions Tuesday, saying that evicting people could be detrimental to public health and would interfere with efforts to slow the pandemic. 

“The eviction moratorium allows additional time for rent relief to reach renters and to further increase vaccination rates,” the CDC said in an email to CNN. 

“In the context of a pandemic, eviction moratoria—like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing—can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease. Eviction moratoria facilitate self-isolation and self-quarantine by people who become ill or who are at risk of transmitting COVID-19 by keeping people out of congregate settings and in their own homes,” it added.

“This order will expire on October 3, 2021 and applies in United States counties experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission levels of SARS-CoV-2.”

President Biden announced earlier Tuesday that the CDC would issue a new moratorium after a previous hold on evictions expired July 31.

“The emergence of the Delta variant has led to a rapid acceleration of community transmission in the United States, putting more Americans at increased risk, especially if they are unvaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

“This moratorium is the right thing to do to keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads. It is imperative that public health authorities act quickly to mitigate such an increase of evictions, which could increase the likelihood of new spikes in SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Such mass evictions and the attendant public health consequences would be very difficult to reverse.”

Biden to local governments: Help fight Covid-19 or "get out of the way"

President Joe Biden gestures to a reporter to ask him a question as he speaks about the coronavirus pandemic in the East Room of the White House on, Tuesday, August 3.

President Biden today singled out states that have made rules that could hinder the fight against Covid-19, telling local governments to help the fight or “get out of way.”

“Others have declined to step up. I find it disappointing,” said Biden, contrasting actions taken in states including Texas and Florida, to those taken by many private corporations which are preparing to require employees to get vaccinated. 

“Worst of all, some state officials are passing laws or are signing orders that forbid people from doing the right thing,” continued Biden. “As of now, seven states not only ban mask mandates but also ban them in their school districts even for young children who cannot get vaccinated.”

Biden then singled out Texas where new rules stipulate that state universities or community colleges could be fined if they allow teacher to ask for unvaccinated students to wear a mask.

“What are we doing?” asked Biden. “Covid-19 is a national challenge. And we have to come together, all of us together, as a country to solve it.”

“Use your power to save lives,” he concluded.

Watch:

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Biden administration to announce new efforts to limit evictions during pandemic

President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House, on Tuesday, August 3.

The Biden administration is expected to announce new efforts aimed at limiting evictions, according to an administration official, though details of the effort – and what impact it would have — are still unclear.

The White House and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have continued to search for legal avenues to extend a now-expired nationwide ban on evictions during the pandemic as the issue drives a major wedge between President Biden and members of his party.

Administration lawyers had been unable to identify how Biden could use his administrative authority to continue the eviction freeze following a late-June decision by the Supreme Court.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki sought to further explain Biden’s thinking on Tuesday, suggesting a challenge to the court could hamper the federal government’s public health authorities going forward.

“There are concerns about what the impact would be on the long term abilities, authorities, of the CDC. Their team is looking closely, carefully, has been since the president asked them to on Sunday, at what our options are here,” she said, responding to a question from CNN’s Phil Mattingly.

She indicated the search process had not ended, even though White House and CDC lawyers have made clear they do not currently see a legal pathway to extending the moratorium.  

US on a path "strikingly similar" to Delta outbreak in UK, Fauci says

People sit in Piccadilly Circus as the light display reads 'Let's Open Up London' on the day of lifting of nearly all remaining coronavirus restrictions in London, on July 19.

The US is on a similar path to a Delta variant outbreak like the one seen earlier this year in the United Kingdom, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday. 

“Since an acceleration of vaccines doesn’t give a result until several weeks after, we are already on a trajectory that looks strikingly similar to the sharp incline that the UK saw,” Fauci said during a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Fauci said this is what he “projects” will happen. “You never can guarantee it’s going to be accurate, but I think this is what’s going to happen,” he said.

“Remember, we went from an average of about 12 to 15,000 cases a day to 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 – we’re up to 70 now. We are going to be between 100 and 200,000 cases before this thing starts to turn around.”

Fauci said this acceleration further enforces the importance of vaccines now. 

“In order to make sure that by the time we get into the fall we don’t continue to accelerate but turn around and start coming down acutely, we’ve got to get those 93 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated, who are not getting vaccinated.”

Toyota reinstates mask mandate for workers in US facilities

Toyota is the latest major manufacturer in the US to require workers to wear masks at the workplace as the Delta variant continues to spread.

“With the health and safety of our employees as a top priority, following CDC guidelines, effective August 4, we are reinstating the use of masks/face shields as a requirement in our U.S. facilities,” a spokesperson told CNN via email. “We will continue to monitor and adjust as circumstances require.”

Fauci hints at coming changes to pandemic preparedness in the US

A woman walks past a sign calling for mask wearing at Penn Station in New York City, on August 2.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday hinted at, but would not give specifics, on a “comprehensive” approach to pandemic response coming in the future. 

In a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, moderator J. Stephen Morrison asked Fauci if “we are going to see some time soon a kind of formal rollout of a pandemic preparedness strategy” that would include the development and stockpile of drug therapies. 

“The answer is yes, we are in active discussion right now,” Fauci said. He said there were “sometimes sensitive” discussions about resources. “So I would rather not give you granular details of that right now,” he said.

“To the extent that I can have any influence on it, there will be a broad, comprehensive approach to pandemic preparedness and response at every level,” Fauci said. 

Politicians barring mask and vaccination mandates should "get out of the way," Psaki says 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki attends a press briefing at the White House on Monday, August 2.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that politicians and officials, including Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas – who are banning mask mandates and/or vaccine requirements – should “get out of the way” so lives can be saved from Covid-19, adding that they have a choice between saving lives and personal politics. 

“You’ll hear the President convey later, if you are not going to be a part of the solution, you’re not going to be a part of saving people’s lives, then get out of the way and let other people do the job,” Psaki said. 

Asked what she meant by “get out of the way,” Psaki said plainly, “That means don’t ban, don’t make it harder for people to put requirements on masks or asking for vaccination status into law.” 

“At a point in every leader’s life they have to make a decision about whether they’re going to abide by public health guidelines to save people’s lives or whether they’re going to be guided by politics and I will let you all people the judge of that,” Psaki said when asked specifically about the personal responsibility DeSantis and Abbott have after they banned mask and vaccination mandates in their states. 

Arkansas governor wants to give local school districts flexibility to require masks for children under 12

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson speaks at a news conference in Little Rock, on Thursday, July 29.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced today, that he has called a special session of the Arkansas Legislature to amend ACT 1002, a law passed to “end mandatory face covering requirements,” in order to give local school districts the flexibility to add protection for children under 12, who cannot be vaccinated. 

“The reasons for this is, they are required to go to school,” Hutchinson said. “Secondly, we understand the value of in-classroom instruction and we want those children to be as safe as possible. Local school districts are all different across the state, and they have different opinions on this. And they reflect different wishes of parents and their constituents.”

“The local school districts should make the call,” the governor said. “And they should have more options to make sure that their school is a safe environment during a very challenging time for education.”

When asked if he regretted signing the bill, Hutchinson said he signed it at the time because Arkansas’ cases were at a very low point and he knew that it would be overridden by the legislature if he didn’t sign it. 

“I signed it for those reasons, that our cases were at a low point. Everything is changed now,” Hutchinson added. “And yes, in hindsight I wish that had not become law, but it is the law, and the only chance we have is either to amend it, or for the courts to say that it has an unconstitutional foundation.”

According to Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. José Romero, as of Aug. 1 of this year, nearly 19% of all active Covid-19 cases in Arkansas are in children under 18 years of age and at this point, those under 12 account for more than half of that percentage between April and July of this year.

Covid-19 variants "very likely" to have emerged in immunosuppressed patients, Fauci says

Covid-19 variants are likely to have evolved in the bodies of people who are immunosuppressed, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday. 

It’s not a new theory — the idea that people with immune suppression may be unable to fight off Covid-19 infection for weeks or months, giving the virus plenty of time to evolve and change.

“Variants, we all know, have emerged because of the pressure that the human immune system has put on the virus, very likely from people who are immunosuppressed wound up getting infected, and had virus in them for days and days and days before they cleared it and/or died, and then essentially led to the emergence of a variant,” Fauci said in a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

“We feel that’s very likely what happened with the B.1.1.7 and what happened now with the current Delta variant.” The B.1.1.7 or Alpha variant emerged last year and became dominant across the US this spring. The Delta or B.1.617.2 variant emerged in late 2020 and is now the dominant lineage across the US.

Fauci said the development of viral variants will affect any future drugs developed to treat Covid-19. 

“As soon as we start treating Covid-19 with new antivirals, we need to plan for and anticipate the emergence of drug resistance,” he said. 

“It isn’t going to be where you have one pathogen and one drug that’s the knockout, home-run drug. You always have to be ready to continue to develop alternatives that could keep up with the variants.”

Union raises concerns about Tyson Foods vaccine mandate

In this photo, taken on February 2, a Tyson Foods team member receives a COVID-19 vaccine from health officials at the Wilkesboro, North Carolina facility.

The union representing Tyson Foods meatpacking workers expressed concern Tuesday at the company’s vaccine mandate announced earlier that day.

The United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers across the United States, said it supports and encourages workers to get vaccinated. 

However, UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement that it is “concerning that Tyson is implementing this mandate before the FDA has fully approved the vaccine.” 

He added that the FDA must fully approve the vaccines and “help address some of the questions and concerns that workers have.”

All three Covid-19 vaccines currently have emergency use authorization from the FDA. An FDA official told CNN last week as part of the emergency use authorization granted last year, the vaccines have already undergone a “thorough scientific evaluation” in order to “meet FDA’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality.”

Another sticking point: the union stressed that employers should provide paid time off so essential workers don’t need to sacrifice pay to get vaccinated.

Paid time off would ensure workers “can rest as needed while their body adjusts to the vaccine and strengthens their immune system to fight off the virus,” Perrone said.

UFCW said it will be meeting with Tyson in the coming weeks to discuss the vaccine mandate, making sure the rights of workers are protected and the policy is fairly implemented. The union represents 24,000 Tyson meatpacking workers in the United States.

“UFCW has made clear that this vaccine mandate must be negotiated so that these workers have a voice in the new policy,” Perrone said.

Earlier Tuesday, Tyson Foods announced that employees at its US offices will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. The company behind Hillshire Farm and Jimmy Dean said all other workers will need to be vaccinated by Nov. 1, subject to negotiations with unions.

Plans underway to expand Covid-19 testing, Fauci says

Efforts are underway to expand Covid-19 testing in the United States, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday. 

Asked at a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies whether there are plans right now to “massively expand” Covid-19 testing, Fauci replied, “Yes.”

“The [Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics] diagnostic program that the NIH has initiated is looking now at just that product profile,” Fauci said, “Of getting something that’s flooding the system, easily administered, highly sensitive and highly accurate, so that if you wind up getting a symptomatology that’s suggestive of SARS-CoV-2, you can get a test almost immediately.”

Fauci said Covid-19 testing is made more important by the impending flu season and the push for Covid-19 treatments. 

“If you get into the flu season, where people present with very similar symptomatology, then you’re going to want to test that will tell you immediately, is this flu? Is this SARS-CoV-2? Or is this something else, whatever that might be. RSV, parainfluenza, rhinovirus, whatever,” he said.

“If you are going to effectively implement an antiviral program, you have to get accurate and ready-to-use, easily implementable diagnostics.”

Nearly 72,000 cases of Covid-19 reported in children and teens last week, pediatrician group says

Nearly 72,000 cases of Covid-19 were reported on children and teens last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday.

The group counted 71,726 new cases from July 22 to 29. That is a “substantial” increase from the week before and five times as many kids who were sick at the end of June. The definition of a child varies by state, but generally includes those up to age 17 or 18.

After decreases in reported cases over the past couple of months, the July numbers started trending upward again.

Nearly 4.2 million kids have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. Children and teens represent 19% of the reported cases.

At this time, it still appears that severe illness is rare among children, the academy, which represents pediatricians, said. The number of hospitalizations has remained steady through much of the pandemic. Children accounted for 1.3% to 3.5% of the hospitalizations, depending on the state.

Seven states have reported no child deaths from Covid-19 during the pandemic. As of Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 526 deaths among children ages 0-17.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the number of Covid-19 cases reported in children and teens last week. It was nearly 72,000.

US may be in the "worst surge we've faced so far," former surgeon general says

The United States currently may be facing the worst surge of Covid-19 the nation has seen so far, Dr. Jerome Adams, former US surgeon general under the Trump administration, said.

“We are not crying wolf here. This surge that we’re going through right now has every potential to be – and already looks to be – the worst surge we’ve faced so far,” Adams said during a live online interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday.

“We’re at 50,000 hospitalizations today in this country, which is where we were in February of last year – February of last year, no vaccines, not enough testing, not enough masks to go around, we were at 50,000 hospitalizations,” Adams said. “We are there and still rising in this country.”

New York City will look at other areas to mandate vaccines

Katrina Taormina draws the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at Lehman High School in New York on July 27.

New York City is looking into and considering mandating vaccines at other places of business beyond restaurants, gyms, and performances, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference today.

“We will now look at other areas as well. Other types of business and absolutely consider if it makes sense to do something similar. This was the right place to begin,” de Blasio said. 

With the vaccine currently only available to people 12 and over, de Blasio said that how the mandate will affect people not yet eligible for the vaccine will be worked out when final details of the plan are announced the week of Aug. 16. 

“This is the kind of thing we will work through,” de Blasio said. “The goal is not to exclude anyone.”

The mandate de Blasio announced today will require vaccines for indoor dining, gyms, entertainment and performances but will only require one dose for patrons to enter establishments.  

Proof of vaccine can be presented to establishments by showing a vaccine card, using the NYC safe app or the New York State Excelsior app, de Blasio said. 

The mandate is being implemented by a mayoral and health department executive order.

De Blasio also said that he got a clear message from the department of justice that it was appropriate to move forward with the mandate based on the current FDA emergency approval of vaccines. 

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, he said “for so many people this is going to be the life saving act.”

US can reach a point where Covid-19 is just a nuisance, NIH director says 

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN’s John Berman on New Day Tuesday that while it might not be possible to get to herd immunity with the Delta variant, it is still possible to get to a place where the coronavirus becomes just a nuisance.  

“The idea that we could get actually 80% of the public completely unable to harbor this virus, maybe that’s not going to be achievable with the Delta variant. But we could still get to a place where this becomes a nuisance instead of a threat to your life,” said Collins.

He emphasized that the path to more controlled transmission was vaccines. “if you are vaccinated, your likelihood of getting infected and spreading this virus is greatly reduced, so that does contribute to a certain degree to herd immunity,” he said and emphasized getting everybody vaccinated as quickly as possible. 

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 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.”

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.

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

A McDonald's store is shown on July 28 in Houston, Texas.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Dr. Catherine O’Neal

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. 

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

Dr. Francis Collins

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.” 

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

Qantas planes sit lined up at Melbourne's International Airport on February 22.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

The CDC added 16 more places to its "very high" Covid-19 travel risk list

People walk at central Athens square on June 24.

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 risk designation of “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” means people should avoid travel to these locations. Those who must travel should be fully vaccinated first.

In its overarching guidance, the CDC recommends against all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread Covid-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some Covid-19 variants,” the agency says.

Destinations that fall into the “very high” risk category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days, according to CDC parameters.

Direct travel of non-citizens from Ireland and Greece to the United States has been suspended since Jan. 25, under an executive order limiting travel from multiple countries. The White House recently said those restrictions would remain in place amid surging cases from the Delta variant