August 4, 2021 US coronavirus news

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

Updated 9:57 PM ET, Wed August 4, 2021
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1:48 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Covid-19 case increases driven by US and Mexico, PAHO leader says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Covid-19 case increases in the Americas are being caused in part by surges in cases in the United States, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, said on Wednesday. 

“Over the last week, more than 1.2 million Covid-19 cases and 20,000 Covid-related deaths were reported in the Americas,” Etienne said in a media briefing from PAHO, a division of the World Health Organization.

“Covid infections are accelerating in North America, driven primarily by a surge in cases in the southern and eastern United States and in Central Mexico,” Etienne added.

According to the Weekly Epidemiological Report released Wednesday from the World Health Organization, the United States reported more new cases of Covid-19 in the last week than any other country. New cases in the Americas, a WHO region that includes North, South, and Central America, accounted for 30% of global new cases reported last week, according to WHO. 

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

Louisiana governor says he is not looking into a vaccine passport requirement for the state

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

People visit a market in New Orleans on August 3, 2021.
People visit a market in New Orleans on August 3, 2021. Lan Wei/Xinhua/Getty Images

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday he is not looking into requiring a vaccine passport for the state.

“I think you’re starting to see some of that put in place around the country. We’re not entertaining that here in Louisiana, but we do want people to be vaccinated. It is incredibly important,” Edwards told Peter Kovacs, Editor of The Advocate and Times-Picayune, during a town hall.

Edwards said he is not considering requiring the vaccine for state employees “unless and until the FDA grants full licensure to one of more of the Covid vaccines.”

Edwards said, “the least onerous thing we can do in order to try and curb transmission and give some breathing room back to our hospitals is to reinstate the mask mandate.”

Edwards called the statewide mask mandate, which went into effect Wednesday and will remain in place until Sept. 1 “a very targeted and limited approach.”

“We do need compliance because we know that this works. This isn’t theoretical anymore,” Edwards said noting the state hit a 15.4% positivity rate Wednesday.

“That’s up from 13.2% previously and when you have increasing percent positivity, you have no reason to believe, in fact you have no reason not to believe, you are approaching your peak in terms of cases. And that’s going to mean continued hospitalizations and death as well.”

Edwards highlighted while the state was reporting around two deaths a day a month ago, there have been 103 in just the past two days. 

“The capacity at our hospitals is just absolutely strained,” Edwards said.

1:36 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

UK recommends first vaccine dose for children ages 16 and 17 "as soon as possible"

From CNN's Lauren Kent and Sharon Braithwaite

Vials containing the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are pictured in London on June 14, 2021.
Vials containing the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are pictured in London on June 14, 2021. Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

The UK government is recommending children ages 16 and 17 receive the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine "as soon as possible," according to a statement from Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Wednesday.

The recommendation comes after the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) updated their guidance to advise all 16- and 17-year olds to receive their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The updated guidance is a change from the UK's previous plan to only offer Covid-19 vaccines to children if they had underlying health conditions.

"In the last few weeks, there have been large changes in the way COVID-19 has been spreading in the UK, particularly in younger age groups. The adult vaccine programme has progressed very successfully and more safety data has become available, so it was important to review the advice for the vaccination of children and young people," the JCVI said in a statement.

The UK government plans to prioritize the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for young people, while delaying a recommendation for a second dose, according to the JCVI statement.

"The aim is for the second dose to be given later and this will extend protection for a longer period, for example when those young people start work or go to university, or if we begin to get another wave of cases in winter. It is important to keep young people well and in school in the Autumn term and to minimise disruption to education as far as possible. For now we recommend prioritising the first dose in younger age groups,"  JCVI said, adding that it is likely a second dose will eventually be offered from 12 weeks after the first dose.

"In the UK where there is good uptake of the vaccine amongst adults, we can take a more precautionary approach to vaccine rollout in younger people, who are at lower risk of serious harm from COVID-19," the JCVI continued, also noting that research shows young people respond better to the vaccine than older people and are expected to have around 80% protection against hospitalization following one dose.

“COVID-19 vaccines have saved more than 60,000 lives and prevented 22 million infections in England alone. They are building a wall of defence against the virus and are the best way to protect people from serious illness. I encourage everyone who is eligible to come forward for both their jabs as quickly as possible," Javid said.

“The JCVI have not recommended vaccinating under-16s without underlying health conditions but will keep its position under review based on the latest data," the health secretary added. 

“Those aged 12 to 15 with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s Syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities, as well as people in this age group who are household contacts of individuals who are immunosuppressed, are already eligible for vaccination. JCVI will continue to review data and provide updates on at risk groups aged 12-15 and whether any additional groups will be added."

12:20 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Louisiana doctor encourages adult vaccinations to help prevent Covid-19 cases among children

From CNN’s Jeff Simon and Nadia Romero

Dr. Trey Dunbar, president of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health, speaks with CNN.
Dr. Trey Dunbar, president of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health, speaks with CNN. CNN

A 3-week-old baby who spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit being treated for Covid-19 at a Baton Rouge children’s hospital has been released, the President of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital told CNN Wednesday morning. The 3-week-old baby was discharged last night and is not the first baby treated in this NICU for Covid.

Dr. Trey Dunbar reflected on how children are being victimized by a pandemic that has a simple solution: adult vaccination.

“Covid is a preventable disease,” he said. “It’s hard for us as pediatricians to see kids affected by a preventable disease. Children aren’t like adults. They don’t have the choice to get vaccinated. Parents are responsible for those choices. So yes, it makes a big difference when adults make decisions for kids and adults make decisions that could maybe prevent diseases that we see in children.” 

Across the street at the largest hospital in the state of Louisiana, Our Lady of the Lakes Hospital, is still at 100 percent capacity. 

“Where the increase really worries me is will that make an impact on our other hospital functions?” Dunbar said. “We’re dedicating a lot of time, especially on the adult campus, to taking care of people with Covid. I want to be able to make sure that we can take care of people that are in auto accidents, for example. We’re a pediatric trauma center. We’ve seen a lot more trauma over the last year. I don’t want to impact our care in trauma because we’re sort of inundated with Covid.”

For the first time in a long while, Dunbar said there was a line outside of the children's hospital pharmacy yesterday – mostly adolescence waiting to get vaccinated. He hopes that’s a positive sign that community outreach is working. 

Dunbar said that nurses are working longer shifts and coming in on their days off. He said the hospital could use an additional five to six nurses to keep up with the influx of pediatric Covid cases and their normal needs as a pediatric trauma center.

11:25 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

FDA official says agency "does not recommend taking things into your own hands" on Covid-19 booster shots

From CNN's Sarah Braner and Lauren Mascarenhas

Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the US Food and Drug Administration, said the “FDA does not recommend taking things into your own hands” regarding Covid-19 vaccine booster shots.

“You can see all from looking at the news that there are people and the jurisdictions that are actually taking things into their own hands … FDA does not recommend taking things into your own hands,” said Marks during a discussion hosted by the Covid-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project briefing.

“It’s actually not something you’re supposed to do under emergency use authorization,” he said.  

Some background: Currently, the FDA and the US Centers for Disease Control have no recommendation for booster shots. US health officials maintain there is no data to indicate the need for them. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health told CNN on Tuesday, “At the present time, though, the data in the United States does not indicate that that’s necessary.”  

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Department of Public Health announced that they will allow people who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to get a supplemental dose of an mRNA vaccine, either Pfizer or Moderna. They will be providing these supplemental doses to those who have consulted with their doctor beforehand. 

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

11:55 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Brazil says 20% of its total population is now fully vaccinated against Covid-19

From CNN's Juliana Kochs

A health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine dose in São Paulo, Brazil, on July 25, 2021.
A health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine dose in São Paulo, Brazil, on July 25, 2021. Rahel Patrasso/Xinhua/Getty Images

Brazil's Health Ministry says 20% of its total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19. 

As of late Tuesday, at least 42,756,263 Brazilians were fully vaccinated against the virus, 20.34% of the country’s total population, according to the Ministry.

Currently, close to 103 million Brazilians (102,802,001) have been partially vaccinated – 48.91% of the country’s total population, the health ministry reports. 

The Brazilian Southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul reports the highest number of fully vaccinated people with 33% of the state’s population; while the neighboring state of Sao Paulo – the most populous state of the country – has 58% of the population partially vaccinated. 

Brazil has been vaccinating most of its population in partnership with Oxford’s AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine; accounting for 48.2% of the doses applied in the country, and followed by Coronavac with 37.1% of the total number of doses. 

The remaining 11.7% were vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine and 3% with Janssen’s.

11:36 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

WHO calls for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, speaks at a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on August 4, 2021.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, speaks at a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on August 4, 2021. World Health Organization

The World Health Organization is calling for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing in Geneva on Wednesday. 

“WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September to enable at least 10% of the population of every country to be vaccinated. To make that happen, we need everyone’s cooperation, especially the handful of countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines,” he said. 

“Even while hundreds of millions of people are still waiting for their first dose, some rich countries are moving towards booster doses,” added Tedros. “So far more than 4 billion vaccine doses have been administered globally. More than 80% have gone to high and upper middle income countries, even though they account for less than half of the world’s population.” 

Germany, the UK, and Israel have all announced plans to provide booster shots for certain vulnerable populations. 

While Tedros said he understood the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant, “we cannot and we should not accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected.” 

Some background: In May, Tedros called for global support to enable countries to vaccinate at least 10% of their populations by September. He said that although it’s more than halfway to the target date, the world is not on track. 

When his challenge was issued, high income countries had administered around 50 doses for every 100 people, Tedros said. Since then, the number has doubled, with high income countries having now administered almost 100 doses for every 100 people, while low income countries have been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people due to lack of supply. 

“We need an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high income countries to the majority going to low income countries,” Tedros said. 

Tedros called upon the G20 leaders to make concrete commitments to support WHO’s global vaccination targets, for vaccine producers to prioritize COVAX, and for everyone with influence to support the call for the moratorium on boosters. 

  

10:07 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Trump getting vaccinated on television could have helped, former Covid-19 testing czar says 

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Admiral Brett Giroir on August 4, 2021.
Admiral Brett Giroir on August 4, 2021. CNN

Admiral Brett Giroir, former coronavirus testing czar under President Trump, told CNN that former President Donald Trump getting vaccinated on television could have helped the vaccination effort. 

Trump has a “very large and loyal followership,” Giroir said on New Day Wednesday, adding that anything Trump did or can do, including getting vaccinated on television, could be important. 

“I get very nervous about, even a President, during medical procedures, doing that in public, I think we need to respect some of that privacy,” Giroir said. “But yes, I think President Trump has come out in favor of vaccines, anything he could do to support that would be very well received and important at this critical time.” 

Asked again by Berman whether Trump getting his Covid-19 shot on television could have made a difference, Giroir said “I think I answered the question and that is yes, anything President Trump could have done or can do could be important and I think it might have been helpful. But you know, these are personal medical decisions, and you remember the time, it was quite a divisive time, so it’s hard to go back and turn those pages.”  

Giroir said he believes “we did try to do everything we could on vaccine hesitancy, and we often did not get the cooperation of national media when we did that.” 

On Tuesday, Alex Azar, former US Secretary of Health and Human Services under Trump, penned an opinion essay in the New York Times, writing “I’m glad former President Trump got vaccinated, but it would have been even better for him to have done so on national television so that his supporters could see how much trust and confidence he has in what is arguably one of his greatest accomplishments.” 

In the interview on New Day, Giroir said all US presidents, current and former, need to set the best example they can when it comes to the coronavirus.

“Obviously, President Obama is an important national leader, and we really need all our presidents, current and former, to set as best of an example as possible,” Giroir said, when asked about former president Obama’s decision to scale back his birthday celebrations. “Our hospitalizations and cases are higher this year than they were last year at this time, which is almost hard to believe, but the Delta variant is serious. And if President Obama is scaling back, I think that’s an important message and very good leadership for the country.” 
9:20 a.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Florida Covid-19 hospitalizations up 13% from previous peak in July 2020

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos 

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations are up 13% from Florida’s previous peak on July 23, 2020, according to the Florida Hospital Association. FHA said they expect 60% of hospitals in the state to face a “critical staffing shortage” in the next 7 days.

According to a press release Tuesday, there are currently 11,515 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in the Sunshine State. FHA reports 84% of all in patients beds and 86.5% of ICU beds are currently occupied. 

According to FHA, of those hospitalized with Covid-19, 21% are in the ICU and 13% are on ventilators. 

“Current hospitalizations and the growth rate continue to be extremely troubling,” Mary C. Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association, said in the statement. “But vaccines work! The fact that less than 3% of current hospitalizations arrived from nursing homes and long-term care facilities shows the state’s focus on vaccinating and protecting Florida’s seniors and most vulnerable has worked.”

Data released by FHA Tuesday is from a survey of hospitals completed August 2 and represents 82% of Florida’s acute care hospitals. Statewide data is taken from the federal Department of Health and Human Services.