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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4:35 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Los Angeles council members propose proof of Covid-19 vaccination in indoor spaces

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

The Los Angeles City Council will consider a motion that would require proof of vaccination in order to enter indoor public spaces like retails stores, gyms and restaurants, expanding on a similar order in New York City.

A motion introduced Wednesday by two city council members calls for the Los Angeles City Attorney to develop an ordinance that will require people to show proof of having received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to access indoor public spaces for shopping, concerts, movies, and sporting events.

The legislation goes beyond the requirement announced Tuesday in New York, adding retail stores to the list of indoor public places where residents would need to present proof of vaccination. Los Angeles residents are also required to wear face masks while in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Council President Nury Martinez and member Mitch O’Farrell introduced the legislation as Los Angeles County endures a surge in coronavirus cases, driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

“Enough is enough already,” said Martinez in a statement. “Hospital workers are exhausted, moms who have put aside their careers are tired, and our kids cannot afford the loss of another school year. We have three vaccines that work and are readily available, so what’s it going to take? Our kids are about to return to school and the unvaccinated are putting their lives at risk every day. Ask your questions, talk to your doctor, and get the vaccine. Let’s put this behind us.”

More context: Despite a relatively high vaccination rate, the number of people hospitalized in Los Angeles has tripled in the past month, and cases have increased twenty-fold, according to county health data.

“Hard-working Angelenos, their customers, and the general public deserve to be safe in public spaces. The vaccines are our most effective form of protection, and the time to act is now,” O’Farrell added in a statement.

4:10 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Global Covid-19 cases surpass 200 million

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

More than 200 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported globally, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Three countries account for more than 40% of cases:

  • United States: 35,292,721 cases (18% of total global cases)
  • India: 31,769,132 cases (16% of total global cases)
  • Brazil: 19,985,817 cases (10% of total global cases)

The World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

 Since then:

  • The first 50 million cases were reported by Nov. 7, 2020.
  • By Jan. 26, 80 days later, there were 100 million global cases.
  • By April 29, 93 days later, there were 150 million.

Now, 97 days after that, there are a total of 200,014,602 reported cases of Covid-19 worldwide and at least 4,252,873 deaths.

Globally, about 2.3 billion people have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and about 1.2 billion people are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

4:04 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Illinois governor announces statewide school mask mandate

From CNN’s Keith Allen

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (Pool)

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday announced a statewide school mask mandate for students and staff returning to classrooms, saying the Delta variant made masks a necessity.

“I had hoped the state mask requirement in schools wouldn't be necessary, but it is. The Delta variant is highly transmissible, more so than any other previous forms of this virus,” the governor said.

Pritzker's school mask mandate applies to all schools throughout the state, both public and private, and for pre-K through grade 12 students, the state lawmaker said Wednesday.

“My goal has always been to safely bring all kids back into the classroom at the start of the school year and, crucially, to keep them there. Without these measures, we would likely see many more outbreaks,” he added.

Face coverings will also be required for all indoor school sports and recreation in pre-K through grade 12 schools, Pritzker said.

“Every time we think we know where this virus is headed, it changes, and it shifts,” the governor told reporters.

Chicago Public Schools last month announced their own districtwide mask mandate for the resumption of in-person classes on Aug. 30, CNN previously reported.

3:20 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

As debate around school mask mandates heats up, local health officials fear for their safety

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

In cities and counties where there has been ongoing debate around mask mandates in public schools, several local health officials have reported again being intimidated by or receiving threats from anti-maskers, Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN on Wednesday.

This is something NACCHO is now monitoring closely.

As a return to school gets underway, "these are heated conversations sometimes that are turning nasty and out of control," Freeman said. "We are going to see more of this in communities that have these high transmission rates and are returning to some of these mitigation efforts. We're going to have to track it closely."

Throughout the pandemic, public health officers have reported receiving death threats and harassment in response to their recommendations to wear masks and follow certain Covid-19 mitigation measures. For instance, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has spoken openly about receiving death threats.

CNN previously reported that during a live public briefing on Facebook last year, "someone very casually suggested" Los Angeles County's public health director, Barbara Ferrer, should be shot. And in Washington state, Okanogan County community health director Lauri Jones installed a new security system and asked for police patrols around her home following repeated online threats.

"Just last week, we started seeing extremist groups come out again in opposition to their public health officers' orders in California," Freeman said on Wednesday. "Another example, in North Carolina, involved school board meetings where parents were picketing that there was no way they were sending their kids to school in masks. Really, this is going on in different places across the country." 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on masks last week, recommending that everyone older than age 2 wear masks in schools, whether vaccinated or not.

"We're hearing a lot of challenges on the ground, especially in states choosing not to take up the mask mandates that were recommended last week and opting to instead push decisions on masking down locally," Freeman said. "When the state doesn't want to take a hard line, it naturally falls to community-level decisions and so we're back to local health departments being front and center of controversy around the reintroduction of masks for vaccinated people."

These pressures of the pandemic seem to be taking a toll on the public health workforce.

Freeman previously told CNN in May that NACCHO has tracked more than 250 public health officials leaving the field since the beginning of the pandemic.

3:17 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

CDC ensemble forecasts project new Covid-19 deaths likely to increase over the next 4 weeks 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

The figures show the number of new (top row) and total (bottom row) COVID-19 deaths reported in the United States each week from May 29 through July 31 and forecasted over the next 4 weeks, through August 28. Models make various assumptions about the levels of social distancing and other interventions, which may not reflect recent changes in behavior. See model descriptions below for details on the assumptions and methods used to produce the forecasts.
The figures show the number of new (top row) and total (bottom row) COVID-19 deaths reported in the United States each week from May 29 through July 31 and forecasted over the next 4 weeks, through August 28. Models make various assumptions about the levels of social distancing and other interventions, which may not reflect recent changes in behavior. See model descriptions below for details on the assumptions and methods used to produce the forecasts. (CDC)

Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths are likely to increase over the next four weeks, according to ensemble forecasts published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

When it comes to Covid-19 cases, the agency says that its forecast should be interpreted with caution — since actual numbers have fallen outside the range of previous predictions. CDC’s latest forecast predicts 350,000 to 1,800,000 new cases during the week ending Aug. 28.

“Over the last several weeks, more reported cases have fallen outside of the forecasted prediction intervals than expected. This suggests that current forecast prediction intervals may not capture the full range of uncertainty,” said CDC. “Because of this, case forecasts for the coming weeks should be interpreted with caution.”

The forecast predicts a total of 624,000 to 642,000 deaths will be reported by Aug. 28. 

The previous forecast, published July 28, projected up to 633,000 deaths by Aug. 21. 

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, there have been 614,342 coronavirus deaths in the United States. 

The forecast predicts that there will be 6,700 to 24,000 new confirmed Covid-19 hospital admissions likely reported on Aug. 30. 


2:49 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

Florida governor's office holds strong on allowing parents to make masking choices for students

From CNN's Leyla Santiago, Sara Weisfeldt and Alyssa Kraus

Parents with the Education Advocates of Alachua County take part in a rally to support that children should be required to wear face coverings in Alachua County schools this year, outside the Alachua County Administration Building in Gainesville, Florida, on August 3, 2021.
Parents with the Education Advocates of Alachua County take part in a rally to support that children should be required to wear face coverings in Alachua County schools this year, outside the Alachua County Administration Building in Gainesville, Florida, on August 3, 2021. Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun/USA Today Network

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' office is now "finalizing health and education emergency rules this week that do not prohibit masks in schools but will require parents to have the right to opt their children out," his press secretary Christina Pushaw told CNN. 

This comes after DeSantis signed an executive order Friday threatening to withhold state funding to any school that implements a mask mandate. 

The order leaves Florida schools with a complicated balancing act: how to keep students and staff safe from the state's rapid Covid-19 surge while also avoiding retaliation from the governor.

After a heated school board meeting in Duval County in northeast Florida last night, where more than 70 parents and community members showed up with a range of passionate opinions about masking their children, the school board voted to recommend mask use at schools. It will also require parents to opt-out if they want their child to ditch the mask, a process which will require additional time and paperwork.

Alachua County's school district will require students to be masked in schools for two weeks. The board said it will re-evaluate the mask policy in mid-August.

Alachua County School Director of Communications Jackie Johnson said masks are required inside school buildings, but are optional outside. 

The policy also includes exceptions. For example, parents can submit documentation from a doctor to exempt a child from the mask requirement. Johnson also said there will be some special needs situations like speech therapy where masks can be removed.

With the vaccination rate in Florida still under 50%, both Alachua and Duval County school districts said they plan to set up vaccination sites in schools with hopes of getting as many students, staff, and community members vaccinated. 

2:14 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

New York Auto Show canceled due to Delta variant

From CNN's Peter Valdes-Dapen

The New York International Auto show, set for later this month, was canceled by organizers on Wednesday due to an increasing number of cases of the Covid-19 Delta variant and the local measures used to combat them.

"It is with great disappointment that the upcoming 2021 New York International Automobile Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center has been cancelled due to the growing incidences of the Covid-19 Delta variant and the increased measures announced recently by State and local officials to stop its spread," the show organizers said in a statement.

The New York Auto Show was set to take place between Aug. 20 and 29 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. In a typical year, the 121-year-old New York Auto Show says 628,000 households attend.

New York City recently announced it will require proof of vaccination for people to enter indoor public events as well as restaurants, fitness centers and indoor entertainment venues. The policy will take effect over the next few weeks.

2:03 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

White House convenes meeting of all living former US surgeon generals to discuss Covid-19

From CNN's Kate Sullivan and Jeremy Diamond

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and members of the White House Covid-19 response team convened a meeting of all living former US surgeon generals on Wednesday morning, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, as the White House ramps up efforts to get the rest of the population vaccinated. 

“These esteemed public health leaders, who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, discussed the importance of ensuring that communities of color, those hardest hit by the virus have the information and access they need to get vaccinated. And they discussed how we can work together of course moving forward,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing on Wednesday.

Those attending the meeting included Dr. Antonia Novello, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Dr. David Satcher, Dr. Richard Carmona, Dr. Regina Benjamin and Dr. Jerome Adams.

In a Q&A session with reporters following the meeting, Murthy talked about the misinformation about the vaccine that is spreading in some communities of color and said he spoke with the former surgeons general about ways to ramp up partnerships with trusted messengers in those communities to counter that misinformation.

Asked by CNN why the administration only began to take more urgent action in response to the Delta variant last week even though it was identified as a variant of concern in June, Murthy said he believes the CDC moved quickly to act on new information about transmission among vaccinated individuals last week. He stressed that the CDC has to strike a balance between being confident in the data that is informing decisions and moving quickly enough.

He also stressed that vaccinated people “still have a high degree of protection” and stressed that “the majority of transmission is among unvaccinated individuals.”

Addressing a question about booster shots, Murthy said it is very possible booster shots will be needed but noted that the FDA and CDC are still studying that issue.

2:18 p.m. ET, August 4, 2021

All city employees in this Virginia city must get vaccinated and show proof, mayor says 

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

Mayor Levar Stoney speaks in Richmond, Virginia, on August 4, 2021.
Mayor Levar Stoney speaks in Richmond, Virginia, on August 4, 2021. WTVR

Richmond, Virginia, Mayor Levar Stoney on Wednesday announced all city employees will be required to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and provide proof of vaccination.

"The vaccine protects those who cannot get the shot, because of their health status, or because of their age," Stoney said during a weekly press briefing.   

"Going into a new school year, there is no better way, no better way to protect kids than for adults to get vaccinated," stressed Stoney. 

City employees who are already vaccinated will need to submit documentation of their vaccination status by Aug. 18, according to Stoney.  

"If you are currently unvaccinated, you will be expected to have at least one dose of the vaccine by Aug. 18 and fully vaccinated by Oct. 1," said Stoney. 

Stoney said, "medical and religious exemptions will be granted with appropriate documentation." 

"For the vast majority of employees, we know that the vaccine is safe, the vaccine is effective, and the vaccine is a vital lifesaving tool to protect ourselves and our community," said Stoney.