The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, August 6, 2021
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3:35 p.m. ET, August 6, 2021

More than 900 students in quarantine after second week of school in one Arkansas district

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

More than 900 students and 12 teachers are in quarantine as the second week of school comes to an end in Marion, Arkansas, as the district grapples with an outbreak of Covid-19 cases.

Forty-seven students and eight staff members tested positive for Covid-19 this week alone, causing the jump in students needing to be quarantined. An additional 54 students and five staff members were able to avoid quarantine because they are vaccinated.

The latest Covid numbers are being tracked on the district's online dashboard, which says the district is "committed to being transparent about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our school community."

CNN previously reported that the district has not been able to put a mask requirement in place due to the law signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in April. Hutchinson said earlier this week that he wished that had not become a law.

The district, which is just west of Memphis, Tennessee, said that if a mask mandate was in place, the number of students in quarantine would be drastically lower.

"Again, if all students and teachers had been wearing a mask appropriately — then [Thursday's] 9 positive cases would be isolated — but there would be no resulting quarantines for anyone else," the district's website said.

3:34 p.m. ET, August 6, 2021

Georgia's largest school system confirms 253 cases of Covid-19

From CNN’s Maria Cartaya

Gwinnett County Public Schools confirmed at leas 253 cases of Covid-19 for the first three days of classes on Friday.  

“Many of the cases are from communal spread because they [people reporting cases of Covid-19] haven’t been in our buildings yet to have contracted it,” said Bernard Watson, director of community and media relations for Gwinnett County Public Schools. “Now that we’re back in school, we know we’re going to get cases."

Watson said that out of the system’s 141 schools, 59 of them have no cases.  

“In order to really handle this and deal with this we need the cooperation of and partnership with our parents and students,” said Watson. “Fortunately, we haven’t had to quarantine as of yet."

Gwinnett County Schools mandated masks on all campuses and encouraged anyone eligible for a vaccine to get one.

“If you’re sick or you feel sick don’t come to school, don’t come to work,” Watson said. 

The first day of school for Gwinnett County was Wednesday.

Gwinnett County, in the metro Atlanta area, is the largest school system in Georgia. It has about 180,000 students and close to 12,000 teachers.  

2:59 p.m. ET, August 6, 2021

The schools where Covid-19 is spreading are not following mitigation measures, CDC director says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Schools and summer camps where Covid-19 has spread are the ones that have not been closely following mitigation measures, such as wearing masks, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Friday during a town hall event in Boston.

“We follow every jurisdiction, and we look for outbreaks that are happening in camps and schools," Walensky said. "The places that are having a problem, the places that are having disease that is transmitted in the schools, are the places that are not taking prevention strategies. The places that aren’t masking. The places where you see kids in the hospital, the places where you see footage of kids in the hospital, are all places that are not taking mitigation strategies to keep our children safe."

Walensky added that, as an example, Florida does not require masks in schools.

"If you're masked and you're doing all of the prevention mitigation strategies, it won't be transmitted in the school. It will be contained," Walensky said.

"It is possible to do this safely," she added. "We've seen it done safely even in areas of high transmission – and where you're seeing all of the challenges are in places that are not implementing mitigation strategies."

2:53 p.m. ET, August 6, 2021

JPMorgan sticks by office reopening but reinstates employee mask mandate

From CNN's Matt Egan

An office worker enters the JPMorgan Chase & Co. headquarters in New York on July 22.
An office worker enters the JPMorgan Chase & Co. headquarters in New York on July 22. Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

JPMorgan Chase told employees on Friday they will be required to wear masks in common areas, on elevators and in lobbies to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, but America's largest bank will keep offices open for now.

The company is now requiring non-vaccinated employees to be tested twice a week. However, unlike Wells Fargo and other Wall Street firms, JPMorgan is sticking by its return-to-the-office schedule even as Covid-19 cases rise. 

“It has been gratifying to see so many of you back in the office over the past several weeks,” JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and other senior executives wrote in the memo. “We deeply appreciate your efforts and will continue with our previously stated return to the office schedule as we learn more about how hybrid working may work for our company.”

JPMorgan announced in late April that it would open its US offices to all employees on May 17, subject to a 50% occupancy cap. All US-based employees were expected to return to the office by early July on a consistent rotational schedule, subject to that same 50% cap.

JPMorgan executives said the new mask rules are being implemented out of “an abundance of caution” and due to the recently-updated mask guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are aware of current conditions and are disappointed to see the rise in Covid-19 cases in the US, and we know that it is a cause of increasing anxiety for many,” the bank said in the memo.

 

2:48 p.m. ET, August 6, 2021

White House says US is not headed toward lockdown despite Delta variant surge

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

White House press secretary Jen Psaki answers questions during the daily briefing on August 6.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki answers questions during the daily briefing on August 6. Win McNamee/Getty Images

The White House said the US is not headed for another lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19 despite the highly contagious Delta variant spreading throughout the country. 

“This is not March 2020, or even January 2021. We're not going to lock down our economy or our schools because our country's in a much stronger place than when we took office thanks to the President’s leadership in vaccinating the American people and getting economic relief to those who need it,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday. “We've been preparing like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts for this moment and the potential that there would be ups and downs in our recovery."

Psaki added: “We are not going back. We are not turning back the clock.”  

Earlier Friday: President Biden said more work needs to be done to vaccinate the rest of the country amid the Delta variant surge.

But he said the national vaccination program, which has so far resulted in 50% of the country getting fully vaccinated, has protected the population from the worst of the Delta variant. 

2:23 p.m. ET, August 6, 2021

White House says there's no plan to renew enhanced unemployment benefits in September

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House press secretary Jen Psaki answers questions during the daily briefing on August 6.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki answers questions during the daily briefing on August 6. Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday there’s been no decision made whether or not to extend enhanced unemployment benefits when the program lapses in September.

“At this point they're expiring at the beginning of September, nothing has changed on that front, but a final decision has not been made,” Psaki told reporters at Friday’s briefing. 

The $300 boost, as well as two other pandemic programs that provide benefits to independent contractors and others who don't typically qualify and to those who've run out of their regular state benefits, is scheduled to last until early September in the states that are continuing the programs.

In a follow up, CNN’s Phil Mattingly pressed on if there’s still a chance the administration may still decide to extend the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits.

“Well, it's planning to end – it's supposed to end, at this point, at the beginning of September, so he hasn't made a decision to extend it, he also hasn't made a decision not to, so I suppose that's, that's correct," Psaki said.

2:06 p.m. ET, August 6, 2021

Florida's Board of Education just passed these rules about Covid-19 school protocol

From CNN’s Angela Barajas

School buses are seen parked at a school in Winter Springs, Florida, in August 2020.
School buses are seen parked at a school in Winter Springs, Florida, in August 2020. Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Florida Board of Education unanimously passed two rules — one regarding school attendance as it relates to Covid-19 and another about the use of scholarship funds to help kids being harassed for mask use.

The rules will go into effect immediately for the upcoming start of the school year.

Friday's emergency meeting was called as parental concerns grow around Covid-19 protocols.

The first rule presented by the Florida School Board of Education states that in the event that school districts implement quarantine orders for students who could be exposed or could become infected, attendance rules should change as to not impact the education of children. Since "these directives will result in learning loss for students unless plans are enacted to continue learning during 'stay-home' days," according to the document presenting the emergency rule. 

Board of Education General Counsel Michael Mears stipulated during Friday's emergency meeting that "even though they won't be physically present under this rule, they'll be able to continue their education and get credit for those days of schools outside of the physical school building."

Mears urged school districts to implement procedures so children could continue learning at home.

During the time set aside for public comment, several parents complained that virtual schooling was no longer an option in their school districts forcing them to send their healthy kids into schools.

"I also like to point out that all children in Florida do have a virtual option. If they want to send their student to a virtual school, they should reach out to their own district. They can also access the Florida Virtual School and obtain a virtual education," school board chair Tom Grady replied.  

The second rule set forth pertained to using Hope Scholarship funds for parents who felt their kids were being harassed because of their personal choice of mask use. The funds, in the form of a voucher, can be used to switch schools. As explained during the emergency session, the money comes from Floridians who chose to make donations to the program when they buy motor vehicles. According to the board, "it is not money that was appropriated to the districts."

During the hour-long conference call, vice chair Ben Gibson explained further that "this rule allows a parent to access a scholarship that they could use to go to a different public school, they could use to cross to a different district if you happen to live near a line. You could go to another school district, or you could access a private school that accepts state scholarships and the funding would follow, but it's not taking money from the district." 

"Those funds are then available to help parents get their child out of a situation that's 100% in keeping with the right of a parent to direct the education and health of their children," Gibson added.  

An outraged parent chimed in during the public comment session, "I urge you to look beyond the false platitudes of parental rights and personal freedoms that this rule espouses. It is in fact, extremely one sided," the Leon County parent said. "What about my constitutional parental rights to a safe public education for my child? This bill defunds school districts and you're writing a blank check of taxpayer money to private school." 

"We're not going to hurt kids. We're not going to pull funding that's going to hurt kids in any way," Gibson said.

1:57 p.m. ET, August 6, 2021

New Jersey governor announces statewide mask mandate in schools

From CNN's Elizabeth Joseph

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy talks to reporters on June 8.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy talks to reporters on June 8. Seth Wenig/AP

Students, educators, staff and visitors – regardless of Covid-19 vaccination status – will be required to wear face masks while inside school buildings across New Jersey during the 2021-2022 academic year, Gov. Phil Murphy announced in a news conference Friday afternoon.

The decision was made due to the recent and rapid spread of the Delta variant, because no child under the age of 12 is eligible for vaccination, and the reality that many older students and their parents remain unvaccinated, he said.

1:46 p.m. ET, August 6, 2021

Covid-19 vaccination rates are lower among adults with disabilities, according to Census Bureau survey data

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

The Covid-19 vaccination rate among adults with disabilities is lower than among those without disabilities, according to data from the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey and published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the latest survey data, about 77% of adults with a disability had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, compared to 82% of adults without a disability.

This survey data differs from the official vaccination data published the CDC, which shows that about 70% of adults have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

But the gap in reported vaccination rates from the survey – a difference of about five percentage points – highlights the relative disparity.

A gap exists across age groups, but is largest among adults ages 50-64, with about 78% of people with a disability who have had at least one dose compared to about 87% of those without a disability.

Vaccination rates among Black people with and without a disability are about even, but are largest among those individuals who identify as multiracial or a race or ethnicity other than White, Black, Hispanic or Asian.

Responses for the latest Household Pulse Survey were collected between June 23 and July 5. They are weighted to be representative of the total adult population in the United States.