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
9 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
10:58 a.m. ET, August 6, 2021

United Airlines unions urging workers comply with corporate vaccinate mandate

From CNN's Pete Muntean

A United Airlines jetliner taxis down a runway for take off from Denver International Airport in Denver on July 2, 2021.
A United Airlines jetliner taxis down a runway for take off from Denver International Airport in Denver on July 2, 2021. David Zalubowski/AP

Unions representing United Airlines employees are urging workers get vaccinated or face getting fired by the company this fall.

In a Friday memo, the chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association representing United pilots said that 90% of its members are already vaccinated thanks to incentives already offered by the company, but “we recognize that a small number of pilots do not agree with this new Company policy.”

While the union said “the vaccine requirement represents an employment change we believe warrants further negotiations,” it cautioned that court cases have upheld corporate vaccinate mandates.

The airline joins a growing list of companies including Google, Microsoft and Facebook mandating workers get vaccinated. United has said workers who do not want to get vaccinated by Oct. 25 must show a valid religious reason or face separation.

The union representing United mechanics told CNN that it is “educating” members about the virus. 

“We encourage vaccinations, but we are not imposing a mandate on our membership,” said Richard Johnson of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The United chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants said it has seen a “notable uptick” of positive coronavirus tests over the last two weeks, mostly by workers who are unvaccinated. In a statement, it said 80% of United flight attendants are vaccinated, but “now is not the time to let our guard down.”

10:27 a.m. ET, August 6, 2021

Union president not pushing for a vaccine mandate for teachers

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

Randi Weingarten during her interview with John Berman.
Randi Weingarten during her interview with John Berman. CNN

The president of the second largest teachers union in the country stopped short of saying she supports a vaccine requirement for teachers in schools.

President of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten said her union is looking at all the options on the table, during an interview with CNN's John Berman Friday morning.

"We have supported everything that our employers have actually put in front of us to date, meaning, we have supported vaccines or testing," Weingarten said, indicating plans like the one in New York City, which says that unvaccinated teachers must be tested weekly for Covid-19.

Weingarten emphasized that her union wants all schools to be open and safe environments for all students.

"Educators have stepped up. 90% of them have actually gotten the vaccine, and that was back in April," she said. "I've been on the road for the last seven days. I'm seeing firsthand like everyone else the surging Delta [variant.] And that's the reason why we are revisiting and looking at other alternatives about how we get the last 10% vaccinated."

If states or cities try to impose a vaccination requirement for teachers, Weingarten said her union will "be bargaining over those policies" to make sure that people who have medical or religious exemptions would be able to opt out.

She said the voluntary approach has worked with teachers so far, but said full FDA approval of the vaccines would mark a point where mandatory vaccination might be acceptable.

"Would it be this month if the FDA goes give full approval?" Berman asked.

"Yes. Yes," said Weingarten.

10:11 a.m. ET, August 6, 2021

Emirates seeing "huge surge" in queries by customers "desperate" to travel

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem

An Emirates Airlines plane at Dubai International Airport on February 1, 2021.
An Emirates Airlines plane at Dubai International Airport on February 1, 2021. Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

Dubai’s flagship airline, Emirates, welcomed the decision by the UK to move the United Arab Emirates to the “amber” list, saying in a statement that they have been receiving a huge surge in queries from customers “desperate to travel to see their families.” 

“Since the UK’s announcement, we’ve seen a huge surge in queries from customers desperate to travel to see their families, planning their kids’ return for the new school term, as well as their postponed business or holiday travel,” Emirates Chief Commercial Officer Adnan Kazim said in a statement on Friday. 

In a promotional video posted on Emirates’ social media, an actress dressed as an Emirates employee stood on top of Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the world, holding signs saying “moving the UAE to the UK amber list has made us feel on top of the world.”

The British government moved India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE from the "red" list to the "amber" list, meaning that travelers arriving from those countries will no longer need to quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19 and are fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the UK. 

Travel is popular between the UK and the UAE, with British tourists making up a significant percentage of visitors to Dubai. The total percentage of British tourists to Dubai in 2019, a year before the pandemic, stood at 7%, the third highest after India and Saudi Arabia, according to governmental statistics. 

Thousands of British residents currently live in the UAE, while for Emiratis, the UK remains the most popular travel destination in Western Europe, the UK’s national tourism agency said on its website.    

A UK-UAE travel corridor had initially been set up in 2020, allowing residents and tourists to travel between both countries freely, however as coronavirus cases persisted in the UAE, the UK placed the country on the “red list,” stopping Britons from traveling to the Gulf nation. 

British residents in the UAE trying to travel home have been planning stopover holidays in “green list” destinations. 

10:21 a.m. ET, August 6, 2021

Houston schools superintendent to propose mask mandate despite governor's executive order

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

A school bus is seen outside Condit Elementary School in Bellaire, outside Houston, Texas, on December 16, 2020.
A school bus is seen outside Condit Elementary School in Bellaire, outside Houston, Texas, on December 16, 2020. François Picard/AFP/Getty Images

Houston Independent School District Superintendent Millard House announced that he will propose a mask mandate for all students, staff and visitors at Houston schools, and that the proposal will be considered at a Board meeting next week.

House made the announcement in a video posted on Twitter early Friday. He did not acknowledge that the proposed mask mandate would go against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been vocal against such mandates, and has signed an executive order banning them.

"I will propose a mask mandate," House said. "This mask mandate will be for our students, staff, and visitors at all of our schools, buses and facilities."

House appeared to suggest that the mandate would be allowed to move forward if the local emergency level is raised.

"The mask mandate will become effective upon Board approval during next Thursday's Board meeting in light of [the] announcement that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turnerthat they are raising the Covid threat level to Red," he said.

During his announcement, House also encouraged parents to get their children who are older than 12 vaccinated, and that vaccine sites will be available at three HISD schools this weekend.

The school year in Houston, the nation's seventh largest school district, is scheduled to start on Aug. 23.

10:19 a.m. ET, August 6, 2021

Eviction moratorium needed due to "deteriorating public health situation" and Delta variant, DOJ says

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

People participate in a protest for a moratorium on evictions on August 4, 2021 in New York City. 
People participate in a protest for a moratorium on evictions on August 4, 2021 in New York City.  Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Justice Department lawyers defended the Biden administration's most recent eviction moratorium Friday telling a federal judge that because of the "deteriorating public health situation" related to the Delta variant, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that it needed "a new invocation" of its responsibility "to protect public health."

In court papers, the Justice Department said the new moratorium – designed to bar landlords from evicting certain tenants amidst the pandemic – is a "more targeted" moratorium than a previous version that expired on July 31.

In the scramble to avoid a rash of evictions, Biden admitted during a news conference earlier this week that he wasn't sure if the new effort would pass legal muster, but, he said, he was seeking to buy time in the courts to help those who are behind in their rent.

The moratorium applies to areas of the country with high or substantial transmission of Covid-19 and is set to last until October 3. It still covers 80% of US counties and 90% of the US population.

Friday's brief was filed before District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee who sits on the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

In, May Friedrich held that the CDC had exceeded its authority in allowing the previous moratorium, but she agreed to put her ruling on hold pending appeal. An appeals court allowed the moratorium to remain in place, as did a divided 5-4 Supreme Court at the end of June.

Ultimately, five justices — with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh siding with the liberals — denied a request to lift Friedrich's stay. 

But critically, Kavanaugh, serving as the swing vote, said he thought after the moratorium expired on July 31, "clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium."

His vote signaled that there may now be a majority on the court unwilling to sign off on a moratorium without congressional action.

As Biden announced the new moratorium, the landlords went back to the district court. They said that in "substance and effect" the new moratorium amounted to an extension of the "same unlawful ban on evictions that has been in effect since September 2020."

The lawyers charged that the CDC acted in "bad faith" to relieve political pressure on the White House and used litigation delays to buy more time to keep the "unlawful order in place."

"Justice Kavanaugh's controlling opinion made clear that the CDC could not extend the moratorium beyond July 31 absent new legislation," said Brett Shumate, a Jones Day lawyer representing the landlords.

9:48 a.m. ET, August 6, 2021

Vaccinations are up this week. Here's why that's good news in the fight against the Delta variant.

From CNN's Aya Elamroussi

A COVID vaccine is administered on August 04, 2021 in Ferguson, Missouri. 
A COVID vaccine is administered on August 04, 2021 in Ferguson, Missouri.  Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading through the US. It is especially devastating regions with low vaccination rates as experts and government officials nationwide urge people to get their shots before a dire situation gets even worse.

But the good news is vaccination rates are up. Thursday saw the largest daily number of doses administered in more than a month, according to the White House.

This week, vaccinations are up 15% compared to the previous week. Now, 68% of eligible Americans have received at least one dose.

Why this is important: Health officials have said the vaccines are effective in preventing severe illness in vaccinated people.

The severity of the illness — not the number of people who contract the virus — is a crucial concept for people to understand at this point in the pandemic, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who heads the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I think we all have to recognize that with 164 million people who are vaccinated, we should expect tens of thousands, perhaps, of breakthrough infections,” Walensky told CNN.

“Those breakthrough infections have mild illness. They are staying out of the hospital. They are not dying, and I think that that’s the most important thing to understand,” Walensky added.

Breakthrough cases occur when the virus infects fully vaccinated people.

Unvaccinated people continue to be "the big highway of transmission," Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said.

“The vaccinated, they’re little side streets. Let’s not get preoccupied with that. We need to get more people vaccinated," he said.

9:08 a.m. ET, August 6, 2021

France warns fourth wave of Covid-19 "knocking at hospital doors"

From CNN's Joseph Ataman

A placard reads "high viral density area, do not open" as medical staff members work in a unit dedicated to patients infected with Covid-19 at the hospital of Bastia on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica on August 5, 2021. 
A placard reads "high viral density area, do not open" as medical staff members work in a unit dedicated to patients infected with Covid-19 at the hospital of Bastia on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica on August 5, 2021.  Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP/Getty Images

“We are beginning to see this fourth wave knocking at the door of hospitals,” French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said to CNN affiliate BFMTV on a visit to a hospital in the South region of France Friday.

Attal highlighted a “very significant increase in the number of people admitted to the hospital and into ICUs” in the region, which encompasses six administrative regions in the south eastern corner of mainland France, including popular holiday destinations along the Côte d'Azur.

He added that in the south region of France, the Covid-19 incidence rate has multiplied by 11 in a month, reaching almost 600 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. 

“We have observed at the national level for a few days a form of plateau, but it is a plateau of high attitude and today there is no guaranteed descent. The epidemic continues to circulate strongly,” Attal said. 

France saw 26,460 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, with 52 deaths, according to Public Health France. At a national level, the number of new daily cases has remained relatively stable over the past fortnight, with a continued small increase. 

With his cabinet on annual leave, French President Emmanuel Macron continued a series of holiday video appeals over social media for French citizens to get vaccinated. Dressed in a polo shirt and wandering around a house – a stark contrast to much of the President’s past public health messaging during the pandemic – he urged greater uptake of vaccinations. 

“Get yourselves vaccinated if you love your relatives, your friends, your brothers, your sisters and your parents” Macron said on Instagram, “because in getting vaccinated yourselves, you are protecting them too.” 

France recorded 76,607,025 injections on Thursday, according to the latest figures from the national health agency, with 36,594,069 – more than half of French people – fully vaccinated. 

8:59 a.m. ET, August 6, 2021

United Airlines mandates Covid-19 vaccines for all employees

From CNN's Gregory Wallace and Chris Isidor

Wayne Slezak/United
Wayne Slezak/United

United Airlines will join the growing list of companies that are requiring employees get vaccinated against Covid-19, the first major US airline to implement such a mandate.

A United executive said it was not considering such a mandate for passengers and that any such requirement would be a decision for the government.

 United said while it has had discussions with its unions on the new rules it has not reached agreements with them.

The airline set a late October deadline for employees to prove vaccination status, and said it could move earlier if a vaccine receives full federal approval sooner. Any employee who refuses to show proof of vaccination will be fired.

United said the October deadline was driven by a sense of urgency to protect its workforce, their family members and its customers. It cited statistics that show that while there has been a surge in Covid-19 cases among those who are vaccinated, those who have had one of the vaccines are far less likely to need to be hospitalized or die from the recent surge in the disease.

A United spokesperson said the airline will consider on a case-by-case basis employees who have health or religious reasons not to be vaccinated, and that those employees will have to wear masks at all times.  

"We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees," the airline said in email to staff. "But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you're at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated."

United is also offering an additional day of pay for most employees who provide proof of vaccination by mid-September. The pay does not apply to United pilots and flight attendants already have a union-negotiated incentive to be vaccinated.

"Over the last 16 months, [CEO Scott Kirby] has sent dozens of condolences letters to the family members of United employees who have died from Covid-19. We're determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter," said the notice to United employees. "Together we'll do our our part to defeat this virus."

United has required vaccines for new employees since mid-June. But those new employees are not yet part one of the unions that represent most of the employees at the airlines.

Some 85% of United's 85,400 employees are represented by unions. 

It's not just United: Vaccine requirements by employers are becoming common. Among the other companies that have announced similar moves for some or all of its employees are Google, Disney, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Netflix, Tyson Foods and Walmart, the nation's largest private-sector employer.

Walmart is requiring proof of vaccination only for corporate employees, not employees in its stores. And some of those employers, such as the tech companies and banks, have few unionized employees.  

Some of the other companies with vaccine mandates, such as Tyson and Disney are in the process of negotiating their mandates with their unions. Labor law covering the private sector generally requires changes in work conditions for represented employees to reached through collective bargaining agreements. And some of unions, while urging members to get vaccinated, have opposed vaccine mandates as a condition of employment.

8:08 a.m. ET, August 6, 2021

CDC head says vaccines prevent severe Covid-19 illness and death — but they can't prevent transmission

From CNN's Madeline Holcombe and Christina Maxouris

Fully vaccinated people who get a Covid-19 breakthrough infection can transmit the virus, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday.

“Our vaccines are working exceptionally well,” Walensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “They continue to work well for Delta, with regard to severe illness and death – they prevent it. But what they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission.”

That’s why the CDC changed its guidance last week and is now recommending even vaccinated people wear masks indoors again, Walensky said.

Last week, the agency released a study that showed the Delta variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they got infected – data that suggests vaccinated people who get a breakthrough infection could have a similar tendency to spread the virus as the unvaccinated.

“If you’re going home to somebody who has not been vaccinated, to somebody who can’t get vaccinated, somebody who might be immunosuppressed or a little bit frail, somebody who has comorbidities that put them at high risk, I would suggest you wear a mask in public indoor settings,” Walensky said.

The dangerous Delta variant has fueled the country’s latest surge of Covid-19 cases and if more Americans don’t get vaccinated and mask up, the country could soon be seeing “several hundred thousand cases a day,” similar to the winter surge, Walensky said.

And while states across the South – including Florida and Louisiana – have seen exponential rises in cases, Walensky said, they have not reached their peak just yet.