The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic in the US

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

Updated 8:03 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021
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6:51 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021

Texas governor asks hospitals to forgo elective surgeries as coronavirus cases rise

From CNN's Dave Alsup

Texas Governor Greg Abbott attends a security briefing with former President Donald Trump and state officials and law enforcement at the Weslaco Department of Public Safety DPS Headquarters on June 30 in Weslaco, Texas.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott attends a security briefing with former President Donald Trump and state officials and law enforcement at the Weslaco Department of Public Safety DPS Headquarters on June 30 in Weslaco, Texas. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/AP)

Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures to increase hospital capacity for coronavirus patients, according to a news release from his office. 

Abbott is also directing the Texas Department of Emergency Management and Department of State Health Services to open additional antibody infusion centers across the Lone Star State.

The governor is also directing those agencies to increase vaccination availability across the state and encourages all Texans to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

6:32 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021

This county in Oregon is implementing indoor mask mandates regardless of vaccination status

From CNN's Jenn Selva

Oregon's Multnomah County is issuing a mandate this week that everyone must wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status. If they don’t, they could be fined up to $1,000.

The executive order from County Chair Deborah Kafoury comes after Covid-19 cases have surged in the area causing strain on local health care systems, a news release said.

“The more contagious Delta variant has changed the game. Our hospitals are full,” Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said in the release. “And we now know that while the vaccine protects us really well from serious illness, it may not always stop us from spreading the virus. An across-the-board mandate buys us time to protect more people with vaccine.’’

Enforcement will be based on complaints phoned or emailed into the county, and the punishment could range from a warning to a $1,000 fine, the release added.

The mandate starts Friday and applies to everyone five years and older. It’s expected to remain in place until January, although officials say that timeline could change depending on disease trends and immunization rates. 

6:09 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021

Covid-19 hospitalization rates in some states are more than double national average, data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Nurses check on a patient in the ICU Covid-19 ward at NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro, Arkansas, on August 4.
Nurses check on a patient in the ICU Covid-19 ward at NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro, Arkansas, on August 4. (Houston Cofield/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Current Covid-19 hospitalization rates in some of the states hit hardest by the latest surge are more than double the national rate, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.  

In the United States overall, there are currently about 21 people hospitalized with Covid-19 for every 100,000 people. That translates to about one in every 4,900 Americans. 

In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, current hospitalization rates are more than double the national rate. 

And in Florida, the hospitalization rate is more than triple the national rate. There are more than 65 people hospitalized with Covid-19 for every 100,000 people in Florida, about one out of every 1,500 state residents. 

Overall, about one in five intensive care unit beds in the US are occupied by Covid-19 patients. But in these five states with the highest hospitalization rates, the share of ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients is even higher, ranging from 25% in Alabama to more than a third in Florida 

Also, each of these five states – Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas – have fully vaccinated less than half of their residents, lagging behind the US overall, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In fact, every state with a higher-than-average hospitalization rate had a lower than average vaccination rate, according to a CNN analysis of data from the CDC and HHS. 

5:59 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021

Washington governor announces vaccine mandate for all state employees

From CNN's Claudia Dominquez

In SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 16: Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, joined by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan hold a press conference to provide details on a temporary statewide shutdown of restaurants, bars, and entertainment and recreational facilities to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, on March 16, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to new cases of COVID-19 earlier this month. (Photo by Elaine Thompson - Pool/Getty Images)
In SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 16: Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, joined by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan hold a press conference to provide details on a temporary statewide shutdown of restaurants, bars, and entertainment and recreational facilities to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, on March 16, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to new cases of COVID-19 earlier this month. (Photo by Elaine Thompson - Pool/Getty Images) (Elaine Thompson/Getty Images)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a major effort to increase vaccinations in the state by implementing a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for all state employees, private health workers and those working in long-term settings.

The mandate would cover 60,000 state employees and 400,00 health workers plus thousands of contractors. Under the mandate these workers are required to be vaccinated in places where the state is doing business. 

“If you are working for a contractor providing services and you go on a site that is controlled by the state of Washington, you will be required as a condition of employment to be vaccinated,” Inslee announced at a news conference Monday.  

Those workers covered by the order will have to get fully vaccinated by Oct. 18

The governor’s measure does not apply to certain state employees, like employees of agencies that are controlled by separately elected statewide officials and does not include students in K-12 or universities.  

While there is a recommendation to use masks indoors, there is no mask mandate, Inslee added. 

Limited exemptions based on religious or medical issues will be considered, he said. The exceptions do not include philosophical or personal reasons. 

“We are in this pickle today because 30% of our eligible citizens so far have chosen not to get this life-saving vaccine, but we trust they’ll make the right choice,” Inslee said. “The overwhelming majority of recent hospitalizations is of people that have not been vaccinated.” 

At least 69% of the Washington state residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the state's Department of Health Covid-19 dashboard. 

At least 4.5 million Washington state residents have received a vaccine, Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah told reporters. 

Inslee said that the severe rise in the cases in the state was due to the Delta variant, and that cases among unvaccinated individuals were on the rise with cases doubling in just one week. 

5:54 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021

Mississippi health officer describes dire situation in state's hospitals

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Mississippi has 200 patients waiting in emergency rooms for beds statewide, according to the state's senior health officer.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 6,912 more cases of Covid-19, and 28 new Covid-19 deaths for the three-day period from Aug. 6 through Aug. 8.

The state's health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said in a tweet Monday that there are no intensive care unit beds available at Level 1, 2 and 3 hospitals.

According to Mississippi's Department of Health, there are also 153 ongoing Covid-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the state.

5:44 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021

Health expert calls for vaccine mandates in adolescents as school year starts

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

A 17-year-old receives a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic during a back to school event offering school supplies, Covid-19 vaccinations, face masks, and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA.
A 17-year-old receives a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic during a back to school event offering school supplies, Covid-19 vaccinations, face masks, and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

Children ages 12 to 17 may need a vaccine mandate to curb Covid-19 spread as schools go back to in-person learning, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN on Monday. 

Speaking about the rise in pediatric intensive care unit admissions in certain parts of the country, Hotez told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “schools are going to be an accelerant” for child infections without universal masking. 

“It’s not even going to be enough to have mask mandates in the schools,” he said. “We need all of the adolescents vaccinated, and really we need to move towards vaccine mandates for the 12- to 17-year-olds in the schools.”

“In the South right now, we’ve got states like Louisiana, Mississippi, etcetera, only about 25% of the adolescents are vaccinated. So the vast majority are not vaccinated. We have counties not far from Houston where there are similar numbers or they’re less.”

“If we’re going to give our fighting chance to have a successful school year, we’re going to need everyone who is vaccine eligible to get vaccinated and everybody masked,” Hotez said.
5:30 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021

Public health expert urges politicians to stop spreading Covid-19 vaccine misinformation

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

A Culver City Fire Department paramedic prepares a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic on August 5 in California.
A Culver City Fire Department paramedic prepares a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic on August 5 in California. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

Politicians who spread Covid-19 vaccine misinformation and celebrate low vaccination rates should stop, and leave it to the experts, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said Monday.

When asked what he would tell the politicians spreading vaccine misinformation, Jha told CNN’s Pamela Brown, “I would ask them to just stop talking about things they don't know much about.”

“It's a medical and public health challenge, and politicians should really let the public health and physician leaders move forward on how to get this thing under control,” Jha added. 

Jha noted that healthcare professionals are best equipped to address concerns and questions about coronavirus and the vaccine.

“For any other disease, you would not turn to your political leader for medical advice, right?” he said. “If you had cancer or if you had heart attack, you wouldn't call up your congressman or woman and say, ‘What's the right therapy I should get?’ You should be talking to your doctor. You should be talking to your healthcare provider.”

 

5:54 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021

Arkansas records its largest single-day increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

A nurse checks on a patient in the ICU Covid-19 ward at NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro, Arkansas, on Wednesday, August 4.
A nurse checks on a patient in the ICU Covid-19 ward at NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro, Arkansas, on Wednesday, August 4. (Houston Cofield/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Arkansas recorded its largest single-day increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations, eclipsing its previous high of coronavirus hospitalizations, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Monday.

The Arkansas Department of Health is reporting at least 995 new Covid-19 cases Monday, and at least 21 new Covid-19-related deaths.

According to the Department, there are at least 1,376 people currently hospitalized with Covid-19, up by 103 from Sunday. At least 286 of those patients are currently on ventilators, 25 more than the previous day, the department said. There are only eight intensive care unit beds available in the state, the governor said.

“Vaccinations reduce hospitalizations,” Hutchison tweeted Monday.

5:13 p.m. ET, August 9, 2021

Florida could move to withhold salaries of those who violate ban on mask mandates in schools

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

A parent confronts a police officer while protesting against wearing masks in schools before the special called school board workshop at the Pinellas County Schools Administration Building in Largo, Florida, on August 9.
A parent confronts a police officer while protesting against wearing masks in schools before the special called school board workshop at the Pinellas County Schools Administration Building in Largo, Florida, on August 9. Octavio Jones/Reuters

Florida’s State Board of Education could move to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who “led to the violation of law” prohibiting mask mandates for school districts.

The move was announced by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's office Monday. A statement released by his office described the potential penalty as “financial consequences for noncompliance.”

Here's some of what it said:

“With respect to enforcing any financial consequences for noncompliance of state law regarding these rules and ultimately the rights of parents to make decisions about their children's education and health care decisions, it would be the goal of the State Board of Education to narrowly tailor any financial consequences to the offense committed. For example, the State Board of Education could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members, as a narrowly tailored means to address the decision-makers who led to the violation of law.”

“Education funding is intended to benefit students first and foremost, not systems. The Governor’s priorities are protecting parents’ rights and ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs,” the statement added.

Some background: DeSantis issued an executive order on July 30 directing the state’s health and education departments to issue rules preventing the implementation of school mask mandates.

The order comes in response to “several Florida school boards considering or implementing mask mandates,” the governor’s office said, and is meant to “protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks.”

Two different lawsuits have been filed against the governor in response. You can read more about them here.