The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic in the US

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

Updated 3:43 AM ET, Wed August 11, 2021
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5:52 p.m. ET, August 10, 2021

3 major airlines will not require employees to be vaccinated

From CNN's Pete Muntean

The CEOs of Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines say they will not require employees to get vaccinated, breaking with United Airlines’ mandate that workers get vaccinated by Oct. 25 or face getting fired. 

In an internal memo obtained by CNN, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said the airline will “continue to strongly encourage” that workers get vaccinated, but the airline’s stance has not shifted. 

“Obviously, I am very concerned about the latest Delta variant, and the effect on the health and Safety of our Employees and our operation, but nothing has changed,” Kelly said. 

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told Good Day New York on Tuesday that that 75% of its workforce has already been vaccinated even without a mandate. In May, Delta became the first major carrier to mandate that all new hires be vaccinated

“I think we're there's some additional steps and measures we can take to get the vaccine rates even higher, but what we're seeing is every day is those numbers continue to grow,” Bastian said.

Both announcements follow a New York Times podcast interview with American Airlines CEO Doug Parker who said the airline is incentivizing workers who get vaccinated by the end of this month with one extra day of vacation in 2022.

“We certainly encourage it everywhere we can, encourage it for our customers and our employees, but we’re not putting mandates in place,” said Parker.
5:37 p.m. ET, August 10, 2021

Average pace of new vaccinations tops 500,000 people per day for first time since June, CDC data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at West Philadelphia High School in Philadelphia on August 4.
A healthcare worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at West Philadelphia High School in Philadelphia on August 4. (Hannah Beier/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The average pace of new vaccinations topped 500,000 people per day for first time since June, according to data published Tuesday from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s more data from the CDC on vaccination efforts in the United States:

  • Fully vaccinated: 50.3% of the total US population
  • Not vaccinated: 31.1% of the eligible population (ages 12 and older)
  • Current pace of vaccinations (seven-day average): 503,734 people are initiating vaccination each day.
  • The average daily pace was last over 500,000 in mid-June, about seven weeks ago. 
  • This is a 13% increase over last week’s pace.
  • An average of 739,114 doses are being administered each day.
  • 22 states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as Washington, DC.
  • All states have now fully vaccinated at least 35% of residents. 
  • Vermont leads the nation with 68% of residents fully vaccinated, while Alabama has fully vaccinated 35% of residents.
6:14 p.m. ET, August 10, 2021

Florida governor says federal intervention in states' ban on school mask mandates would be "inappropriate"

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

When asked about President Biden’s comments on looking into the presidential authority to intervene in states like Florida and Texas where governors are attempting to prohibit mask mandates for schools, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said federal government intervention “would be very inappropriate.”

“I think that they really believe government should rule over the parents’ decisions and I think the parents’ decisions in this regard, should ultimately be what is done. The fact of the matter is that parents are in the best position to know what's best for their kids,” DeSantis said.

“We believe in empowering the parents. They obviously want the government to force, and to use coercion. Our policy, based on the parents' bill of rights, is this is the parents’ decision under Florida law at this point. Now this is a new law that was just signed, it wasn't necessarily in effect last year, so we're in a situation now, where we believe that the parents’ rights will be vindicated and we'll work to make sure that that happens in any way we can,” the governor added.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Monday sent letters to the superintendents of Leon and Alachua counties, which had enacted masking policies in violation of the governor’s new rules, informing them that investigations of non-compliance had been initiated.

“Depending on the facts presented, I may recommend to the State Board of Education that the Department withhold funds in an amount equal to the salaries for the Superintendent and all the members of the School Board,” Corcoran wrote. “There is no room for error or leniency when it comes to ensuring compliance with policies that allow parents and guardians to make health and educational choices for the children.”

After the Broward County School Board voted Tuesday to maintain the school district's mask mandate originally approved on July 28, DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw told CNN, “It’s safe to assume that the decision by Broward school board members to violate parents’ rights to make decisions for their own children, will result in a similar response.”

4:48 p.m. ET, August 10, 2021

L.A. County board votes to require Covid-19 vaccine for all county employees

From CNN's Sarah Moon

A dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is prepared at a mobile vaccination clinic in Los Angeles on August 7.
A dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is prepared at a mobile vaccination clinic in Los Angeles on August 7. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to require all county employees to be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination status or undergo weekly coronavirus testing.

“In order to increase our vaccination rates, it is important that Los Angeles County have a mandatory vaccination policy for its workforce of approximately 100,000 employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” Supervisors Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl said in the motion. Exceptions will be made for medical or religious reasons. 

Contractors employed by the county may also be required to be fully vaccinated, according to the motion.

In July, the city of Los Angeles also announced it will require its employees to show proof of vaccination or get weekly Covid-19 testing. The move comes as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to cause a rise in new infections and hospitalizations in the state.

"Too many of our residents have already lost their lives to this virus, and we must do everything we can to protect their health," the supervisors said.

4:38 p.m. ET, August 10, 2021

Texas governor's office responds to Austin and Dallas schools defying his order on masks

From CNN’s Ed Lavandera and Keith Allen

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/Pool/AP)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office on Tuesday responded to the Austin and Dallas Independent School Districts’ decision to defy his executive order on masks and mandate face coverings in their schools.

“We are all working to protect Texas children and those most vulnerable among us, but violating the governor’s executive orders—and violating parental rights—is not the way to do it,” Abbott’s press secretary Renae Eze tells CNN in an email Tuesday.

“Governor Abbott has been clear that the time for mask mandates is over; now is the time for personal responsibility. Parents and guardians have the right to decide whether their child will wear a mask or not, just as with any other decision in their child’s life. Governor Abbott has spent his entire time in office fighting for the rights and freedoms of all Texans, and our office continues working with the Office of the Attorney General to do just that,” Eze said.

Some more context: Last month, Abbott issued an executive order that combined many of his earlier orders on Covid-19, which included language that no governmental entity, including school districts, could require masks.

“The best defense against this virus is the COVID vaccines, and we continue to strongly encourage all eligible Texans to get vaccinated,” the governor’s spokesperson added.

 

4:26 p.m. ET, August 10, 2021

University of Colorado Boulder will require masks indoors on campus

From CNN’s Keith Allen

In this file photo, an incoming freshman moves into a campus dorm at University of Colorado Boulder on August 18, 2020 in Boulder, Colorado.
In this file photo, an incoming freshman moves into a campus dorm at University of Colorado Boulder on August 18, 2020 in Boulder, Colorado. (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) on Tuesday announced an indoor mask mandate for all indoor public spaces on campus, the university said in a statement.

This requirement applies to all students, faculty and staff regardless of vaccination status, and it is described as “a temporary precaution” as the region continues to see surging Covid-19 numbers due to the delta variant, CU Boulder notes.

Masks must be worn in any publicly accessible indoor campus space, including classrooms, laboratories and academic advisory areas, according to CU Boulder.

“We recognize the renewed mask requirement will be welcome news to many who are worried by the surge of delta variant cases, while others will be less supportive of this change. We encourage everyone in our campus community to display compassion for each other as we get through this next phase of the pandemic together,” the school says in Tuesday’s press release.

The mask mandate goes into effect on Friday, and the first day of classes is slated for August 23, according to the school’s official website.

3:47 p.m. ET, August 10, 2021

Arkansas governor says vaccination rate among Medicaid recipients "extremely, extremely low"

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson stands next to a chart displaying Covid-19 hospitalization data as he speaks at a news conference at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas, on July 29.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson stands next to a chart displaying Covid-19 hospitalization data as he speaks at a news conference at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas, on July 29. (Andrew DeMillo/AP)

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson highlighted the low rates of Covid-19 vaccination among Medicaid beneficiary in the state, saying only 27,000 traditional Medicaid clients, ages 12 and up, have been vaccinated. 

“That means that 4.3% of traditional Medicaid recipients are vaccinated, that is extremely, extremely low, and a very vulnerable, and at risk population, and it's a challenge for us, we have to do better for this vulnerable population,” Hutchinson said.  

Hutchinson announced that Arkansas will be increasing the Covid-19 vaccine administration reimbursement rate for physicians from $40 to $100, for the two-dose of Pfizer and for Moderna and one-dose Johnson&Johnson vaccines.

The governor encouraged more physicians to engage with the beneficiaries on the vaccines, to answer questions, consult with them at length, and to encourage vaccinations as the beneficiaries go in to the physician or provider's office.

Some background: On Monday Hutchinson announced “very startling numbers,” including the state’s largest single-day increase in hospitalizations, eclipsing its previous high of Covid-19 admissions.

In a tweet, he said there were only eight available intensive care unit beds in the state.

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

Arkansas is one of a growing number of states, including Missouri, Texas and Florida, that are seeing Covid-19 cases explode, driven by the easily transmissible Delta variant and low vaccination rates, and hospitalization rates higher than anytime during the pandemic.

3:45 p.m. ET, August 10, 2021

Florida's Lee County healthcare officials warn parents their children are not immune to Covid-19

From CNN's Hannah Sarisohn 

Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and CEO of Lee Health speaks at a commemoration to remember the first Covid-19 death in Lee County on Friday, March 5.
Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and CEO of Lee Health speaks at a commemoration to remember the first Covid-19 death in Lee County on Friday, March 5. Andrew West/The News-Press/USA Today Network

Leaders of Lee County's public healthcare system in Florida held a news conference today, coinciding with the first day of school, to stress vaccinations and masking as the system nears capacity. 

Lee Health’s President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Larry Antonucci said their Covid-19 numbers are increasing at unprecedented proportions. 

“This is a different disease. The Delta variant is different than what we faced last year, it is much more contagious, it is affecting children at a higher rate than the Alpha variant and the original Covid virus,” Antonucci said. “And we're seeing those numbers in our hospital. This is affecting our children, we want to do everything we can to protect our children as school begins.”

Antonucci said it’s important to note there were 30 patients with Covid in the hospital in May but just yesterday, Lee Health hospitals admitted 80 patients with Covid-19 and discharged 44 Covid-19 patients. He said Lee Health’s hospitals are now 94% full and the intensive care units are 93% full. There are currently 455 patients hospitalized with Covid, 64 patients are in the ICU and 35 patients are on ventilators.

Dr. Salomon Abitbol, a pediatric hospitalist, said in the past two weeks he’s treated children as young as five weeks and as old as 17 for Covid-19. 

“So, basically anything goes, I've had some kids that do have some underlying conditions, asthma, obesity, but I've also had kids who've been completely and totally healthy,” Abitbol said. 

Abitbol said doctors are now concerned with children who have recovered from Covid-19 presenting with multi-systemic inflammatory syndrome, a disease which causes generalized inflammation. 

“That’s why I’m telling parents there is no age limit anymore,” Abitbol said. “At one point we thought it might be less in the pediatric world, but obviously, as I have experienced in these past few weeks, things are not looking that way.”

Lee Health’s Interim Chief Quality and Safety Officer Dr. Stephanie Stovall said this school year is the first in more than 20 years where more parents are afraid, than excited, for the start of the new school year. 

She said Lee Health is supportive of school districts requiring masking.

2:04 p.m. ET, August 10, 2021

Vermont will mandate vaccines for state employees as hospitalizations rise

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

(ORCA Media)
(ORCA Media)

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott announced that the state will mandate Covid-19 vaccines for state employees in veterans' homes, correctional facilities and psychiatric hospitals.

"I believe all hospitals, long-term care facilities and other places that come into frequent contact with high-risk populations should follow suit and require the vaccine – and to help set the example, I'm announcing today that my team is working to do the same," he said at a news conference Tuesday.

Scott did not provide a deadline for employees to get vaccinated, but said his office would have more details "in the days to come."

Vermont has the highest vaccination rate in the country, with about 85% of the eligible population having received at least one dose, according to the state's vaccine dashboard

This leaves about 85,000 eligible Vermonters who have yet to be vaccinated, according to State Commissioner Michael Pieciak.

In hopes to increase the vaccination rate, Scott encouraged businesses to mandate vaccinations for employees, saying, "as a former business owner myself, I know how disruptive it can be when you find yourself short-staffed unexpectedly."

Pieciak later offered hopeful news, saying that although case numbers in Vermont continue to rise, "the percent in which they are doing so has been declining over the last three weeks."

He went on to say, "Vermont continues to be the best state (in) position to withstand this Delta variant rise."