The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic in the US

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

Updated 4:17 AM ET, Thu August 12, 2021
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12:12 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

See how quickly Covid-19 spread across the US in just one month

From CNN's Priya Krishnakumar

More than 98% of US residents now live in an area where there is a "high" or "substantial" risk of Covid-19 community transmission, up from 19% of residents only a month ago. This sharp turn has been driven in large part by the highly infectious Delta variant and low vaccination rates in many regions.

The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an alarming rise in the number of counties that are considered at high risk of community transmission. On Monday, 2,361 counties in the United States were listed in the "high" tier, a stark increase from 457 counties in the same tier at the beginning of July.

A look at the past five weeks shows just how rapidly community transmission has increased across the country.

12:00 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

5th graders at Georgia school sent home due to Covid-19

From CNN's Shawn Nottingham

Fifth graders at one suburban Atlanta elementary school have been sent home for virtual learning due to a rise in Covid-19 cases according to a school district email sent to parents and obtained by CNN. 

“This morning, based on our district protocols and at the guidance of the Department of Public Health in coordination with district leaders, we've had to make the difficult decision to have our 5th-grade classes move to virtual learning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and high positive case numbers,” the email from East Side Elementary said.

According to the email, students will begin virtual learning on Thursday and continue until Aug. 20. Students can return to in-person learning on Aug. 23, according to the email.

East Side Elementary is in Cobb County, Georgia. CNN has reached out to Cobb County Schools for comment.

11:52 a.m. ET, August 11, 2021

NJ mayor uses bullhorn in neighborhoods to urge residents to get vaccinated

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

WPVI
WPVI

The mayor of Camden, New Jersey, held a “vaccine parade” on Tuesday, walking through city neighborhoods with a bullhorn urging residents to get vaccinated and offering shots.

“We had a number of individuals on the street that got the shot right on the spot,” Mayor Victor Carstarphen said to CNN’s Erica Hill. 

“I was speaking to a gentleman who was on the fence about getting the vaccination shot. We had a really good conversation about the importance of protecting himself, protecting his family, protecting his people around him that's elderly. He changed his mind. … I thought that was very empowering, not just for him but for the community to see a trusted individual in that community getting the vaccination,” he said. 

Carstarphen said that simply talking and listening to people about their concerns went a long way. He said some residents repeated misinformation about the vaccines. 

“I’ve had a resident say ‘how much does it cost?’ … I told him it's free. And that was a resident that said I want to get it. We’ve got to keep on being optimistic and messaging and getting information out. So many times we rely on social media, and I say, listen, we've got to meet the people where they're at. Go in the community. … We're going to keep fighting and keep pushing,” he said. 

Police officers, firefighters and health officials were on hand to bring attention to the parade as well. 

As schools are getting ready to start up again in the area, Carstarphen said “we as adults have to step up.” 

Watch:

11:45 a.m. ET, August 11, 2021

Southwest Airlines warns Covid-19 variant is hurting its business

From CNN’s Jordan Valinsky

 Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg/Getty Images
 Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Delta variant of Covid-19 is weighing on Southwest Airlines' bottom line.

The carrier said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that customers this months have been booking fewer flights and are increasingly canceling the trips they've already booked. That prompted Southwest to lower its operating revenue estimates for the month to 15% to 20% below what it took in in August 2019. Previous estimates called for a 12% to 17% decline from two years ago. 

Southwest said it was profitable in July, but the "recent negative effects" of the pandemic will make turning a profit difficult in the third quarter. The airline expects September revenue will be down 15% to 25% compared to the same month in 2019, but said demand for Labor Day travel "remains healthy, thus far." 

Shares of the airline were flat Wednesday.

The warning is a stark turn of events for Southwest, which predicted a few weeks ago that it would be profitable in the third and fourth quarters based of strong booking trends for leisure travel. Southwest's president Tom Nealon said in July that so far "we have not seen any impact from the Delta variant."

Industry wide: The highly contagious coronavirus variant is impacting overall air travel. As of July 3, domestic air travel, measured by tickets issued by US travel agencies and online booking companies, stood at just 3% below 2019 levels, according to the CNN Business Economic Recovery Dashboard. However, domestic air travel has since slowed, and as of July 23 was down 22% compared with the same point in 2019.

11:33 a.m. ET, August 11, 2021

CDC ensemble forecast projects increase in Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations over the next month

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Ensemble forecasts published Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention project that new Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths will likely increase over the next four weeks. 

The forecasts predict a total of 630,000 to 662,000 Covid-19 deaths will be reported by Sept. 4. 

The previous forecast, published Aug. 4, predicted up to 642,000 deaths by Aug. 28. 

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, there have been 618,175 coronavirus deaths in the United States. 

The forecasts predict that there will be 9,600 to 33,300 new confirmed Covid-19 hospitalizations likely reported on Sept. 6. 

Like last week, the agency says that its Covid-19 cases forecast should be interpreted with caution since actual numbers have fallen outside the range of previous predictions. CDC’s latest forecast predicts 550,000 to 2,340,000 new cases reported during the week ending Sept. 4. 

“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 the CDC. “Because of this, case forecasts for the coming weeks should be interpreted with caution.”
11:33 a.m. ET, August 11, 2021

5 things we know about Covid-19's impact on children as they head back to school

From CNN's Holly Yan and Alyssa Kraus

As children head back to school, doctors say it's crucial to protect them against the Delta variant — not just to preserve in-person learning and protect children's health, but also to help prevent even more aggressive variants from emerging.

Since this time last year, more than 45,000 children have been hospitalized with Covid-19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Saturday, an average of 203 child Covid-19 patients were admitted to US hospitals every day over the past week, CDC data shows. That's a 21.4% increase from the previous week in the number of new children getting hospitalized every day with Covid-19.

Here are 5 key takeaways about Covid-19 in children:

  1. Almost half of children hospitalized with Covid-19 had no known underlying condition: With the rise in both new cases and hospitalizations recently, it's not just children with preexisting conditions getting hospitalized. 46.4%, or almost half of children hospitalized with Covid-19 between March 2020 and June 2021, had no known underlying condition, according to CDC data from almost 100 US counties.
  2. Covid-19 deaths in children shouldn't be ignored, CDC chief says: While children are far less likely to die from Covid-19 than adults, the deaths are still significant. At least 542 children in the US have died from Covid-19, according to CDC data. Moreover, the number of Covid-19 deaths among children is more than twice the number of pediatric flu deaths reported by the CDC between 2019-2020. Covid-19 is much deadlier than other diseases because many children are already vaccinated against those diseases, said Dr. James Campbell, professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
  3. Protecting kids from Covid-19 is critical to keep them in schools: Some students are returning to schools for the first time in a year, but long-awaited classroom learning can be quickly derailed by an infection or outbreak. For example, in Atlanta, more than 100 students at Drew Charter School had to quarantine after nine students and five staff members tested positive. In addition to masks in schools, the CDC recommends layering other strategies such as improved ventilation, physical distancing and testing on a screening basis.
  4. Covid can leave lasting impacts on children: Long-term Covid-19 complications can be significant for children, even for some who initially had mild or no symptoms, the American Academy of Pediatrics said. Problems can include respiratory symptoms, heart issues, cognitive problems, headache, fatigue and mental health issues, according to the AAP. Moreover, some children who start with mild or even no symptoms from Covid-19 end up hospitalized weeks or months later with a condition called MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. MIS-C is "a rare but serious condition associated with COVID-19 in which different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs," the CDC says.
  5. Children can accidentally help spur new variants: Protecting children from getting Covid-19 can help everyone in the long run, doctors say. As coronavirus keeps spreading, replicating itself in new people, the more chances it has to mutate and potentially lead to even more contagious variants or one that might evade vaccines.

Read more about Covid-19 impacts on children here.

11:09 a.m. ET, August 11, 2021

California to mandate vaccines and testing for teachers

From CNN’s Kyung Lah & Cheri Mossburg

A nurse prepares to administer a Covid-19 vaccine at Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles, California, on February 16, 2021.
A nurse prepares to administer a Covid-19 vaccine at Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles, California, on February 16, 2021. Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

California teachers and other school staff will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or submit to regular testing under a new order to be announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom later today. 

California will become the first state in the nation to implement such an order which will be effective in mid-October, sources tell CNN. The health order will closely mirror a similar mandate that all California health care workers become vaccinated.

The mandate was first reported by Politico Tuesday night. 

School districts in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, and Long Beach have already implemented such a measure. The state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, has required weekly Covid testing, but stopped short of mandating educators be vaccinated.

 “We’re getting all our kids safely back in in-person instruction,” Newsom said Friday in an event touting mental health resources. “We want to do it in a safe way where these kids can get that full support.”

Most districts and unions have been very supportive of the health order, sources say. CNN has reached out to the California Teachers Union, which represented educators across the state. 

“Those that are unvaccinated need to get vaccinated. That way we can keep our kids, without any stress or anxiety, back in person throughout the school year,” Newsom said Friday.

California is home to more than 1,000 school districts employing more than 300,000 teachers serving about 6.1 million students.

10:55 a.m. ET, August 11, 2021

About 4% of Orange County Public Schools students opted out of wearing a mask

From CNN’s Rosa Flores

Orange County Public Schools received about 8,200 mask opt-out notes on the first day of school, according to school district spokesperson Sara Au. Au says that makes up roughly 4% of the student population.

The school district kicked off the school year yesterday with a mask mandate that allows students to opt out of the requirement.

10:24 a.m. ET, August 11, 2021

Thousands of lives would have been saved if US acted differently early in the pandemic, whistleblower says

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

Medical workers transport a deceased Covid-19 patient at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York in April 2020.
Medical workers transport a deceased Covid-19 patient at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York in April 2020. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved in the US and across the world if the American government had acted differently in the early days of the pandemic, Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, said.

“Hundreds of thousands of lives in the United States and around the world would be saved, people would still be alive today if our government had listened to the science, had been honest and truthful with Americans from the beginning, had told Americans the real risk of this virus and put tools and information and clear messaging out to help people save their lives and protect themselves from getting this virus,” Bright said. 

Bright led BARDA between 2016 to 2020. The office is a part of the US Department of Health and Human Services that has been central to the response to the coronavirus outbreak. Bright is now president of the Rockefeller Foundation. 

“If we had initiated testing, a really robust nationwide testing strategy to tell people where the virus was and tell people who were infected, if we had done more to prepare for the vaccine administration rollout when the vaccine became available,” he said. “We could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives of our loved ones and relatives and others in our community.” 

Bright was removed from his role as head of BARDA in April 2020. He filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that he was removed from his post in retaliation for opposing the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19. 

He also said that it’s important to listen to other whistleblowers who come forward.

“We need to strengthen them, listen to them. They are speaking truth to power, regardless of who’s in office. They know the truth, they are our eyes and our ears, and they can help us be better and respond more effectively and end this pandemic sooner," he said.