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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6:49 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

A top Florida school official says she won't "back down" in defying state's ban on mask mandates

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Rosalind Osgood, the chair of Broward County School Board
Rosalind Osgood, the chair of Broward County School Board (CNN)

Rosalind Osgood, the chair of the Broward County School Board, said she and other board members are prepared to risk their own salaries in defying Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order that effectively prohibits mask mandates in school districts.

"We are not looking to back down," said Osgood, following an 8-1 board vote to make masks mandatory for students and staff on school property. "We are committed to protecting the lives of our students and our staff at any cost. We believe that their lives are invaluable." 

Osgood then responded to the threat from DeSantis' office that suggested the state's Board of Education could withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who disregard the governor's executive order.

"We did receive that letter," Osgood told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "...I was very surprised that the punitive threats continue to come and be directed toward our school."

"If it means that our salaries are taken away, we would rather have those salaries taken away than take a risk at having one of our kids or one of our staff people come down very ill," she said.

7:39 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

Covid-19 vaccine could possibly be available for kids under 12 before end of 2021, US surgeon general says 

From CNN's Lauren Mascarenhas

US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek (CNN)

It’s possible that a Covid-19 vaccine will be available for kids under the age of 12 before the end of 2021, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek  said Wednesday.

“If everything were to go well, and everything were to fall into place, I think it's possible that we could see a vaccine before the end of the calendar year for kids under 12,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“Make no mistake, the FDA will move quickly on this because they recognize what's at stake. It’s the health of our children, and there's really nothing more important than that,” he added.

Murthy said that the US Food and Drug Administration is prioritizing the evaluation of Covid-19 vaccines.

“This is the top priority for the FDA, but in order for the FDA to evaluate a vaccine for under 12’s, it has to get an application first from the companies – which means they have to complete their trials, put the data together and submit them to the FDA,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Those trials of children under the age of 12 are still ongoing, Murthy noted.

“My hope is that they will come to a conclusion soon, and that we will get that application from the companies to the FDA, because I will tell you that they will move fast to evaluate that,” Murthy said.

Some more background: Currently, none of the three Covid-19 vaccines used in the US are available to children under the age of 12. With many schools across the country set to reopen soon for the fall semester, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are still conducting clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccines in children under 12.

CNN's Betsy Klein and Naomi Thomas contributed reporting to this post. 

6:15 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

More than 2,500 medical personnel will be deployed to Texas hospitals due to Covid-19 surge, governor says

From CNN’s Keith Allen

More than 2,500 medical personnel will be deployed to hospitals around Texas to care for the growing number of Covid-19 patients, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday.

The governor's announcement comes days after he indicated the Texas Department of State Health Services (TSHS) would be utilizing staffing agencies to bring in out-of-state medical personnel to help counter the surge in Covid-19 cases.

"The State of Texas is taking action to ensure that our hospitals are properly staffed and supported in the fight against Covid-19," Abbott said in Wednesday’s news release.

The governor did not offer details regarding where the additional medical staff would be coming from nor where they will be deployed.

"Texans can help bolster the state's efforts to combat the virus by getting vaccinated. The Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and it is our best defense against the virus,” the governor added.

There are only 368 intensive care unit beds currently available throughout the state of Texas and at least 10,463 lab-confirmed Covid-19 patients in hospitals across the state, according to the most recent data from TSHS.

5:44 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

FDA expected to authorize booster shots for some immunocompromised people within the next 48 hours

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and John Bonifield  

The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce within the next 48 hours that it is authorizing Covid-19 vaccine booster shots for some people who are immunocompromised, according to a source familiar with the discussions. 

This would be a third shot of the current two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. That announcement could slide, the source cautioned, but this is the current timing. 

"The FDA is closely monitoring data as it becomes available from studies administering an additional dose of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines to immunocompromised individuals," an FDA spokesperson told CNN. "The agency, along with the CDC, is evaluating potential options on this issue, and will share information in the near future."

NBC News was first to report on the expected announcement.

The FDA must give authorization for the vaccines to be used in new ways outside the existing authorization. All three Covid-19 vaccines being used in the US are given under emergency use authorization by the FDA, but full approval is pending for Pfizer's vaccine. After FDA grants approval or authorization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then advises on whether to actually use a vaccine as authorized by the FDA.

Vaccine advisers for the CDC will meet on Friday to discuss booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines and additional doses for some immunocompromised people, according to a meeting agenda posted by the agency on Monday.

A recent study by Johns Hopkins University researchers found that vaccinated immunocompromised people are 485 times more likely to end up in the hospital or die from Covid-19 compared to the general population that is vaccinated.

Based on an estimate by the CDC, about 9 million Americans are immunocompromised, either because of diseases they have or medications they take.

It has been known for months that Covid-19 vaccines might not work well for this group. The hope was that vaccination rates overall would be so high so that the "herd" would protect them.

But it didn't work out that way, because about a third of eligible people in the US have not received even one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

4:14 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

Los Angeles proposal for proof of vaccination to enter indoor public places moves forward

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

A sign stating proof of a Covid-19 vaccination is required is displayed outside of Langer's Deli in Los Angeles on August 7.
A sign stating proof of a Covid-19 vaccination is required is displayed outside of Langer's Deli in Los Angeles on August 7. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

A motion to require proof of vaccination to enter most indoor public spaces in Los Angeles has been pushed one step closer to reality by city council members.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council approved a measure to have the city attorney draw up an ordinance that could require the public to show proof of receiving at least one Covid-19 vaccination to enter indoor spots like retail stores, restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, and concert venues. 

The legislation goes beyond the requirement announced last week in New York, adding retail stores to the list of indoor public places where residents would need to present proof of vaccination. The draft ordinance will include information on the city’s vaccination campaign and solicit feedback from teachers, parents and pediatricians on how to best protect children.

“Instead of fighting science, we should be fighting the virus,” said Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, co-author of the proposal. “The data is clear: vaccines are safe and effective. We have endured 18 months of mass illness and death, with the latest variant wreaking havoc across the globe. Free vaccinations are widely available for all who are eligible. This is a necessary and sensible step that will broadly protect the health and safety of Angelenos. It could very well ward off another economic shutdown, which would be devastating to our city and our nation.”

"Frankly, I'm tired of our politicization science and public health. And while people outside this building are protesting that this is a violation of their civil liberties, Angelenos are dying unnecessarily," Councilmember Paul Koretz said.

In recent weeks, new Covid-19 cases in Los Angeles County have increased 20-fold, but local public health data in the past few days has shown promising signs of a slowdown of the surge.

“Not being vaccinated leads to death. It leads to a prolonged pandemic. It has an impact on others. It is not a personal choice. It is a public health issue," insisted Councilmember Bob Blumenfield.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian urged the city attorney to work closely with the Los Angeles County supervisors in drafting the ordinance in an effort to ensure that the rules apply beyond city limits. The city of Los Angeles is home to about 4 million residents. Another 6 million reside outside of city limits and still within L.A. County.

"We need to stop fighting science and start fighting the virus," said O’Farrell, as he advocated for protecting retail and other workers. “I think it’s high time to move this forward. We can do this.”

4:05 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

Global Covid-19 cases could surpass 300 million in early 2022, WHO director-general says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Global Covid-19 cases could surpass 300 million in early 2022 if they continue at the current trajectory, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization. 

Although there are several effective vaccines available for Covid-19, deaths and cases continue to rise, Tedros said. 

“Last week, the 200 millionth case of Covid-19 was reported to WHO, just six months after the world passed 100 million reported cases,” Tedros said during a news briefing in Geneva Wednesday. “And we know that the real number of cases is much higher.” 

“Whether we reach 300 million, and how fast we get there, depends on all of us,” he continued. “At the current trajectory, we could pass 300 million reported cases early next year. But we can change that. We’re all in this together, but the world is not acting like it.” 

 

4:08 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

Oklahoma charter school district announces mask mandate in defiance of state law

From CNN’s Mallory Simon

Santa Fe South Schools has announced that they will require masks at school beginning Thursday, defying a state law the Oklahoma legislature passed a law last year which says they cannot do so unless the governor issues an emergency declaration for their area.

“Exemptions will be made only for those who have a physician’s documentation stating that wearing of a mask is not recommended for that individual,” Superintendent Chris Brewster said in a letter posted on the district website.

The requirement applies for any guests and all activities, according to the school district.

“We will strictly enforce this at all times. Again, this is a requirement, and should not be considered optional for anyone at any time, unless they have confirmation from their physician that mask-wearing is not required.”

Stewart said those who refuse to wear masks will have a virtual option for instruction.

Santa Fe South Schools is home to 3,500 charter school students who live in the Oklahoma City area.

On Monday, Democrats filed their own legislation to try and overturn the statewide mask mandate ban, saying it “cripples” the ability of localities to control Covid-19 spread.

“Needs across Oklahoma are different, and schools need to be able to make decisions about safety based on local data rather than waiting for the Governor to declare a state of emergency,” State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, a Democrat from Tulsa, said in a statement. “I’ve been contacted by more parents than I can count asking how to keep their kids safe at school when they return. So many of us have witnessed the awful reality of Covid up close and personal. Enough is enough. It is time to protect our children.”

Some school districts in Arizona, Texas and Florida are currently in the middle of battles with their governors with regards to their ability to mandate masks in schools.

3:59 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

United Airlines CEO says vaccine mandate unlikely for domestic travel

From CNN's Pete Muntean

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on September 22, 2020, in Washington, DC.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on September 22, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby says he does not anticipate a vaccination requirement for travel within the United States, but said it is possible for some international travel.

When asked by CNN’s Victor Blackwell if passengers will need to get vaccinated as a condition to fly Kirby said “it’s a government question, but I suspect that it won’t happen domestically.”

President Biden on Wednesday met with Kirby and other executives from companies that are mandating that workers get vaccinated. United announced Friday that all its 67,000 employees in the United States would need to get vaccinated by Oct. 25 or face getting fired. 

Kirby says through increased employer mandates, he thinks that the United States could see an 80% to 90% vaccination rate. Kirby said Biden “asked us to do everything we could with fellow CEOs or anyone we were in contact with to encourage others to do the same thing.”

4:00 p.m. ET, August 11, 2021

US intelligence officials draft classified report as they near finish of 90-day Covid-19 investigation 

From CNN's Kylie Atwood, Natasha Bertrand, Zachary Cohen and Katie Bo Williams

Intelligence officials are nearing the end of a 90-day investigation into the origins of Covid-19 that was ordered by President Biden, and have drafted a classified report that is now in the preliminary review process, according to three sources familiar with the probe. 

Sources familiar with the initial report say that after three months of poring over data and raw intelligence, the intelligence community is still divided over two theories — one suggesting the virus originated from a lab in Wuhan, China, and the other suggesting it jumped naturally to humans from animals, the sources said. The report as it stands now contains "nothing too earth shattering," one source explained.

In May, Biden told US intelligence agencies to "redouble" their efforts to investigate how the virus originated, including the possibility that it emerged from a lab accident. Biden ordered the investigation after receiving an earlier report on the origins and asking for follow-up information, he said in a statement. The 90-day clock that Biden set for this investigation will be up in late August. 

It's possible that the draft report could undergo significant revisions during the remaining review process. Biden also tasked the intelligence community with declassifying as much of the report as possible, a process now underway as it undergoes initial reviews. 

The intelligence community's inability to present one theory with high confidence after three months of intense work underscores just how hard it is to probe the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The National Security Council did not return requests for comment.

Last week, CNN reported that intelligence agencies had gotten their hands on a trove of genetic data drawn from virus samples at the lab in Wuhan that some officials believe could have been the source of the outbreak. It's unclear whether officials have finished analyzing that data. 

Intelligence officials have also taken a fresh look at signals intelligence, like intercepted communications and satellite imagery, that could provide clues.  

But ultimately, China's refusal to share information from the early days of the outbreak and the country's lack of transparency has been a major hurdle, and officials had been broadly pessimistic about finding a smoking gun during the 90-day push. 

The report — which was done without any Chinese participation — is now being reviewed by the intelligence community and outside experts for feedback before it is finalized later this month, the three sources said. Once the classified version is finalized, an unclassified version will also be developed so that the Biden administration can share something with the public, one source explained.