The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic in the US

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

Updated 10:20 PM ET, Wed September 8, 2021
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12:29 p.m. ET, September 8, 2021

Kentucky doctors "right at" the point where they may need to start rationing care, governor says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks about the increases in Covid-19 cases in the state on Tuesday, September 7, in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks about the increases in Covid-19 cases in the state on Tuesday, September 7, in Frankfort, Kentucky. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear laid out the severity of the Covid-19 spread in his state on CNN Wednesday saying that while hospitals are not yet at the point of needing to make tough choices about rationing care, “we are right at” or “quickly approaching that point.”

“We are in a really tough place, Kate” he told CNN anchor Kate Bolduan.

“We’ve called in FEMA strike teams, the National Guard, we’ve deployed nursing students all over the state, we’ve taken over testing from hospitals just to free up additional people,” he said.

“But we’ve had more people test positive than ever before. We have more people in the hospital because of Covid than ever before. We are at record numbers or near record numbers we set just days ago of people in the ICU or on a ventilator,” the governor continued.

Asked whether doctors and hospitals were at a point where tough choices needed to be made about rationing care, Beshear said “At the moment we are still able to move patients from one hospital to another but we are right at, or quickly approaching that point.”

The governor said Saint Claire hospital in Moorehead has closed three operating rooms to expand ICU bed space.

A Danville, Kentucky hospital not used to treating really sick patients and has a morgue big enough for two people saw seven deaths over the weekend, he said.

Tents are set up outside of Pikeville Medical Center for patients to be triaged and health officials to determine “whether people really need to be in the hospital or not.”

More than two-thirds of hospitals have critical staffing shortages and ventilators had to be delivered to hospitals around the state that “almost never have to use” them.

“It’s not just big urban hospitals that that fill up, its regional hospitals that typically don’t treat incredibly sick patients who are filled with those sick patients,” he said.

“So we are at a very precarious situation,” he said.

1:48 p.m. ET, September 8, 2021

CDC forecast predicts Covid-19 hospitalizations will remain stable while deaths increase

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

Healthcare workers attend to a Covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit of St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Idaho, on August 31.
Healthcare workers attend to a Covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit of St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Idaho, on August 31. (Kyle Green/AP)

A new forecast from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States will remain stable or have an uncertain trend for the next four weeks, marking the third week that this forecast is stable or uncertain.

The projection, released Wednesday, shows an estimated 6,400 to 19,500 new hospitalizations by Oct. 4. This is a slightly smaller upper range than was predicted last week for Sept. 27. 

Another forecast predicts deaths will increase over the next four weeks, with the nation’s total Covid-19 death count estimated to be between 683,000 and 710,000 by Oct. 2, 2021. 

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the US is currently reporting over 650,000 deaths from Covid-19, with an average of 1,239 new deaths per day. 

CDC again warned that its forecast for future cases “should be interpreted with caution,” as case numbers in previous weeks have diverged unexpectedly from forecast numbers. 

This newest forecast predicts between 430,000 and 1,520,000 new cases will be reported in the week ending October 2, 2021. In the last four weeks, the US has averaged 1,041,714 new cases per week. 

11:45 a.m. ET, September 8, 2021

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are higher now than at this time last year

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

A registered nurse tends to a Covid-19 patient inside the intensive care unit at Adventist Health in Sonora, California, on August 27.
A registered nurse tends to a Covid-19 patient inside the intensive care unit at Adventist Health in Sonora, California, on August 27. (Nic Coury/AFP/Getty Images)

As of Labor Day, the US had 3.5 times as many Covid-19 cases, 2.5 times as many hospitalizations and nearly two times as many deaths as compared to Labor Day 2020, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta said, citing data from Johns Hopkins and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

“If you were to ask me last year at this time, shown me these numbers, I would say, ‘Oh, I guess we didn't actually get to the vaccine,’” Gupta said on CNN's "New Day."

"Truth is, we have a vaccine. These numbers should be a lot lower," he said.

And with the school year starting, "you're adding another...variable into the mix here that might make it challenging," Gupta added.

Children now represent more than a quarter of weekly Covid-19 cases in the US, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pediatric cases are experiencing "some of the steepest growth we've seen throughout this pandemic for children," according to Gupta. "Right now, if you live in a state with low vaccination rates, your kid is 3.5 times more likely to go to the ER and be admitted to the hospital as compared to if you live in a state with high vaccination rates."

Adults can help keep kids from getting ill simply by getting vaccinated, he said.

"The problem is we have just so much viral spread. So even though kids ... are less likely to get infected, less likely to get hospitalized, [if] you just increase viral spread in the country by that much, kids are inadvertently going to get infected. This Delta virus is not as forgiving," Gupta said.

Watch:

11:48 a.m. ET, September 8, 2021

Job openings rose to yet another record high in July

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

A 'Now Hiring' sign is posted at a 7-Eleven store on August 6, in Los Angeles, California.
A 'Now Hiring' sign is posted at a 7-Eleven store on August 6, in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

America has more job openings than it can fill. That has been a truth of the pandemic recovery. Now the Delta variant is threatening to make that even worse.

In July, the number of jobs available in the United States climbed to 10.9 million, a new record high, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Wednesday.

Health care and social assistance added the most positions, followed by finance and insurance, as well as hotels and restaurants.

America's tight labor market continues to face a staggering disconnect between the number of jobs available and the number of people out of work.

Even as managers across the board are looking for workers, the number of hires stood at just 6.7 million in July. 

While companies are ramping up efforts to rehire staff to meet demand and reopen fully, workers remain worried about the virus risk and child care availability. The generous pandemic-era jobless benefits, along with the sheer number of jobs available, also create conditions in which workers can afford to wait for a better job rather than taking the first one that comes along.

But now the Delta variant is threatening to exacerbate the mismatch.

In August, the economy added just 235,000 jobs, far fewer than economists had expected. Restaurants and bars even lost jobs as rising Covid-19 cases are on the rise due to the more infectious Delta variant.

But the BLS report on job openings lags the government's monthly jobs tally. So it will take a little longer until the full scale of Delta's impact on this summer will become clear.

 

11:04 a.m. ET, September 8, 2021

Teachers union president: Miami-Dade school staffers who died of Covid-19 "were pillars in the community"

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

Thirteen school employees from Miami-Dade County Public Schools have died from Covid-19 since Aug.16, the school district and local teacher union told CNN on Tuesday.

Among the 13 were teachers, a security monitor, a cafeteria worker and school bus drivers, United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats said. All were unvaccinated.

"It's honestly very tragic and very heartbreaking. These were pillars in the community," Hernandez-Mats told CNN in an interview Wednesday morning.

To honor those the district lost, Hernandez-Mats helped coordinate a pop-up vaccination site for Miami-Dade employees Tuesday. Just a few hours into the event, 40 people had come to receive their first shot, she said. While that number may not seem large, she said it gives her hope.

The 13 employees who died were African American, she said.

The pop-up site will be running a second time in a few weeks to give out the second dose of the vaccine.

School started in Miami-Dade on Aug. 23. Miami-Dade is the largest school district in the state and one of a handful there that has enacted a mask mandate in defiance of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Watch the interview:

11:04 a.m. ET, September 8, 2021

Packed college football games cause "terror" for professor whose child has rare health disorder

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

A University of Georgia associate professor with a 5-year-old who has Rett syndrome says she fears for her daughter’s life as the school doesn’t mandate masks or vaccines. This weekend, the Georgia Bulldogs football team will play its first home game in a stadium that seats more than 92,000 fans.

“Every time I'm walking into a classroom or encountering somebody walking right beside me or entering an elevator not wearing a mask, that's my daughter's life on the line,” Ursee Bhattacharya told CNN's Brianna Keilar.

"The football season descending upon us is a cause for a great deal of terror," Bhattacharya said.

She pleaded for students and the school board to keep people like her daughter in mind and take actions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“This is not the time for politics. It is not a time for ideology. It is time for compassion. It's time for community solidarity,” she said, choking back tears.  

Bhattacharya said respiratory issues are a leading cause of death in Rett syndrome, a rare genetic neurological disorder.

"We live hostage to a disease every single day called Rett syndrome. We cannot be hostage to yet another, which is easily preventable. All it takes is a few inches of face covering to do the right thing. And that's all that stands between my daughter and Covid-19 right now," she said.

Watch:

11:59 a.m. ET, September 8, 2021

Biden's Covid-19 speech on Thursday will include announcements on mandates and testing

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House on August 31, in Washington, DC. 
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House on August 31, in Washington, DC.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Biden's six-pronged approach to combatting Covid-19 will include new announcements on mandates and testing, according to a person familiar with the matter, with particular emphasis on schools and private sector workplaces.

Biden is set to unveil the approach in a speech on Thursday afternoon.

The precise outlines of Biden's announcement were still being finalized, and the President was expected to receive an update on the plan during a Wednesday afternoon meeting with his Covid-19 team. 

Officials say they hope the new approach will provide Americans a clearer view of how the pandemic will end. The White House has watched as the President's approval ratings on Covid have slipped. They feel part of the problem is the backwards-motion felt this summer: a return to masks, continued working from home, a spike in cases.

Part of the goal of Thursday's speech will be describing the path forward out of the pandemic, which officials feel has become obscured during the Delta variant.

While Biden has encouraged businesses to require vaccines for workers, officials said they believe there is more the private sector can do to encourage people to get the shot. That includes requiring proof of vaccination at restaurants, bars and other venues.

Administration officials have been working over the past few weeks to determine ways the government could make it easier for businesses to apply those requirements.

9:25 a.m. ET, September 8, 2021

Severe Covid-19 breakthrough cases tend to be in older and sicker people, Yale study finds

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Vaccinated people who get infected with coronavirus anyway and suffer severe symptoms tend to be older – 80 on average – and also suffer from other conditions such as obesity or diabetes, researchers said Tuesday.

Dr. Hyung Chang at the Yale School of Medicine and colleagues studied close to 1,000 patients hospitalized between the end of March and July of this year. Everyone admitted to the hospital got tested for coronavirus, whether that was the reason for admission or not.

About 18% of the patients who tested positive had been given at least one dose of vaccine, they found, and about a third of these were fully vaccinated, Chang and colleagues said in a commentary in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

“Those deemed to be ‘breakthrough cases,’ namely patients who were fully vaccinated who tested positive, were evaluated for illness severity. Among this cohort, we found that 25/54 patients were asymptomatic (hospitalized for a non-COVID-19 related diagnosis but with an incidental positive PCR test for SARS-CoV-2), 4/54 had mild disease, 11/54 had moderate disease, and 14/54 had severe/critical illness,” they wrote.

“We found that nearly a fifth of patients had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and we observed that many patients had not completed the full vaccine course,” they added.

The median age of those with severe illness was 80, they said. More than half were overweight, most had cardiovascular disease, half had lung disease and half had diabetes.

Note: The patients would not be fully representative of everyone with breakthrough cases, as everyone studied was sick enough to show up to the hospital for treatment. Plus the study did not cover the time when the Delta variant was the dominant circulating strain of virus.

8:46 a.m. ET, September 8, 2021

Schools across the country are back in session with new challenges. Here's where things stand.

Now that most US schools have reopened after the Labor Day holiday, many are facing a new set of challenges as a result of the pandemic. Thousands of students have already had to quarantine in some states because of new Covid-19 cases.

Here's where things stand:

  • Surge in infections: The more contagious Delta variant is fueling a nationwide Covid-19 surge that's sending younger people to hospitals – including children. More than 49,000 children have been hospitalized with Covid-19 since August 2020, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now doctors say it's crucial to protect children against the Delta variant – not just for the sake of their health and to keep in-person learning, but also to help prevent more aggressive variants from emerging.
  • Covid-19 deaths in children: At least 471 US children have died from Covid-19, according to CDC data. For the 2019-20 flu season, the CDC reported 199 confirmed pediatric flu deaths and an estimated 434 pediatric flu deaths. One reason why Covid-19 is deadlier for children than other infectious diseases is because many children are vaccinated against other diseases, said Dr. James Campbell, professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
  • The importance of masks this year: The CDC recommends students from kindergarten through grade 12 wear masks in school as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads nationwide. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends masks in schools for everyone over age 2.
  • Debate over policies: School board members – usually elected and unpaid – have been thrust to the forefront of Covid-19 politics, becoming targets of frustrated parents. In some places arguments over reopening policies and mask requirements have spilled over into the parking lot and one person has even been arrested.
  • Relief money: Congress authorized more than $190 billion to help America's schools reopen and stay open during the pandemic – and while a lot of the funds were used to buy PPE, upgrade ventilation and boost summer school programs, there are still billions of dollars left to be spent. Many local school boards haven't yet decided how to use the most recent round of funds released in March.