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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3:13 p.m. ET, September 8, 2021

US can offer booster shots to Americans while sharing Covid-19 vaccines globally, White House reiterates

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated the White House’s view that the US can offer Covid-19 booster shots to Americans this fall while at the same time working to provide vaccines to people around the world who have not yet received a shot. 

“Our view is that this is a false choice,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing Wednesday. “And the United States has donated and shared about 140 million doses with over 90 countries – more than all other countries combined.”

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday asked wealthy nations to wait until the end of the year to provide booster vaccines to their populations in order to prioritize those who have not yet received their first dose. He had previously asked wealthy nations to wait until the end of September. 

White House officials, including White House Covid-19 response director Jeff Zients and US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, have stressed the importance of both offering booster shots and also donating vaccines in order to end the pandemic. 

#Boosters##

1:20 p.m. ET, September 8, 2021

72% of New York City teachers and 65% of students ages 12-17 are vaccinated ahead of school start, mayor says

From CNN's Taylor Romine

In anticipation of New York City schools starting their school year next Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that 72% of teachers are vaccinated and 65% of students 12 through 17 have had a least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

He said that the city is still in negotiations with the teachers union regarding mandatory Covid-19 vaccination, but that it appears like there will be a very small percentage of employees who qualify for medical or religious exemptions. He wouldn't comment on what discussions look like for those who refuse to get vaccinated and don't qualify for an exemption. 

The mayor also emphasized that the school system has the "gold standard of cleaning" and that students will be very safe going back to school despite Covid-19. 

Several city officials went over the various layers of cleaning and ventilation that are currently in place for every school, including technology that can measure airflow in each space, disinfection tools and large-scale air purifiers for bigger spaces like cafeterias. There will also be personal protective equipment (PPE) available for anyone to use at the schools, including a 30 day supply of masks, they said. 

When asked about why the city is only testing people on a bi-weekly basis instead of weekly like other school districts, de Blasio said that they found during the last school year that this testing approach worked well and they are going to continue on that path.

He also emphasized earlier in the new conference that there were very low levels of Covid-19 in schools last year, hitting around a .03% positivity rate. 

12:38 p.m. ET, September 8, 2021

West Virginia has a record number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care and on ventilators

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said hospitals in the state "are still overwhelmingly inundated with [Covid-19] cases of people that are not vaccinated." 

"For the most part, our whole state is red and orange," Justice said on Wednesday referring to the state's Covid-19 county map. 

West Virginia currently has 813 people hospitalized. The state reached an all-time record of 252 Covid-19 patients in the ICU Wednesday as well as a record 132 patients on ventilators, Justice said.  

As of Wednesday, the state has "68 school outbreaks in 31 counties, [while] 10 schools and one entire county, Clay, are closed due to Covid," the governor said.

He added that 29 of the state's 55 county school systems have mandated face masks for students.

When asked why he's against a statewide mask mandate, Justice responded: "It's not that I am opposed to a mask mandate...I'm opposed to mandates." 

"The very second that we start to fragment, and we start to run in all kinds of different directions, it will get worse, it won't get better, it'll get worse," he said alluding to debates on mask mandates.  

"I've told you over and over and over that the only way in the world, the only weapon that we have to fight back with, is the vaccinations."  

"We just need to use good sense, and get ourselves vaccinated, and then we'll stop this," Justice said.

1:02 p.m. ET, September 8, 2021

Florida judge allows mask mandates to continue in schools after ruling against DeSantis

From CNN’s Mallory Simon

A teacher greets students outside iPrep Academy in Miami, Florida, on August 23.
A teacher greets students outside iPrep Academy in Miami, Florida, on August 23. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Second Circuit Judge John Cooper has ruled against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appeal, allowing Florida schools to continue to have mask mandates while the case is appealed at a higher level.

Effective immediately, the state of Florida must stop their enforcement of a mask ban, which ends sanctions against several school districts who have implemented mask mandates.

DeSantis had appealed Cooper’s earlier ruling that that stated the governor overreached and did not have the authority to ban school districts from implementing mask mandates without a parent opt-out.

That appeal led to an immediate pause on mask mandates while a ruling was made. Thirteen Florida school districts have now implemented a mask mandate, without a parent opt out, defying an earlier executive order by the governor.

Cooper ruled he believed there was not enough irreparable harm to set aside the automatic stay triggered by the appeal.

“It’s undisputed that in Florida we are in the midst of a COVID pandemic. Based on the evidence I’ve heard, there’s no harm to the state if the stay is set aside,” Cooper said. 

Cooper added that based on expert witnesses it is clear the only way to protect children who are unable to be vaccinated is to keep children isolated home, which would cause additional harm. 

“It's undisputed that the Delta variant is far more infectious than the prior to their prior version of the virus, and that children are more susceptible to the Delta variant than to the form from a year ago,” Cooper said. “In particular for children under 12, they cannot be vaccinated. Therefore, there's really only one or two means to protect them against the virus as either stay at home, or mask.” 

Cooper added that based on the evidence young students “arguably have no way to avoid this, except to stay home and isolate themselves.”

“I think everybody agrees, that's not good for them,” Cooper said.

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: