The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic in the US

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

Updated 4:41 p.m. ET, September 13, 2021
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3:35 p.m. ET, September 13, 2021

More than 10,000 TSA workers have tested positive for coronavirus since pandemic began

From CNN’s Pete Muntean and Gregory Wallace

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The number of Transportation Security Administration workers who have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic just topped 10,000, according to new data from the agency.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske, in an exclusive interview with CNN, said the virus has had a “very significant impact” on its workforce. 

“We did just about everything that we could think of that the CDC recommended, but 10,000 is a big number,” Pekoske said. “I think five is a big number to be infected.”

TSA numbers show more than four in every five employees who tested positive work at airport security checkpoints, which have screened more than a half billion people in the last 18 months. 

“Tragically, 26 have lost their lives after contracting this disease,” said an agency-wide memo shared with CNN. “It is time for all of us to get vaccinated.

Of the 65% of TSA workers who have responded to an agency-wide vaccination status survey, 72% said they are fully vaccinated. Workers have until Oct. 1 to respond to the survey. TSA has not said how it will handle workers who receive an exemption from the Nov. 22 deadline for all federal workers to get vaccinated.

11:49 a.m. ET, September 13, 2021

New York City officials "did it right" when it comes to schools, US education secretary says

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Students wait in line to get their temperature taken before entering a public school in the Bronx on September 13.
Students wait in line to get their temperature taken before entering a public school in the Bronx on September 13. Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg/Getty Images

US Education Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona told New York City officials they "did it right," when it came to schools and reopening. 

Cardona joined NYC chancellor Meisha Ross Porter virtually from Bronx school PS121, during the Mayor’s daily briefing. 

“You do it right” Cardona said referencing Ross Porter and the mayor. 

“You have been working closely with the mayor and others to make sure all the preparation to get ready for today. Today is here, the kids are excited, the parents are excited.”

“To all the families that are watching — they’ve worked so hard, they’ve prepared, they are doing everything to make sure your children and staff are safe,” Cardona added. 

“Enjoy the school year,” he said. 

“I know this is going to be an awesome year for NY, for everyone,” he said. 

“They did it right,” Cardona said in closing.

“NYC is back, we are so excited to be here, looking forward to having a great year together,” Ross Porter added Monday.

10:02 a.m. ET, September 13, 2021

CDC director says agencies are working “with urgency” on Covid-19 vaccine for younger children

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday that her agency is working urgently on a Covid-19 vaccine for younger children, with the hope that younger children will be vaccinated by the end of the year.

“We’re waiting for the companies to submit the data to the FDA, we're anticipating that will happen in the fall,” she told NBC’s Today Show.  

“We will look at that data from the FDA, from the CDC, with the urgency that we all feel for getting our kids vaccinated and we're hoping by the end of the year," she added.

There isn’t a specific timeline for when the vaccine for younger children will be available, and some experts have suggested it could be well before the end of the year.

On Sunday, former US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner and current Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CBS’s Face the Nation that the company expects to have data available on children ages 5 to 11 by the end of September, and the vaccine could be available in this age group by Halloween. Moderna is also testing vaccines in younger children, and is expected to submit its data in the coming months.

FDA’s Dr. Janet Woodcock and Dr. Peter Marks said in a statement on Friday that the agency will carefully review data for a vaccine for people ages 5 to 11 once it’s available and is “prepared to complete its review as quickly as possible, likely in a matter of weeks rather than months.”

However, they noted, “the agency’s ability to review these submissions rapidly will depend in part on the quality and timeliness of the submissions by manufacturers.” 

Answering a question from a MST Magnet Elementary School student in Richardson, Texas, Walensky said the agency is working “with urgency” toward a vaccine in children. 

“We are working with urgency to make sure that that vaccine, when it comes to you is going to be safe, it's going to be effective, it's going to follow the science and we're really hopeful that you will have that vaccine by the end of the year.” 

Walensky said she anticipates there will be a two-shot vaccine regimen for children but noted that agencies are still looking at a third dose in adults.

“We’ll see where the science takes us,” she said. 

9:44 a.m. ET, September 13, 2021

Research “absolutely” shows masking lowers Covid-19 outbreaks in schools, CDC director says

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid)

Students exit Hollywood High School after the first day of school in Los Angeles, California on Aug. 16.
Students exit Hollywood High School after the first day of school in Los Angeles, California on Aug. 16. Bing Guan/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Available data supports masking in schools to prevent Covid-19 and does not indicate that masking in school poses a risk to children, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.

Responding to a question from NBC’s Hoda Kotb on whether there is anything about masking in schools parents should have a “real worry about,” Walensky said, “We have not seen any science that defends that point of view.”

“What I can say is that we’ve started to see even this month data from Los Angeles County, that rates in children are three and a half times higher in areas that have not practiced the mitigation strategies compared to those that are. So with the purpose of keeping our kids in school, getting them in school, having them be safe, masks really are the way to go," she said.

Walensky said data does show that masking in schools can reduce school closures.

“We have seen data after data that have demonstrated that schools that are not masking are closing because they’re having outbreaks. Schools from Georgia we saw last year had 37% less closure, less outbreaks, when they use masks,” she said. 

“I would say that data actually absolutely show that masking decreases outbreaks in schools," she added.

11:49 a.m. ET, September 13, 2021

New York City begins its first day of school with 74% of employees fully vaccinated, officials say

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Students arrive on the first day of classes at a public school in the Bronx, New York on Sept. 13.
Students arrive on the first day of classes at a public school in the Bronx, New York on Sept. 13. Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg/Getty Images

As New York City begins its first day of school, Department of Education officials say 74% of the employees have been vaccinated and approximately 66% of children age 12-17 are also vaccinated.

“Everyone is excited to be back!” said Danielle Filson, press secretary for the NYC Department of Education. 

After a “short period” offline the DOE’s health screener is back up and running. Filson said the screener is filled out by anyone who enters a school building and will be filled out daily.

After welcoming students in the Bronx this morning with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC schools chancellor Meisha Ross Porter will join the US Education Secretary at PS 121 in Queens.

Ross Porter will be in Queens later Monday at a vaccination site then at an after-school soccer practice.

She will be at a dozen schools in every other Borough over the course of the week, Filson said. 

As of this morning, there are no quarantined or remote classes, or remote teachers, Filson said.

9:38 a.m. ET, September 13, 2021

High vaccine rates and low case rates needed to end Covid-19 prevention measures in schools, CDC director says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

The first day of school at Bayview Avenue School of Arts and Sciences in Freeport, New York on September 1.
The first day of school at Bayview Avenue School of Arts and Sciences in Freeport, New York on September 1. Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM/Getty Images

A combination of high vaccination rates and low rates of disease spread are needed to start rolling back Covid-19 prevention measures in schools, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.

“I think what we really need to see is very high vaccination rates,” she told NBC’s "Today," along with “very low rates of disease in the community.”

“Then we can start peeling back these metrics, these precaution measures so that schools can get back to normal but we all need to lean in and unify towards that common goal over the year ahead,” she said. 
9:27 a.m. ET, September 13, 2021

CDC director on Delta variant in kids: More transmissible can mean more dangerous

From CNN Health’s Virginia Langmaid

While the Delta variant of Covid-19 may not cause more severe disease, if the virus is more transmissible that can make it more dangerous, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.

“I would say dangerous is more transmissible, right?” Walensky told NBC’s "Today." 

“If it is more transmissible, we have more kids with disease, we have more kids with symptomatic disease, and more kids ending up in the hospital. We haven't seen yet any data to suggest that if you get the Delta variant it’s more severe in a given person, but we are definitely seeing more disease.”

Walensky said the greatest risk to Covid-19 is still in unvaccinated people and communities. 

“This virus is an opportunist, it’ll go where places are not vaccinated, where people are not vaccinated. The best thing we can do for our kids is surround them by people who are vaccinated when they become eligible to be vaccinated.”
9:14 a.m. ET, September 13, 2021

England to abandon plans for "vaccine passport," health secretary says

From CNN's Jake Kwon

Authorities in England have dropped a controversial plan to introduce "vaccine passports" for Covid-19, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC in a televised interview on Sunday.  

"We've looked at it properly and, whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I'm pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports,” Javid told the presenter Nick Robinson.

The earlier proposed plan would have required guests at nightlife venues or crowded events to present a proof of vaccination, or a negative Covid test, or finishing self-isolation after a positive test.  

Javid said he "never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers" to "do what is just an everyday activity."

Javid said the passport was not needed because of the country’s high vaccine uptake, testing, surveillance, and new treatments.

“We’ve been very successful with our vaccination rate so far,” he added.

9:10 a.m. ET, September 13, 2021

Two departing FDA leaders among scientists who say Covid vaccines don't need a booster right now

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

The current evidence on Covid-19 vaccines does not appear to support a need for booster shots in the general public right now, according to an international group of vaccine scientists, including some from the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.

"Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high," the scientists write in a new paper, published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet.

The authors of the paper include two senior FDA vaccine leaders, Dr. Philip Krause and Marion Gruber, who will be stepping down in October and November, the FDA announced late last month. No further details were released about their retirements, although they sparked questions about whether the departures would affect the agency's work.

The FDA and other public health agencies around the world continue to examine evidence on Covid-19 vaccine efficacy and the role booster doses of vaccine might play in improving immunity against the disease.

For the new paper in The Lancet, the scientists note that they reviewed randomized trials and observational studies on Covid-19 vaccines and consistently find that "vaccine efficacy is substantially greater against severe disease than against any infection; in addition, vaccination appears to be substantially protective against severe disease from all the main viral variants."

The scientists note that there is an opportunity right now to study variant-based boosters before there could be a widespread need for them. But they also argue in their paper that the current Covid-19 vaccine supply could "save more lives" if used in people who are not yet vaccinated than if used as boosters. In early August, the World Health Organization called for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September.

"The limited supply of these vaccines will save the most lives if made available to people who are at appreciable risk of serious disease and have not yet received any vaccine. Even if some gain can ultimately be obtained from boosting, it will not outweigh the benefits of providing initial protection to the unvaccinated," the scientists write. "If vaccines are deployed where they would do the most good, they could hasten the end of the pandemic by inhibiting further evolution of variants."

CNN has reached out to the FDA for comment.