The latest on the Covid-19 pandemic as Olympics approach

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

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021
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1:24 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

CDC raises Covid-19 risk assessment for UK to highest level

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has raised the Risk Assessment Level for Covid-19 to “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High.”

CDC suggests that people avoid travel to destinations that are classified as Level 4, and that if people must travel there, they make sure they are fully vaccinated before they go.

The US Department of State still classifies travel to the United Kingdom at Level 3, saying that travel there should be reconsidered due to Covid-19.

This comes as almost all Covid-19 restrictions are lifted in England, including mandatory mask wearing.

1:23 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

UK will require double vaccination for nightclubs and large venues by end of September

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

People wait in line to get into a nightclub in London, England, on July 19.
People wait in line to get into a nightclub in London, England, on July 19. Rob Pinney/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said proof of double vaccination against Covid-19 will be required in England for entrance into nightclubs and venues with large crowds by the end of September. 

Speaking on Monday, so-called "Freedom Day" — when all remaining restrictions in the country were dropped — Johnson said the rules will come into effect after all people over the age of 18 will have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, with both doses.

“As we said last week, we do reserve the right to mandate certification, at any point, if it's necessary to reduce transmission ... By the end of September, when all over 18 year olds will have had their chance to be double jabbed, we're planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be enough,” Johnson said during a news conference he lead from his country residence where he is isolating.    

“I would remind everybody that some of life's most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination. There are already countries that require already, to be double jabbed as a condition of quarantine-free travel, and I'm afraid that list seems likely to grow," he continued.

"And we're also concerned, as they are in other countries, by the continuing risk posed by nightclubs. I don’t want to have to close nightclubs, again, as they have elsewhere. But it does mean nightclubs need to do the socially responsible and make use of the NHS COVID pass which shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity as a means of entry,” he added.
1:19 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Expect hospitalizations and deaths among unvaccinated people, Fauci says

From CNN’s Sarah Braner

Expect serious illness, hospitalization and death among people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday.

“This is a virus that has now shown us that it has a very strong capability of more efficiently spreading from person to person than the previous prototype viruses that we've experienced,” Fauci told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.

“And for the unvaccinated, that means not only getting infected. That means some proportion of the people who are infected will get seriously ill, requiring hospitalizations – and in some cases, unfortunately – death," Facui added.

Fauci stressed that vaccinated people are still protected “very well – to the tune of 90% or more – against hospitalizations, severe disease and deaths,” and that this has “held strong, regardless of where the study is – in the United States or in several foreign countries.”

“So although you're dealing with a virus that because of this extreme capability of spreading from person to person, is causing more infections including breakthrough infections of vaccinated people, for those who are vaccinated, it's still doing very well against severe disease,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we can't say the same for unvaccinated people. … We can expect among the unvaccinated hospitalizations, and eventually in some situations, deaths," he added.

1:16 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Personal decisions about air travel are a relative risk evaluation, Fauci says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

People travel through LaGuardia Airport in New York on July 2.
People travel through LaGuardia Airport in New York on July 2. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Monday that people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 have diminished risk when traveling – and that decisions about traveling are relative risk evaluations.

Fauci said that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made it very clear that the risk of infection when traveling – and in travel hubs like airports – is increased compared to not traveling, but also that vaccinated people can feel that their risk is “dramatically diminished because they are vaccinated.”

“Certainly, if you’re an unvaccinated person, given what’s going on right now, I would say that you’d have to be careful, depending upon where you are and to where you want to go, that you should be careful because an unvaccinated person is clearly at risk of getting infected, and perhaps, depending on their status, getting a severe outcome,” Fauci said. “That risk is dramatically diminished if you are vaccinated.”

“It’s going to be a relative risk evaluation on the part of people,” he said. “Depending upon what the purpose of the travel is, people will have to make up their mind about the risk benefit ratio, knowing that in fact, if you are vaccinated, your level of protection is high.”

Asked by CNN whether he thinks it will be safe to fly without a mask if the TSA’s mask requirement for air travel ends when it is set to on Sept. 13, Fauci said “I think that we’re going to have to wait to see what the situation is in September.” 

“We have a month and a half to go before then. You know, things could get considerably better. I would hope that as more people get vaccinated – and I hope we continue to have a steady flow of people getting vaccinated – that things do improve considerably,” he said. “If they go the opposite direction, then I think you need to reconsider those things, particularly since it’s a month and half away.”

12:56 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

If "recalcitrant people" don't get vaccinated, expect a "smoldering" outbreak in the US, Fauci says

From CNN's Sarah Brane

Blank vaccination cards sit on a table at a Family Heath Center mobile Covid-19 vaccination site in Santee, South Carolina, on Tuesday, July 13.
Blank vaccination cards sit on a table at a Family Heath Center mobile Covid-19 vaccination site in Santee, South Carolina, on Tuesday, July 13. Micah Green/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The United States can expect a “smoldering” outbreak if more “recalcitrant people” don’t get vaccinated, according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“If we don't get a significant proportion of these recalcitrant people vaccinated, you're going to be seeing a smoldering of this outbreak in our country for a considerable period of time,” Fauci told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Monday. “Which is really unfortunate, because what everybody wants in this country – and elsewhere throughout the world – is to be able to crush this outbreak in the sense of getting the level of vaccination so high that the virus has no place to go.”

“But you're not going to have that until you get a very substantial proportion of the population vaccinated, and we're not there yet,” he said.

Fauci suggested that “trusted messengers” and full approval of the vaccines might persuade more people to get vaccinated. 

“I still maintain hope that if we can get trusted messengers, that even those people who appear to be recalcitrant now could be persuaded when their family physician, their health care provider, their trusted clergy members in the community – if they can reach out to them, not government officials, but people who are trusted in the community – I think we can sway some proportion of those people.”

Fauci also said that “I believe when the vaccines get fully approved and full licensure, even though it's no doubt that they are highly effective now and very safe … you're going to see more people get vaccinated.”

12:31 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

England lifts all remaining Covid-19 restrictions as part of much anticipated "Freedom Day"

England has lifted all remaining Covid-19 restrictions despite a significant surge in new cases.

Mandatory mask wearing is gone, limits on the numbers of people who can mix indoor or outdoor have ended, social distancing is limited to people who have tested positive for the virus and airports, and venues like nightclubs and sports stadiums are free to open at full capacity. Nightclubs across the country reopened at the stroke of midnight on Sunday night, with revelers packing out dance floors for the first time in months.

Despite the ease in restrictions, many questions remain regarding the trajectory of the virus as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is forced to self-isolate after coming into contact with a positive case.

CNN's Phil Black explains all the changes in the video below:

12:49 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Biden continues to put pressure on Facebook over Covid-19 misinformation as US aims to ramp up vaccinations

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden continued to put pressure on social media giant Facebook Monday as he sought to clarify comments that the platform was killing people through misinformation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Asked about those comments by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Biden said, “I meant precisely what I said. I’m glad you asked me that question,” going on to explain that he had just read an article that showed that of all the misinformation on the platform, 60% of that misinformation came from 12 individuals.

“Facebook isn’t killing people — these 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information. My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally, that somehow I’m saying Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation, the outrageous misinformation about the vaccine. That’s what I meant," the President said.

Asked by Collins whether the platform had done enough, he said he was unsure.

“To be completely honest with you, I don’t know that they did anything today, up to the weekend, I don’t think they had. But I don’t know, I don’t know the answer to that question,” he said.

Asked whether he would take steps to hold the company accountable if they don’t do more, Biden said, “I’m not trying to hold people accountable, I’m trying to make people look at themselves, look in the mirror. Think about that misinformation going to your son, your daughter, your relative, someone you love. That’s what I’m asking.”

The extraordinary spat between the White House and Facebook over Covid-19 disinformation has pit the President against one of the country’s most prominent companies as the race to vaccinate continues and Covid-19 cases spread.

The escalating war of words comes after growing frustration at the White House over what they say are inadequate steps by the social media platform to control the spread of anti-vaccine disinformation. 

 

12:30 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

UN is helping Myanmar improve Covid-19 response as cases rise

From CNN’s Philip Wang 

The UN is working with partners to improve the Covid-19 response in Myanmar among rising cases and deteriorating medical resources. 

According to the statement, the UN will tackle a variety of issues regarding Myanmar’s national Covid-19 response, including helping to expand vaccination rollout and testing, as well as providing oxygen concentrators and other equipment amid an oxygen shortage. 

“Currently, COVID-19 testing is occurring in states and regions at the rate of 12,000-15,000 tests per day. With testing at limited levels, however, many cases are expected to be unreported,” the UN said. 

CNN has previously reported that vaccinations have faltered in Myanmar as citizens refuse to cooperate with military authorities despite the fact that a third of Covid-19 testing results come back positive. 

“A renewed ‘whole of society’ approach is needed now more than ever, allowing all health professionals to work in safety, and both public and private providers enabled to contribute to the response,” the UN said. 

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that Myanmar reported 7,083 Covid-19 cases last Wednesday, a record high since the beginning of the pandemic. The country has reported 229,521 cases and 5,000 deaths in total.

1:05 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Singapore tightens Covid-19 measures as new infections hit highest levels since last summer

From CNN's Jake Kwon

Diners eat at a restaurant in Singapore on June 21.
Diners eat at a restaurant in Singapore on June 21. Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Singapore tightened its measures against Covid-19 Monday as it reported its highest number of new infections since August last year, the government said in a news release

The measure, which will last three weeks, bans more than two people from dining together at restaurants or exercising indoors without their masks, the release said. All social gatherings at workplaces will be banned.

Singapore earlier limited social gatherings to up to five people and banned playing music in restaurants and bars.

Some background: Singapore, considered a Covid-19 success story, reported 163 new locally transmitted cases by noon on Monday, the country's Ministry of Health said. 106 of them were linked to a fishery port cluster while 19 were linked to a karaoke lounge cluster, the Ministry said.

“We strongly advise unvaccinated individuals, especially the elderly, to stay home as much as possible over the next few weeks,” the Ministry said in a news release on Sunday.

“The Multi-Ministry Taskforce is taking quick action to contain and manage these clusters, including contact tracing, quarantining of close contacts, and an aggressive testing strategy,” the Ministry added.