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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7:21 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Refugee Olympic Team athletes arrive in Tokyo following Covid-19-related delay

From CNN’s Bex Wright in Tokyo and Taylor Barnes in Atlanta

Athletes from the Refugee Olympic Team began arriving in Tokyo about a week after an official with the team tested positive for Covid-19 in Qatar, the UN Refugee Agency tweeted early Tuesday (local time).

Last week, an official traveling with the Refugee Olympic Team tested positive for Covid-19 at a welcome event attended by most of the team in Doha, according to the International Olympic Committee, which said the athletes then delayed their trip to Tokyo and instead trained in Doha while being tested for the virus daily before the Summer Olympics.

Two athletes who did not take part in the Doha event traveled to Tokyo earlier than their teammates, according to the IOC.

CNN has sought more information from the UNHCR on the number of athletes who arrived in the latest group and is awaiting a response.

6:08 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Testing, masking, and ventilation may be enough to prevent Covid-19 spread in large gatherings, study says

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

It might be possible for even unvaccinated people to gather safely in large groups – if venues take the right precautions, according to a new case study out of Barcelona. 

When 5,000 people gathered for a concert in Barcelona last March, only six people ended up becoming infected with coronavirus – and probably three of those were infected away from the concert, researchers from Germans Trias I Pujol Hospital said.

Everyone attending the concert took a rapid Covid test and everyone was required to wear a high-quality mask known as a filtering facepiece 2 mask. Ventilation at the venue was upgraded to provide six complete exchanges of air every hour, the researchers reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine Monday. 

Out of 4,584 attendees included in the final analysis, six tested positive in the 14 days after the event. Of these six, three were identified through contact tracing unconnected to the event and so, researchers wrote, “their contagion was unlikely to occur during the event.” One of the six positive cases tested positive early enough that the study authors suspect she was likely already infected but not showing symptoms yet at the concert.

No other prevention methods were implemented beyond screening, masking, and ventilation. Attendees were free to sing and dance, and were not asked to distance themselves.

Not many people in Spain had been vaccinated at the time of the concert – just about 6.3% of the population, the researchers said.

The researchers extrapolated the case positivity rate and said it worked out to 120 infections per 100,000 persons, compared to a community-wide rate of 259.5 cases per 100,000 persons.

”Our results build on our previously reported clinical trial data and suggest that the implementation of same-day [rapid] screening, use of face masks, and improved ventilation can prevent high rates of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in indoor mass-gathering live concerts without physical distancing,” the researchers wrote.


5:27 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Canada surpasses US vaccination rate, but it isn't stopping there

From CNN’s Paula Newton

People get vaccinated at a vaccination clinic at Save Max Sports Center in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, on July 10.
People get vaccinated at a vaccination clinic at Save Max Sports Center in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, on July 10. (Zou Zheng/Xinhua/Getty Images)

There was no national celebration or symbolic victory lap this weekend as Canada notched a significant milestone, fully vaccinating about 50% of its population and surpassing the US vaccination rate for Covid-19.

According to Health Canada, nearly 70% of Canadians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, putting the country very close to the 75% threshold public health authorities here say is needed to approach herd immunity.

Still, caution is the word on the lips of nearly every public health official and politician. 

“We’re going to continue to move forward in a thoughtful and responsible way but the fact is people need to continue to get vaccinated with their second doses and those who’ve been hesitant need to get their first doses,“ said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an infrastructure announcement outside of Toronto.

Canada’s punishing third wave of Covid-19 burdened hospitals this spring and exhausted frontline healthcare workers and it is still a vivid memory for many, even though the country is now logging only a few hundred cases of Covid-19 per day.

And vaccine scarcity, until recently, left millions of Canadians feeling anxious and exposed.

“Like people said in March, it was like the Hunger Games (for vaccines), hospital systems were crashing, and the supply wasn’t there,” said Andrew Young of Vaccine Hunters Canada in an interview with CNN adding, “right now, I can tell you I’m a lot more relaxed.”

Young founded a grassroots organization in March helping to find vaccines for Canadians as the scramble to get vaccinated was well underway. Millions of Canadians were still in lockdown in early spring as they watched their American neighbors get vaccinated and begin a more normal life.

Vaccine Hunters Canada says it uses the IT and social media skills of about 100 volunteers to connect Canadians with vaccines.

“I think our real niche was hope, if I could put it that way. There wasn’t much hope in terms of the constant lockdowns, increase in cases, closed down schools. So, to me, Vaccine Hunters represented hope and the niche that it filled is that it connected all the provinces with its rollout strategies so we had a consolidated platform for Canadians nationwide,” said Young. 

While the federal government procured and paid for vaccine doses, administering the vaccines was done by individual provinces and territories.

For Young, one night a few weeks ago stands out when a vaccine clinic in a Toronto suburb messaged the organization at 1 a.m. saying there were a few dozen vaccine doses leftover. Vaccine Hunters Canada put the word out on social media and every dose was administered late into the night.

“I still see us as pretty important in terms of helping get the word out, helping amplify the voices of certain groups who needs a little boost,” said Young, adding that the "last percentage" will need more creative strategies as Canada confronts its own vaccine hesitancy.

While Canada says it has procured more doses per capita than most countries around the world, the bulk of doses were not delivered until later in spring. Canada still has no significant vaccine manufacturing capacity although the Trudeau government has promised to fund more domestic vaccine production by 2022.

Vaccine uptake was not politicized in Canada and the vast majority of political leaders did all they could to get shots in arms. Still, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has been warning for weeks that vaccine hesitancy could keep Canada from achieving the herd immunity it needs to fight the virus.

In a recent statement she encouraged Canadians to share "credible" Covid-19 information and warned earlier this month that not enough younger Canadians were "offering their arms" for vaccinations.

Still, Canada is now confident enough to open it borders to visitors for the first time in 16 months.

Beginning Aug. 9, fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents of the United States and only those currently residing in the US will be permitted to enter Canada. Nonessential travel into Canada has been banned since March 2020, something the Canadian government said was necessary to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

International travelers may also be allowed to enter Canada beginning Sept. 7, provided that the "COVID-19 epidemiology remains favorable," the Canadian government said in statement released Monday.

Entry to Canada will continue to be prohibited for all foreign travelers who are not fully vaccinated.

5:15 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Pediatricians' group says all kids should wear masks in school, but some states block such mandates

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard and Elizabeth Stuart

An updated CNN analysis has found that at least nine states — Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont — have enacted legislation that prohibit districts from requiring masks in schools.

The list of schools banning school mask mandates has been constantly changing, but so far they are all states with Republican governors. These state laws prohibiting mask mandates in schools conflict with guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday released new Covid-19 guidance for schools that supports in-person learning and recommends universal masking in school of everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status — a stricter position than that taken earlier this month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC updated its Covid-19 school guidance, which also emphasized in-person schooling is a priority in the fall, but advised that fully vaccinated students, teachers and staff do not need to wear masks in school.

There are some states — including Connecticut, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, and Washington — that follow the AAP guidance to require masks among K-12 students regardless of their vaccination status. 

4:50 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

California reports highest Covid-19 positivity rate since winter spike

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

California Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (KGO)

The rise in new Covid-19 cases in California driven primarily by the highly contagious Delta variant continues to swell, now reaching levels not seen since February when new cases were dropping after a huge winter spike.

More than 14,000 new coronavirus cases were reported Monday, driving the number of confirmed cases to 3,762,462. California's Department of Public Health no longer reports new data on weekends, so this new data reflects cases reported on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The state's positivity rate has skyrocketed almost 500% since the beginning of June, just prior to the statewide economic reopening, climbing to 4.1% on Monday. The positivity rate is the highest the state has seen since Feb. 17, state data shows, a substantial increase since its lowest point of 0.7% on June 7.

"This is a pandemic overwhelmingly and disproportionately of those that have not been vaccinated," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday, touting the state's efforts to refocus vaccinations on small mobile clinics and additional outreach to unvaccinated subsets.

Among those are unhoused people, those living in rural communities, and those who he says have been deceived by misinformation.

"People living in urban environments that have, frankly, been misled by misinformation campaigns that are literally killing people, by networks that profit off the misinformation that literally are aiding and abetting in the deaths of thousands of Americans because of the misinformation," Newsom said. "We've got to counter the misinformation."

About half of the state’s population is once again under mask mandates and recommendations, with four more central and northern California counties — Napa, Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey — issuing mask recommendations Monday. 

Asked about the new mask recommendations, Newsom said it is “inevitable” more county health officials may do so if cases continue to rise.

“This is inevitable,” Newsom said of the new requirements and recommendations. "If we want to end this pandemic once and for all, if we want to turn the page, we can get it done in a matter of weeks, not months. It's as simple as this: If you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated."


4:36 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Dow sinks more than 700 points as Delta variant fears hit Wall Street hard 

From CNN’s Paul R. La Monica

Investors are getting spooked by the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases as the Delta variant spreads across the globe. 

The Dow fell about 725 points Monday, a drop of 2.1%. The S&P 500 ended the day down 1.6% and the Nasdaq was 1.1% lower. 

This was the worst day for the Dow since a 943-point drop in late October, and it was the biggest decline this year. But the blue chip market barometer has had several even bigger point plunges since the start of 2020 due to concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Dow plummeted more than 1,000 points six times last year, with five of those market meltdowns taking place in March at the start of the pandemic in America. The Dow suffered its biggest point slide ever on March 16, 2020, dropping nearly 3,000 points — a 13% freefall.

Investors feared that the Delta coronavirus variant could threaten the US economic recovery. Shares of companies in sectors that were widely thought to benefit most from the reopening of the economy are getting hit the hardest. 

Airlines American, United and Delta were all down around 4% to 5%. Cruise operators Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian each fell between 4% and 6%. 

Energy stocks plummeted as well following a more than 3% drop in oil prices. Chevron and Exxon Mobil were down 8%.The OPEC+ group of nations also agreed over the weekend on a deal to produce more oil, a move that could boost supply and reduce crude prices. 

Long-term bond rates continued to slide as well, a sign that fixed income investors are now far more worried about a Delta variant-induced economic slowdown than they are about rising inflation fears.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury sank below 1.2% for the first time since February.

4:15 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Many under-vaccinated groups represent larger share of new US vaccinations over past 2 weeks, CDC data shows

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Many under-vaccinated groups represent a larger share of new vaccinations over the past two weeks in the US, according to data published Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For example, adults between the age of 18-24 comprise about 9% of the US population but 14% of new vaccinations over the past two weeks. 

The same is true for Hispanic people who represent about 17% of the US population but 30% of new vaccinations over the past week, as well as Black people who represent about 12% of the US population but nearly 14% of vaccinations over the past week. 

Here’s a look at other key vaccination data published by the CDC today:

  • 48.6% of the US population is fully vaccinated
  • The current pace of vaccinations (seven-day average): 282,070 people fully vaccinated per day; 520,952 doses reported administered per day. This is about the same pace as a week ago. But a month ago, about three times as many people were becoming fully vaccinated each day. 
  • 20 states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as Washington, DC.
  • Alabama and Mississippi are the only states to have fully vaccinated less than 35% of residents. 
4:30 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

USA basketball player held back from team flight to Tokyo due to health protocols

From CNN's David Close

United States' Zach LaVine plays against Australia during an exhibition basketball game Monday, July 12, in Las Vegas.
United States' Zach LaVine plays against Australia during an exhibition basketball game Monday, July 12, in Las Vegas. (John Locher/AP)

Zach LaVine, a member of the US Olympic men's basketball squad, will not travel with the team to Japan on Monday as planned due to health and safety protocols, USA Basketball announced Monday.

No other details were released.

LaVine, who plays professionally for the Chicago Bulls, scored 13 points versus Spain on Sunday in an exhibition game in Las Vegas, Nevada.

USA Basketball says it is hopeful LaVine will be able to join the team in Tokyo "later this week."

The US men's basketball team faces France on July 25.

USA Basketball tweet in full reads: “Zach LaVine has been placed under USA Basketball’s health & safety protocols & will not travel with the team to Tokyo today. We hope that Zach will be able to join the team in Tokyo later this week.”

2:21 p.m. ET, July 19, 2021

Vice President Harris tested negative for Covid-19 following meeting with Texas Democrats who tested positive

From CNN's Jasmine Wright 

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks while meeting with Texas legislators in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 13.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks while meeting with Texas legislators in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 13. (Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative for Covid-19 following a meeting with Texas state House Democrats, several of whom later tested positive, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday at a briefing.

An official in the vice president’s office said that Harris’ testing occurred before her “routine doctor’s appointment” at Walter Reed Hospital, not because of the meeting with Texas legislators. 

Asked whether there was a safety concern of Harris’ spending time around President Joe Biden, Psaki said Harris was tested and “there was no detection of Covid-19.”  

“We take these precautions incredibly seriously and abide by the health, the guidance of our health and medical experts," she said.

Psaki wouldn’t assess what safety precautions the Texas Democrats may or may not have taken.

“We, of course, hope everybody abides by public health guidelines. That's what we certainly recommend, but the Vice President — what’s important for everybody to know — is the Vice President was tested. She, of course, takes these precautions seriously and we would follow any advice or public health officials give us.” 

Psaki added that there have not been additional precautions taken, when asked if the White House separated Harris and President Biden. On the White House’s schedule today, it listed Biden and Harris would receive the President’s Daily Briefing in the Oval Office.

On Saturday, the Vice President's office said Harris was "not at risk of exposure," after meeting with Texas state House Democrats Tuesday, two of whom later tested positive for Covid-19. 

According to CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated people can “refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic.” Harris is fully vaccinated.

And on Sunday morning, a White House official said Harris would visit Walter Reed Hospital for a "routine doctor’s appointment," telling CNN it was not a physical exam.

Asked about that appointment, Psaki said it was “scheduled for several weeks, long before the visit of the Texas legislators."