This article was updated Aug. 2, 2021, at 6:21 p.m. ET.
The United States leads the world in cases of COVID-19. We'll provide the latest updates on coronavirus cases, government response, impacts to our daily life, and more.
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Walmart, Disney Mandate Vaccinations for Many Employees
Aug. 2, 6:21 p.m.
Days after President Joe Biden urged private companies to get their employees vaccinated, Walmart and Walt Disney Co. joined the list of corporations issuing COVID vaccination mandates for workers.
Walmart says all employees at headquarters and managers who travel within the United States must be vaccinated by early October. Frontline store and warehouse workers are not required to do so.
While managers under the requirement represent a fraction of the 1.5 million Walmart employees, the company hopes they’ll be role models and lead others to take the vaccine.
“We’re hoping that will influence even more of our frontline associates to become vaccinated,” Walmart spokesman Scott Pope said, according to NBC News.
“As we all know, the pandemic is not over, and the Delta variant has led to an increase in infection rates across much of the U.S. Given this, we have made the decision to require all market, regional and divisional associates who work in multiple facilities and all campus office associates to be vaccinated by Oct. 4, unless they have an approved exception. This includes all new hires,” Walmart said in a news release.
Walmart is also doubling the incentive to unvaccinated employees from $75 to $150, NBC News said. Workers who already have been vaccinated will receive another $75 in a coming paycheck.
Disney will require all salaried and non-union hourly employees and new hires in the United States to get vaccinated in the next 60 days, NBC News said.
The company said in a news release that “based on the latest recommendations of scientists, health officials and our own medical professionals that the COVID-19 vaccine provides the best protection against severe infection, we are requiring that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. working at any of our sites be fully vaccinated."
Disney had about 170,000 employees worldwide as of April 3, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Google and Facebook announced last week that employees are required to be vaccinated, NBC News reported.
The Biden administration revved up its vaccine campaign last week by announcing that federal employees should get vaccinated or expect to face weekly testing as well as other inconveniences, such as being required to wear a mask at all times.
1 Million Vaccine Doses Wasted in 10 States
Aug. 2, 2021, at 5:10 p.m.
A New York Times survey found that about 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have gone to waste in 10 states since the national vaccination program started in mid-December.
State officials said the vaccine was not used because of breakage, storage and transportation problems, expiration, and people not showing up for appointments, the Times said.
About 230,000 doses had to be destroyed in Ohio, 110,000 in Georgia, 78,000 in Oregon, 53,000 in New Jersey, and around 50,000 in Maryland, the newspaper reported. In Arkansas, about 55,000 doses had been wasted by mid-July, compared to about 580 in mid-March.
The Times said the CDC, which tracks wasted doses nationally, did not respond to a request for comment.
Much of vaccine loss apparently occurred in recent months as demand for the vaccine dropped.
“Early on, it was kind of a crisis because people wanted it and couldn’t get it, and now it’s a crisis because we’ve got it and people don’t want it,” said Marcus Plescia, MD, the chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
Though some states have asked about shipping unused doses to other nations that are short on vaccine, that’s difficult to do, the Times said. The federal government prohibits recalling unused doses and nations such as Canada have turned down offers for the vaccine that’s not being used in the U.S.
“Here we are with loads of vaccine, and there are other countries in the world where people are desperate for vaccination,” Plescia said.
Generally, wasted and destroyed doses amounted to no more than 2% of the vaccine received by each state, The Times said.
After a slump in vaccinations, demand is going back up as the Delta variant infects people across the country.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sunday that the current seven-day average of doses administered is 662,529 per day, the highest average since July 7, CNN reported.
FDA Authorizes Regeneron Drug for Preventive Use in People Exposed to COVID
July 31, 2021, 11:10 a.m. ET.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday expanded its emergency use authorization for the antibody cocktail from Regeneron, making it the first preventive therapy authorized for unvaccinated and immunocompromised people in high-risk settings.
In a news release, the agency said the drug REGEN-COV should only be given as a preventive measure to people who aren’t fully vaccinated or weren’t expected to mount an adequate immune response to vaccination, after they were exposed to someone with COVID-19 or have a high risk of exposure because they’re in an institutional setting, such as a nursing home.
Regeneron said about 3% of the U.S. population might not respond to vaccination because they’re taking medications that compromise their immune systems, are undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy, or have received transplanted organs.
“This authorization enables these groups to use REGEN-COV to prevent infection in post-exposure and certain institutional settings,” Regeneron said in a news release.
"Today's FDA authorization enables certain people at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 infection to access REGEN-COV if they have been exposed to the virus – the first time an antibody treatment has been authorized for this purpose," said George D. Yancopoulos, M.D., president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron.
The FDA said phase 3 clinical trial data showed REGEN-COV reduced the risk of developing symptoms by 81% among healthy people living with a person who was infected with COVID-19.
The drug is already being used for post-infection treatments.
In November, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals for its monoclonal antibodies -- casirivimab and imdevimab -- to be given together to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and in kids over age 12.
The post-infection treatment should be given to patients who have a positive coronavirus test and face a high risk of getting severe COVID-19, including those who are 65 and older or have certain chronic medical conditions.
Atlanta Restaurant Says No Vax, No Service
July 26, 9:40 a.m.
After a co-owner and three employees were infected with COVID-19, an Atlanta restaurant instituted a new rule: If you’re not vaccinated, you won’t be served.
“After a few positive covid cases last week we have decided that the health and safety of our staff and guests must be prioritized,” Argosy restaurant said on Instagram. “Until you are vaccinated please do not enter our establishment. If you are fully vaccinated, welcome! We are excited to hang out with you.”
Co-owner Armando Celentano told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he and three bartenders were all fully vaccinated when they tested positive for COVID. All 36 employees of the restaurant had been vaccinated except one with a medical exception.
The other employees were tested and all came back negative, he told the newspaper.
After a shutdown of a few days, the restaurant is opening again. Celentano told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that customers will be asked to bring proof of vaccination and show it on request. Argosy now requires employees to wear face masks and may require customers to wear masks also.
Celentano said the policy was “fluid” and could change with circumstances.
“If it becomes obvious that we have to start taking vaccination cards at the door, we will,” he said. “We want people to have fun and walk around but not spread this thing to people and staff. … This is not, hopefully, a long-term policy. Hopefully, it is enough to get us through until we can develop herd immunity.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that the restaurant joins “a small but growing roster of restaurants in cities like New York and Los Angeles that are mandating vaccinations among patrons.”
“It is a question of quality of life and safety for my staff and guests,” Celentano told the newspaper. “It’s a privately owned, small business and I have to do what I think is right to protect the people who rely on me to make a living.”
One customer, Sean Villalobos, said the policy was “more like a virtue signaling or political statement than ‘I want to keep people safe.’” He says he’s not vaccinated but thinks he’s may have developed a natural immunity to the virus.
“It’s your right as a business owner, but from a purely practical standpoint, there’s no way you can verify who is vaccinated or not,” he said. “From a business perspective, it doesn’t make sense to potentially alienate people at a restaurant.”
A medical professor told CNN over the weekend that unvaccinated people should not frequent restaurants or bars at all.
"What I would say bluntly is: If you are not vaccinated right now in the United States, you should not go into a bar, you should probably not eat at a restaurant. You are at great risk of becoming infected," said Jonathan Reiner, MD, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University and CNN medical analyst.
COVID Hospitalizations, Cases Spike Again in Florida
July 24, 11:10 a.m.
Case counts and hospitalizations from COVID-19 are rising quickly in Florida as the state grapples with the highly transmissible Delta variant.
The state accounts for about 20% of the new cases in the country and had 67,413 cases over the past week -- the most in the nation -- The Wall Street Journal reported, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The weekly total of new cases quadrupled between July 1 and July 22, hitting the highest point since mid-January, the Wall Street Journal said.
The Florida Hospital Association said Thursday that 5,359 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 -- 42% more than the previous week. Florida has seen worse times -- more than 10,000 people were hospitalized with the virus in July 2020 -- but the rapid uptick worries health officials.
The “overwhelming majority” of patients are unvaccinated, the FHA said in a news release, and the average age of COVID patients is younger than during previous peaks.
“The message is clear, this virus is now targeting younger people and the unvaccinated,” said Mary C. Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association. “The vaccine will likely keep you away from the hospital and ICU. The vaccine will likely be the thing that saves your life.”
Statewide, about 60% of people over 12 are vaccinated, but suspicion of the COVID vaccine remains strong, especially in rural counties in the north of Florida, The Associated Press reported. Some of those rural counties have a vaccination rate of only 30% and are reporting high infection rates, the Associated Press said.
“This thing got politicized nationally, and we’re paying the price,” Jared Moskowitz, the state’s former emergency management director, told the AP. “This is mostly now a pandemic amongst the unvaccinated.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis got vaccinated himself and is now urging people to get vaccinated, saying, “These vaccines are saving lives.”
But DeSantis is adamant about not returning to lockdowns or state mandates. The state has even barred local governments from imposing their own mandates.
“We have a situation where we have three vaccines that have been widely available for months and months now and people need to make decisions that are best for them,” DeSantis said. “To have the government come in and to lock anyone down or restrict anyone is totally unacceptable.”
NFL to Enforce Forfeits for COVID-19 Cancellations
July 23, 2021, at 5:15 p.m.
The NFL announced Thursday that the 2021 season won’t be extended to accommodate game cancellations if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs among unvaccinated players or staff, according to NFL.com.
The new policy was announced in a memo sent to all 32 teams. If a game can’t be rescheduled during the regular 18-week season, the team with the outbreak will forfeit the game and receive a “loss” in standings.
“We do not anticipate adding a ‘19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season,” according to the memo.
In addition, players on both teams won’t be paid for the game, and the team with the outbreak will cover financial losses due to the canceled game. Cancellations could also lead to disciplinary action.
“We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs,” the memo states. “If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams.”
According to the memo, vaccinated players or staff who test positive and don’t have symptoms can return to play after two negative tests 24 hours apart. Unvaccinated players who test positive must isolate for 10 days.
The announcement is being seen as push for players and staff to get vaccinated, according to USA Today. The league has stated that it won’t mandate vaccination, though the restrictions for unvaccinated players and the potential penalties are meant to encourage people to get a shot.
During the 2020 season, more than a dozen games were rescheduled due to COVID-19 outbreaks. None were fully canceled, and all teams played the 16-game schedule, according to Sports Illustrated. The 2021 season is set to begin Sept. 9 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys.
More than 78% of players have received at least one shot, and in 14 clubs, at least 85% percent of players have been vaccinated, NFL.com reported. All 32 teams have at least a 50% vaccination rate.
“We’re pleased with those numbers, but we’re not satisfied. We want to see them continue to go up,” Allen Sills, MD, chief medical officer for the NFL, told “NFL Now” on Thursday.
“Certainly those rates are well above what we’re seeing in the rest of society and certainly above the same age group as most of our players are,” he said. “So a great head-start, more work to be done.”
Infected Texas Doctor Regrets Not Getting Vaccinated
July 22, 2021, at 4:35 p.m.
Jason Loos, MD, says he paid the price for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I’ve never had fever more than a day and a half in my life. I’ve called in sick maybe once in 20 years,” the pathologist at Covenant Health Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, told TV station KGNS.
But in May, his luck changed. One of his children got sick during the last week of school and soon Loos was infected with the Delta variant.
After eight days of fever, had to go to the hospital in an ambulance, he told KGNS. He still hasn’t fully recovered his sense of smell and taste.
“It took me about three weeks to get back to where I could walk up one flight of stairs,” he said. “Even today, if you race me in a 100-yard dash, you’d have to pick me up and take me back to the ER.”
Loos said he thought he could manage the virus if he got infected and wanted to make sure enough doses were available for other healthcare workers or highly vulnerable people, KGNS said.
“I’ll always say it’s always a personal choice. But the right choice is to get vaccinated,” Loos said.
Meanwhile, case counts are rising once again in Lubbock.
“This really is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Brian Schroeder, MD, chief medical officer of Covenant Health Medical Center, told KGNS. “We’re not seeing anyone who has been vaccinated requiring critical care.”
McConnell, Other Conservative Lawmakers Now Backing Vaccinations
July 22, 4:24 p.m.
Eight months after the national vaccination program to protect Americans from COVID-19 kicked off, top conservative leaders such as U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are calling for more Americans to get vaccinated.
“These shots need to get in everybody’s arms as rapidly as possible or we´re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don’t yearn for — that we went through last year,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday at a news conference, according to the New York Post and other media outlets. “This is not complicated.”
Utah’s Republican governor, also Spencer Cox, encouraged people in the state to get vaccinated and blamed conservative media for stoking vaccine hesitancy.
“We have these talking heads who have gotten the vaccine and are telling other people not to get the vaccine,” Cox said, according to The Hill. “It’s dangerous. It’s damaging. And it’s killing people. It’s literally killing their supporters and that makes no sense to me.”
When asked about Cox’s comment, McConnell urged Americans to “ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”
The CDC says less than half the American population is fully vaccinated, even as the Delta variant drives up new COVID cases. Almost 20% of the new infections are coming from Florida, the White House said last week.
On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis joined the chorus of voices urging people to get vaccinated, saying the shots are “saving lives.”
“If you look at the people that are being admitted to hospitals …. over 95% of them are either not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated at all,” DeSantis said, according to The Hill. “These vaccines are saving lives. They are reducing mortality.”
In another shift, Fox News personalities Sean Hannity and Steve Doocy this week spoke positively about the coronavirus vaccine, though many network commentators regularly criticize Biden administration strategies to get more people vaccinated.
"Please take COVID seriously, I can't say it enough. Enough people have died. We don't need any more deaths," Hannity said.
There’s a clear partisan split in vaccine attitudes, with Republicans much less likely to get vaccinated than Democrats. In June, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 86% of Democrats who took part in the survey had gotten at least one shot, compared to 52% of Republicans.
But many conservative leaders continue to attack the Biden administration’s vaccination program.
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, while saying he’d just received his first Pfizer dose, took a shot at President Biden’s vaccination strategies, The New York Timessaid. Conservatives are especially critical of the recently floated possibility that health workers will go door to door to find unvaccinated people, The New York Times said.
“You’re seeing some people try to bully people into doing things instead of just encouraging them,” Mr. Scalise said. “There’s even talk of putting mask mandates back on people in certain states when the vaccine is widely available, it’s safe and effective.
“We should be encouraging people to get it,” he added, “but not trying to threaten people.”
U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, said Biden had not given former President Trump enough credit for launching the vaccination program.
Tuberville said vaccine skeptics would not get their shots until “this administration acknowledges the efforts of the last one,” The New York Times reported.
White House, Congressional Staff Members Test Positive for COVID-19
July 21, 5:20 p.m.
A White House official and a staff member in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the same reception last week, according to Axios. Both people are fully vaccinated.
The White House staff member, who tested positive Monday, has mild symptoms and is off-site while taking additional tests, according to CNN.
“We know there will be breakthrough cases, but as this incident shows, cases in vaccinated individuals are typically mild,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Tuesday.
Both the White House official and Pelosi’s staff member were at the same rooftop reception last Wednesday. The White House official hasn’t had close contact with President Joe Biden or other senior administrators, and Pelosi’s staff member hasn’t had contact with Pelosi since the exposure, according to The Washington Post.
Pelosi’s staff member, who has been identified as a senior spokesperson in the press office, ushered a group of Democratic lawmakers from Texas around the Capitol last week, Axios reported. Six members of the delegation have tested positive for COVID-19 since then.
“The entire Press Office is working remotely today with the exception of individuals who have had no exposure to the individual or have had a recent negative test,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, told the newspaper.
“Our office will continue to follow the guidance of the Office of Attending Physician closely,” he said.
The Texas delegation met with lawmakers from Georgia, Maryland and Virginia last week, and some were scheduled to attend a church service in Virginia. The service was canceled due to the outbreak, The Washington Post reported, and now everyone who has come into contact with the Texas group is being tested.
“Right now we’re seeing breakthrough cases in the vaccinated population, in a wide array of professions and parts of the world,” Chris Turner, chair of the Texas House Democrats, told reporters on Tuesday.
“It’s just, I think, a reminder,” he said. “It’s really, really important that we get people vaccinated ASAP.”
How many people have been diagnosed with the virus worldwide, and how many have died?
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 190.17 million cases and more than 4.08 million deaths worldwide.
How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?
There are more than 34.07 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19 and more than 608,890 deaths, according Johns Hopkins University.