COVID-19 live updates: Delta leaves vaccinated, unvaccinated with similarly high viral loads, CDC says

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(NEW YORK) — The United States is facing a COVID-19 surge this summer as the more contagious delta variant spreads.

More than 612,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and over 4.1 million people have died worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 57.7% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC on Tuesday, citing new science on the transmissibility of the delta variant, changed its mask guidance to now recommend everyone in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission — vaccinated or not — wear a face covering in public, indoor settings.

Here’s how the news is developing Friday. All times Eastern:

Jul 30, 7:09 pm
New Orleans to mandate indoor masking, city employee vaccinations  

New Orleans officials reissued a mask mandate Friday, requiring that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in public spaces due to rising COVID-19 cases.

“Thanks to the delta variant, the COVID pandemic is once again raging out of control,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said during a press briefing, noting the daily average of new COVID-19 cases increased from 104 last week to 272 this week. “This is a very dangerous number. We have been here before. … And what was once unpreventable, today is preventable, and is through our people getting vaccinated.”

The mayor also announced that city employees and contractors will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Over 71% of city employees are vaccinated, “but that is not good enough,” the mayor said. “We want to get to 100%.”

Jul 30, 7:02 pm
Austin facing ‘dire’ ICU bed shortage

In Austin, Texas, intensive care unit capacity has reached a “dire” point, the city’s health department said Friday, with only 16 staffed beds available for over 2.3 million residents.

“We are running out of time and our community must act now,” Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a statement. “Our ICU capacity is reaching a critical point where the level of risk to the entire community has significantly increased, and not just to those who are needing treatment for COVID. If we fail to come together as a community now, we jeopardize the lives of loved ones who might need critical care.”

APH is urging the community to act as the situation becomes critical. The region is now facing the lowest staffed ICU bed capacity since the beginning of the pandemic with only 16 staffed available.
📌 More: https://t.co/dbnHqlqW7R
📌 Vaccinate: https://t.co/uNEZHhMj3c
(1/4) pic.twitter.com/4YXSavkIAc

— Austin Public Health (@AusPublicHealth) July 30, 2021

The low ICU capacity is similar to the beginning of the pandemic, Austin Public Health said, noting that the number of COVID-19 patients in local ICUs increased 28% between July 23 and July 30.

Local health officials advised that partially or unvaccinated people should avoid gatherings and wear a mask during essential activities, while those who are vaccinated should limit gathering sizes and wear a mask indoors, among other measures.

Jul 30, 5:40 pm
Florida reports over 110K new COVID-19 cases in past week

There were over 110,000 new COVID-19 cases in Florida in the past week — the highest weekly increase since the start of the year — according to the latest state data.

The Florida Department of Health reported Friday there were 110,477 new cases from July 23 to July 29. The state’s positivity rate is now 18.1%.

MORE: Front-line workers in Florida say current COVID-19 surge ‘feels like it’s an impending storm’
Just one month ago, the state was reporting 15,998 new cases in one week, from June 25 to July 1.

-ABC News’ Joshua Hoyos

Jul 30, 4:44 pm
US records highest daily case total since February

Overnight, the U.S. recorded its highest daily case total since Feb. 12, reporting over 86,000 new cases.

The daily case average in the U.S. has surged to more than 66,600 cases per day, up by nearly 64.1% in the last week, and up nearly 481% since mid-June.

Louisiana now has the country’s highest case rate with nearly 540 new cases per 100,000 residents. The state’s case average has skyrocketed in the last month, up by nearly 1,000%, and is now nearing its highest case level since the onset of the pandemic.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Jul 30, 2:55 pm
Antibody treatment available for preventative use after exposure for certain people

The Food and Drug Administration is now permitting preventative use of the monoclonal antibody cocktail from Regeneron for certain people who have been exposed to COVID-19.

Until now, monoclonal antibodies had only been for patients who were infected with COVID-19 and at high risk of getting very sick.

This new preventative use will be for people who meet several criteria: COVID-19 exposure or good chance of COVID-19 exposure; at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 due to health complications; at high risk of getting sick due to not being fully vaccinated.

This is the only COVID-19 antibody therapy available in the U.S. for both treatment and post-exposure prophylaxis. It has shown to hold up against the variants of concern, including delta. A Regeneron spokesperson told ABC News the company is continuing discussion with the FDA to evaluate even broader prevention use in immunocompromised people for “pre-exposure” situations.

-ABC News’ Sasha Pezenik

Jul 30, 1:00 pm
Delta variant leaves vaccinated, unvaccinated with similarly high viral loads: CDC

Data shows that the delta variant leaves vaccinated and unvaccinated people with similarly high viral loads, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Friday.

“High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus,” Walensky said.

“This finding is concerning and was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC’s updated mask recommendation” this week, Walensky said.

-ABC News’ Sony Salzman

Jul 30, 10:45 am
6 passengers test positive on cruise ship

Six passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas ship have tested positive for COVID-19 during routine testing, the cruise line said Friday.

Four of the passengers — who were not traveling together — are vaccinated. The other two are unvaccinated minors who were traveling together, the cruise line said.

One person has mild symptoms. The other five have no symptoms, the cruise line said.

“The guests were immediately quarantined, and their immediate travel party and all close contacts were traced and all tested negative,” Royal Caribbean said. “Each guest and their immediate travel parties disembarked in Freeport, The Bahamas, and separately traveled home via private transportation.”

This cruise started in the Bahamas on July 25. Everyone over 16 must be fully vaccinated and test negative before boarding, the cruise line said.

-ABC News’ Sam Sweeney

Jul 30, 10:30 am
Broadway audiences must be vaccinated

As Broadway gears up for its return in September, the Broadway League announced Friday that everyone attending a show must be vaccinated and wear a mask.

Guests will need to show proof of vaccination when they enter the theater.

This rule applies through October 2021 and may change in November.

All performers, staff and backstage crew also must be vaccinated.

Jul 30, 5:29 am
New Yorkers getting 1st dose to receive $100 incentive

Starting Friday, New Yorkers who receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at any city-run site will get a $100 incentive.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement during a press briefing Wednesday.

“We will say thank you. We’ll say we’re really glad that you got vaccinated for yourself, for your family, for your community,” de Blasio said. “And here’s $100 to thank you for doing the right thing and to encourage people.”

The mayor said that New Yorkers getting vaccinated will not only get the cash, they’ll also be able to do “everything else that’s wonderful in this city, including the amazing concerts coming up. You can’t go to those concerts unless you’re vaccinated.”

Jul 30, 4:53 am
Japan to extend coronavirus state of emergency covering 3 of Tokyo’s neighboring prefectures

Japan’s government will put in place a coronavirus state of emergency covering three of Tokyo’s neighboring prefectures and Osaka on Monday, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Tokyo and Okinawa’s declarations will remain in place.

The news comes as case numbers in Japan continue to rise amid the Olympics.

As of Friday, there are 3,300 new positive cases in Tokyo, according to the Tokyo government’s COVID-19 information website. Of those 3,300 cases, 88 are severe and two have turned fatal.

Jul 30, 4:22 am
New CDC brief says vaccines may be less effective against delta variant

An internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brief published by the Washington Post Thursday reveals more details about why the delta variant is different to and more concerning than other strains of the coronavirus.

The CDC said the main differences between the delta variant and previous strains is that delta is highly contagious and likely more severe. Plus, breakthrough infections caused by delta may be as transmissible as unvaccinated cases.

“This is an incredibly, incredibly contagious version of virus, it’s almost like a whole different virus,” Dr. Ashish Jha said. “And CDC is estimating that it is probably also more deadly.”

Vaccines prevent more than 90% of severe diseases, but may be less effective at preventing infection or transmission of the delta variant, the CDC said. Therefore, there could be more breakthrough infections and more community spread despite people’s vaccination status.

“Current vaccines continue to provide strong protection against severe illness and death, but the delta variant is likely responsible for increased numbers of breakthrough infections — breakthroughs that could be as infectious as unvaccinated cases,” Dr. John Brownstein, an ABC News contributor, said. “This internal document highlights the challenge we all now face in combating the most transmissible variant of COVID so far.”

Jul 30, 3:38 am
Number of positive cases at Tokyo Olympics reaches 225

There are now 225 positive COVID-19 cases at the Tokyo Olympics, according to a tally kept by Olympics organizers.

That is an increase of 27 cases since Thursday.

Of those cases, three of them are athletes. Two were in the Olympic Village at the time of their positive case, and one was not.

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