Today: The CDC released data on a Massachusetts COVID-19 outbreak that triggered its updated mask recommendations. The White House said it is not considering a national vaccine requirement “at this time,” and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisDeSantis's new surgeon general opposes vaccine mandates People close to Trump say he 'wants back' in national spotlight: report Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field MORE pledged to sign an executive order permitting parents to defy school mask mandates.
We’ll start with the data behind the mask update:
CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update
The CDC released data Friday on the Cape Cod coronavirus outbreak that pushed the agency to update its mask guidance, showing that nearly three-quarters of confirmed cases were among the fully vaccinated.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s analysis of COVID-19 samples from the outbreak determined that fully vaccinated patients carried similar amounts of the virus as unvaccinated patients.
The results from the mostly delta variant samples indicate that fully vaccinated people can potentially transmit and spread the strain, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The report noted that microbiological studies are needed to confirm that similarity in the viral load to determine whether fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus.
By the numbers: The state health department identified 469 COVID-19 cases among Massachusetts residents who went to Provincetown, a popular vacation destination in Barnstable County, in the month of July, including 346 fully vaccinated people.
A total of 79 percent of the breakthrough cases were symptomatic. Five patients were hospitalized, four of whom were fully vaccinated, and no deaths were reported. Two of the fully vaccinated hospitalized patients had “underlying medical conditions.”
Why it matters: CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyPfizer results offer hope amid worsening pandemic for children FDA panel endorses COVID-19 booster shots for older Americans, rejects widespread use Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE cited this data Tuesday when announcing the new mask recommendations for even fully vaccinated people to cover their faces in indoor public settings in counties with "substantial" and "high" COVID-19 transmission.
"This finding is concerning and was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC’s updated mask recommendation," she said in a Friday statement.
White House: National vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time'
The White House is not presently considering a national requirement for the COVID-19 vaccine, principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-PierreKarine Jean-PierreRoger Stone served with Capitol riot lawsuit during radio interview Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight White House says law enforcement in 'heightened state of alert' ahead of J6 rally MORE told reporters on Friday.
"A national vaccine requirement is not under consideration at this time. That’s where we are with that," Jean-Pierre said at a press briefing.
Flashback to yesterday: The possibility was raised by Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy after President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE said a day earlier said it was "still a question" whether the federal government can mandate the vaccine for the entire country.
"I don't know that yet," Biden said Thursday, adding that the Justice Department had determined that local communities could legally require the shot.
Ongoing debate: Public health experts and lawmakers have debated in recent weeks the usefulness of vaccine mandates and whether the country will need to reimpose certain restrictions on businesses as coronavirus cases rise nationwide due to the highly contagious delta variant.
Republicans have warned against any type of national mandate, arguing it would be a gross overreach by the federal government, particularly since the Food and Drug Administration has not given full authorization to the shots, despite their administration to millions of Americans.
The White House has been adamant that lockdowns like the ones implemented when the virus was at its peak last winter should not be necessary because of the effectiveness of vaccines, and they have pleaded with Americans who are still holding out to get the shot.
"The way we see this is that we have the tools in our tool belt to fight this variant," Jean-Pierre said Friday. "And we are not going to head towards a lockdown."
Biden rolls dice by getting more aggressive on vaccines
President Biden’s new, more aggressive approach to pressure reluctant or unwilling people to get vaccinated is a risky political play for a president who put defeating the coronavirus at the center of his agenda — though it could also come with a big payoff.
It's a decision the White House appeared reluctant to make for months, and it opens Biden up to fresh attacks from Republicans angling to paint the White House as overreaching and putting the government at too central a position in people's lives.
DeSantis to sign executive order allowing parents to defy school mask mandates
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Friday said he will sign an executive order to "protect the rights of parents" and allow them to choose whether their children should wear masks even if their school requires them to do so.
"In Florida, there will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures, there will be no restrictions and no mandates in the state of Florida," DeSantis said.
The governor cited a Brown University study that found no connection between case rates and mask mandates at schools. Critics have said that study was centered on schools in smaller communities that reopened earlier in the pandemic and is now outdated, WPLG reported.
Follows: DeSantis's announcement follows Broward County's decision to require students in their public schools to wear masks going into the 2021-22 school year.
This week, the CDC also recommended all adults and students wear masks in K-12 schools, regardless of their vaccination status.
Former Trump official says 'just a matter of time' before unvaccinated get delta variant
Brett Giroir, former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE’s coronavirus testing czar, on Thursday urged anyone who has not yet gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 to quickly do so, arguing that it is “just a matter of time” before all unvaccinated individuals become infected with the delta variant of the virus.
The ex-Trump official, in an interview on Fox News’s “America Reports,” emphasized health guidance that the potential side effects of the coronavirus vaccine “pale in comparison to what you will get if you get the COVID infection,” adding that the highly transmissible delta variant poses an even greater risk.
“If you have not been vaccinated, and you have not had COVID before, you will get the delta variant,” Giroir argued. “This is so infectious that you will get it.”
He went on to say that while a previous COVID-19 infection may give some natural immunity, it is not clear how long this protection lasts, adding, “The evidence is mounting that even natural immunity will not protect you against delta.”
“It is just a matter of time,” he argued. “Remember, you can get the flu every year. It’s not because your immunity isn’t good, it’s because the flu changes, and delta is really a new strain that is different than everything we’ve seen.”
What we’re reading
‘The war has changed’: Internal CDC document urges new messaging, warns delta infections likely more severe (The Washington Post)
FDA, under pressure, plans ‘sprint’ to accelerate review of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for full approval (Stat News)
CDC scaled back hunt for breakthrough cases just as the delta variant grew (Bloomberg News)
U.S. Covid vaccination rates rise as Americans in hard-hit states rush to get shots amid delta fears (CNBC)
State by state
Mississippi ICUs have only 10% of beds available as COVID-19 delta variant surges, none at UMMC (Clarion Ledger)
Arizona reports nearly 2K more virus cases, most since March (The Associated Press)
Facing recall, Newsom draws support from health care allies (Kaiser Health News)