Saturday, May 21

Dangerous variant of covid-19 is about to become dominant in the US

(CNN)  — Experts worry that some Americans are loosening up too quickly, at a critical time when looming dangers threaten to wipe out the progress the United States has made in its battle against COVID-19.

At least a dozen state leaders have eased covid-19 restrictions this month, often citing improving case trends and rising vaccination numbers. At the same time, air travel is hitting pandemic-era records and the first spring break crowds have started pouring into Florida and other sunny regions, while cases of a dangerous variant are on the rise.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it checked more than 1.3 million people at airports on Sunday, meaning that about 5.2 million travelers have flown in since Thursday. That’s the highest number of people who have traveled by air during any other four-day period in the pandemic.

In Florida, spring break has started packing up the shores and some Miami Beach officials are reporting crowds and precautions getting out of control.

It’s a combination of all those factors, officials fear, which could set the stage for another spike.

“We have seen images of people enjoying the spring break festivities, without masks,” the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Monday. “All of this is in the context of 50,000 cases per day.”

So is another surge inevitable?

“We could go either way,” emergency doctor Leana Wen told CNN on Monday. “What happens now is really up to us and whether we continue to mask and avoid indoor gatherings as we should until the moment we get vaccinated.”

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A dangerous variant will soon dominate

Security measures will be especially crucial now that multiple variants of the virus are circulating, including the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in the UK.

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It is projected to become the dominant variant in the US later this month or early April, Walensky said Monday.

So far, cases of variant B.1.1.7 have been found in 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, according to CDC data.

“The way the variants spread is by letting your guard down,” Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the CDC, told CNN on Monday. «By not wearing masks, by not distancing ourselves socially. If we can hold out for a few more months, there will be enough vaccines for every adult in America to be vaccinated. “

“Then we can really put aside some of the current restrictions. But if we do it too fast, we could see an increase in cases, we could see a setback that is happening in many European countries and that does not have to be the result here in the United States, “he added.

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Research published last week suggested that the variant was associated with an estimated 64% higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

And another peer-reviewed study has linked the variant to an increased risk of death, according to a journal accepted article. Nature. This time, the risk of death from the variant was estimated to be about 55% higher than previous strains after adjusting for a number of factors such as age, sex, and location and when the tests were performed.

A subsequent analysis in the study that took into account the missing and potentially incorrectly categorized test results found that the overall increased risk of death may be somewhat higher, about 61% more than previous strains.

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The study did not study vaccination nor was it able to show why the variant might be more deadly than previous strains.

The number of daily vaccinations reached record levels

Clinical trials with children under 16 years of age advance 28:31

But there’s good news: Vaccines are on the rise, and experts hope Americans can see a semblance of normalcy by the summer.

Data updated by the CDC on Monday shows the country hit a seven-day average of about 2.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines delivered per day, a new record.

That comes as more states expanded their eligibility requirements for vaccines.

In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves announced Monday that the state would open appointments for all residents age 16 and older starting Tuesday.

Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine is the only one available for use by people over the age of 16, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are restricted to people over the age of 18.

“Starting tomorrow, ALL new appointments will be open to ALL Mississippi residents. Get your injection folks and let’s get back to normal! ” wrote and Twitter.

In West Virginia, the Governor, Jim Justice, large the list of pre-existing medical conditions that make residents eligible to receive a vaccine.

“We are on a downward trajectory so we can get our lives back to normal, and that’s what we want more than anything,” Justice said.

So far, more than 71 million Americans have received at least one dose of the covid-19 vaccine, according to data from the CDC. More than 38 million have been fully vaccinated, approximately 11.5% of the US population.

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Most Americans get their second dose on time

In addition, most people who have received a first dose of the covid-19 vaccine are receiving their second dose on time, according to the first data from the CDC.

But CDC researchers cautioned that initial groups prioritized to receive the vaccine – healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities – have had easy access to a second dose through their workplace or residence.

“As the priority groups expand, adherence to the recommended dose range may decline,” they wrote in the report released Monday.

For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it is recommended that the second doses be given 21 and 28 days later, respectively, but the researchers noted in their report that up to 42 days are allowed between doses, if necessary.

The report includes data on more than 37 million people who received at least their first injection between December 14 and February 14.

Among those who had received both doses, the researchers found that 95.6% received their second dose within the recommended time interval.

They noted that severe weather events led to distribution challenges and canceled appointments during the time of the study and more research will be needed to examine the completion of second doses over a longer period of time.

“Continuous monitoring of series completion status in all jurisdictions and by demographic characteristics is important to ensure equity in vaccine application and vaccination coverage, especially as vaccination efforts expand to target groups. additional population, ”they wrote.

CNN’s Michael Nedelman, LaCrisha McAllister, Gregory Lemos, Deidre McPhillips, Pete Muntean, and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.

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