(CNN) — The United States is experiencing a large decline in new COVID-19 cases, but there is one important caveat.
According to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, the United States is experiencing a 29% decrease in new covid-19 cases compared to this time last week. This is the steepest decline in a week the country has seen during the pandemic.
While there are real improvements, it’s unclear exactly how much of the decline can be attributed to the winter weather that gripped much of the country, forcing officials to shut down sites where covid tests are being done, affecting collection. of crucial data.
Several states hit by the winter storms are seeing large declines in new cases this week, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Among them Texas, where cases were down 56% compared to last week.
The Covid Tracking Project It said Thursday that it had been unable to update the daily number of tests performed in Texas for four days due to winter weather. Overall, the United States has seen a nearly 13.5% decrease in testing compared to last week.
Again, that is not to say that the United States has not made progress in reducing the number of cases. Earlier this week, Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, and Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University, noted the rise in the use of masks. as one of the reasons for the declining numbers.
However, any progress that has been made is also threatened by the rise in covid-19 variants, some of which appear to be more transmissible. And while they could spell trouble, drug companies and scientists are confident that vaccines will evolve with them, according to senior White House adviser Andy Slavitt.
“We have to anticipate the variants”
“I talked to all the drug companies and scientists, and they all say the same thing: even if these vaccines go down a bit, they will be able to continually update them,” Slavitt, who is responsible for the covid-19 response, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
With more than 1,500 cases of worrisome variants reported in the United States, officials have been rushing to administer vaccines quickly to stay ahead of more covid variants, with approximately 57.7 million doses administered so far across the country, according to the Centers for the United States Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for its acronym in English).
“Even though the numbers look promising in terms of new cases, that’s misleading,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College in Houston, pointing to the UK variant of covid-19. “I think we are about to receive a very strong blow, so we have to get ahead of the variation.”
New research from Israel and Canada has found that only a single dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine offers significant protection against the virus, but Slavitt emphasized that does not mean that people should skip the second dose.
“We don’t know how long or how long that benefit is without the boost,” he said. “We don’t know how effective it is against variants.”
America will have to work ‘twice as much’ after winter weather
So far, more than 41 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 16 million have received two doses, CDC data shows. But that means only 4.9% of the US population has been fully vaccinated.
Vaccine delays caused by the harsh winter weather that affects much of the United States means the country will have to work “twice as long” to get back to normal, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told MSNBC , on Thursday, that in some places the launch of the vaccine has been delayed due to “a sudden stop”.
Several states have reported delays in vaccine delivery, forcing providers to cancel or reschedule vaccine appointments.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said Thursday that more than 2,000 vaccination sites were located in areas affected by power outages. And when a site is closed, Slavitt said, officials don’t want to send a vaccine there.
“If an administration site is closed, we don’t want to ship a vaccine because, as you know, it can’t be left there for more than 72 hours,” Slavitt told CNN. In the meantime, he said, the vaccines will remain “safe and sound.”
Fortunately, none of the vaccines that need to be stored at specific temperatures went bad this week, according to officials’ knowledge, he said, and everyone is working to ensure that vaccines reach people and, if there are delays, that vaccines are stored correctly.
“We will have to ask everyone in the country to work twice as long next week,” Slavitt said, echoing Fauci. “Assuming the weather improves, that will mean more appointment hours, it will mean more shipping hours, and we’re going to ask everyone to do their part and join.”
Hotez and Baylor believe the vaccine effort has been delayed by about a week, he told CNN on Friday.
“We have delivered about 40 million vaccines to Americans, but we have to get to 500 million,” he said, taking into account the population of the United States and the fact that experts believe we need to vaccinate about 80% of the population. country to achieve herd immunity. “So we are less than 10% of the way.”
Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, told CNN that his hospital system was able to resume vaccinations Thursday.
“We are back on the road,” he told CNN on Friday morning. “For us, we lost about two days, but we will catch up in the next two or three days,” he said, adding: “It will be a little slower than usual, but we will catch up.”
Blacks and Hispanics are getting fewer vaccinations
The World Health Organization will release a new statement on Friday, focused on vaccine equity, its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said during a news conference on Thursday.
While Tedros’s statement will focus on vulnerable groups and small island states with less bargaining power than larger countries, inequity has already been a factor in the United States.
Researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analyzed state-level data for the 34 states that collect demographic information on covid-19 vaccines, as of Feb. 16.
In most of those states, black and Hispanic people have received a lower proportion of vaccinations compared to their proportion of cases, deaths and percentage of the population, the researchers noted. The opposite is true for white people in most states.
In Texas, for example, Hispanics account for 42% of coronavirus cases, 47% of COVID-19 deaths, and 40% of the state’s population, but have only received 20% of vaccinations.
Among the 27 states that report ethnicity data for those who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, whites have been vaccinated at a rate three times higher than Hispanics and twice as high as blacks.
The KFF team noted that some states do not record the race or ethnicity of those vaccinated.
Researchers found a higher rate of infection in pregnant women
Researchers in a study, published Tuesday, suggested that pregnant women should be prioritized for vaccination after discovering that the rate of covid-19 infection among pregnant women in Washington state was 70% higher than in adults of similar age in the state.
The infection rate in pregnant women in the study was 13.9 out of 1,000 deliveries, compared with an overall rate of 7.3 out of 1,000 for people ages 20 to 39 in the state.
The higher infection rates “may be due to the overrepresentation of women in many professions and industries deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the health, education and service sectors,” said lead author Dr. Erica Lokken , it’s a statement.
“Pregnant women are excluded from prioritization in about half of the states in the United States. Many states aren’t even linking their COVID-19 vaccine assignment plans to the listed high-risk medical conditions [por los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades], which include pregnancy, “said Waldorf.
A first dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech test vaccine for pregnant women was given to participants in their first global trial of its kind on Thursday. The doses were administered to American participants, although the trial will be conducted in nine countries: the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mozambique, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Spain.
The company said the trial is designed to evaluate the vaccine in pregnant women, but also their babies, who will be monitored for safety and for the transfer of potentially protective antibodies until they are about 6 months old.
Pfizer / BioNTech also expect to expand the trials to children ages 5 to 11 in the coming months, according to a company news release.
– CNN’s Christina Maxouris, Michael Nedelman, Deidre McPhillips, Andrea Diaz, Keith Allen, Mirna Alsharif, Naomi Thomas, and Amanda Sealy contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism