(CNN) — There are good reasons to be optimistic about where the United States could be by the summer as vaccination against Covid-19 accelerates.
But right now, several threats are looming. And the country is at a crossroads.
“On the one hand, we are releasing vaccines at a record rate, but on the other we have these variants. We also know that there have been sudden increases after spring break and before the break. So what happens now is really up to us, “emergency doctor Leana Wen told CNN on Sunday.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more than 4,800 cases of coronavirus variants first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil have been reported in the U.S. It is likely that the actual number of cases is higher; this number only represents cases that have been detected with the help of genomic sequencing, the agency said.
“The best way to avoid any threat of variance is to do two things,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Sunday. “Get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible and continue with public health measures until we achieve this broad umbrella of protection over society that the level of infection is very low.”
That means the US should not ease restrictions before the number of daily COVID-19 cases falls below 10,000 and “maybe even considerably less than that,” Fauci has previously said.
But a growing list of governors recently announced a reduction in restrictions. And infection levels in the US are anything but low as the variants circulate. An average of more than 53,000 covid-19 cases and more than 1,350 deaths were reported daily during the last week.
The decline in cases that officials reported earlier this year appears to have leveled off, which worries experts.
“Based on our previous experience in this country and in other countries, when you see a plateau, it predicts another rise,” Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist, told CNN on Sunday. “And we have these newer variants that are also potentially driving a more severe increase.”
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Meanwhile, travel reaches pandemic records
Spring break, which has started across the country, could be a perfect storm to spread variants.
Already, crowds of vacationers have begun to fill Florida’s beaches, and they could unknowingly bring the virus back when they return home, an expert previously warned.
In Miami Beach, Mayor Dan Gelber said over the weekend that local officials are seeing “too much activity on spring break.”
“We have a problem with too many people coming here,” said the mayor. “We have a problem with too many people coming here to get out of control.”
Meanwhile, air travel across the country is hitting pandemic records.
More than 1.3 million people were screened at airports on Friday, the highest number since March 15, 2020, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
More than 1.2 million people were screened Saturday, according to TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. That’s about twice the number of people who were screened on Feb.9, Farbstein said in a Tweet.
“It was the eighth day of this month that the yield exceeded (one million). If you plan to travel, wear a mask, ”added Farbstein.
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Good news for vaccines
While many Americans are pushing for a return to normalcy with warmer weather on the horizon, US officials are trying to get as many vaccines as possible as quickly as possible.
So far, more than 69.7 million people have received at least one dose of the covid-19 vaccine. More than 37.4 million are fully vaccinated, approximately 11.3% of the US population.
On Sunday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and current Pfizer board member, offered more encouraging news.
“All the evidence from all vaccines now points in the direction that these vaccines reduce asymptomatic infection and reduce transmission,” he told CBS.
“If that’s the case, the vaccine creates what we call ‘dead-end hosts’ – many dead-end hosts – which means that people will no longer be able to transmit the infection,” Gottlieb added.
Last week, the CDC released its first set of guidelines for fully vaccinated people, a guide that the agency and other officials have said will evolve as more Americans are vaccinated and more data becomes available.
“What we have seen was the first installment of what you can do if you are vaccinated … what you can do at home, together with vaccinated people or vaccinated people with an unvaccinated person,” Fauci told CNN on Sunday.
“Very soon you will see similar types of guidelines for the American people, with respect to travel, the workplace, all kinds of different things,” he added. “Such patterns will appear imminently.”
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Political Division on Vaccines
Health experts have estimated that between 70% and 85% of the US population must be vaccinated for the country to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19. But significant challenges remain, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week, including “limited supply of vaccines, constant vacillation about vaccination, and growing myths and misinformation related to covid-19 vaccines.”
A CNN poll conducted by SSRS, released Thursday, shows that while 92% of Democrats say they have received a dose of the vaccine or plan to receive one, that drops to 50% among Republicans.
It’s a finding Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson called “troubling.”
In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp said at a press conference late last week that the state is seeing doubts about vaccines from white Republicans in several communities.
Another poll, conducted by NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist, found that nearly half (47%) of the people who supported President Donald Trump in the 2020 election said they would not receive a covid-19 vaccine if it were available to them. , while only about 10% of the people who supported President Joe Biden said they would not get a vaccine.
Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday” that he thought that if Trump told Republicans to get vaccinated “it would make all the difference in the world.”
“He is a very popular person among Republicans. If he came out and said, ‘Go and get vaccinated, it’s really important for your health, the health of your family and the health of the country,’ it seems absolutely inevitable that the vast majority of people who are his closest followers would listen to him, “he said. Fauci.
CNN’s Michael Nedelman, Anjali Huynh, Hollie Silverman and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism