(CNN) — More than 38 million Americans have received at least their first dose of a covid-19 vaccine so far, but it is not the vaccines that have lowered the numbers of covid-19 in the United States, an expert told CNN.
“It’s what we’re doing right: keeping separate, wearing masks, not traveling, not mingling with others indoors,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday. .
Covid-19 infection and hospitalization numbers are now plummeting across the country after waves of devastating increases that followed the holidays. But that does not mean that the US is safe.
Tens of thousands of new cases continue to be reported daily. More than 67,000 people remain hospitalized with the virus across the country, according to COVID Tracking Project. This month alone, the US has reported more than 42,500 deaths related to the virus. And now worrying variants are circulating that threaten another increase.
“We have had three waves,” Frieden added. “Whether or not we have a fourth increase is up to us, and the stakes could not be higher – not only because of the number of people who could die in the fourth wave, but also because of the risk that even more dangerous variants will emerge if there is more uncontrolled spread. ‘
That’s why it’s especially important that state leaders don’t loosen restrictions or remove mask mandates now, experts warned.
“It’s encouraging to see these trends go down, but they’re coming from an extraordinarily high place,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told NBC on Sunday. “If we want our children to go back to school, and I think we all want that, it all depends on outreach in the community.”
“We must all take responsibility to reduce the spread in the community, including the use of masks, so that we can recover our children and our society,” added the director.
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Homegrown Covid-19 Variants Detected in the US
Among the most worrisome covid-19 strains detected in the US is the highly contagious variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the UK. More than 1,100 cases of the variant have been reported in 39 states, with about a third of the cases reported in Florida, according to CDC data.
The US has also reported at least 17 cases of one strain that was initially seen in South Africa and at least two cases of another strain related to Brazil.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, researchers announced that they have identified a batch of similar worrisome mutations in US COVID-19 samples that also appear to make the virus more transmissible.
All of those mutations affect the same stretch of spike protein, the button-like extension on the outside of the virus that it uses to attach itself to the cells it infects, the researchers wrote in a study. report pre-print that has not yet been peer reviewed.
But these mutations appear to be “relatively rare” so far, one of the researchers said.
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States still struggle with vaccine supply
Public health experts say the US is now in a race against time to vaccinate as many Americans as possible before the variants continue to spread and mutate even further.
But as states increase their vaccines, challenges remain, including a lack of supply.
In San Francisco, officials announced that a high-volume vaccination site will be halted for a week and will reopen “once supply is sufficient to resume operations.” A second high-volume site expects to resume vaccinations on Friday, but only for second doses. A third high-volume vaccination site will launch this week, officials said, but “with appointments available well below full capacity.”
“The supply of vaccines to San Francisco healthcare providers and the Department of Public Health (DPH) is limited, inconsistent and unpredictable, making it difficult to deploy the vaccine and denying San Francisco residents this intervention it could save lives, “authorities said in a statement Sunday.
“The City has the capacity to administer more than 10,000 vaccines per day but lacks the vaccine supply,” they added.
Supply shortages have also hampered operations in other parts of the state, even as officials recently announced that they will add millions more to the state’s priority vaccination list. Several of Los Angeles’ covid-19 vaccination sites were forced to temporarily shut down due to missing doses.
In Washington state, officials they said that appointments for the first dose will be “extremely limited” this week as the state will focus on administering the second doses.
“We are closely monitoring dose distribution and making necessary adjustments,” Health Secretary Umair A. Shah said in a statement. “While the limited availability of the first doses will be a challenge next week, focusing on the second doses will help pave the way for improved and more sustainable vaccine allocation in the coming weeks.”
The two states are far from alone in their struggles. Officials have said that supply will likely remain a challenge for a while, and experts say the vaccines are likely not widely available to the American public until late spring or summer.
Walensky, the CDC director, told Fox News Sunday that she anticipates that “by the end of the summer, we will have enough vaccine to vaccinate the entire eligible American population.”
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Expert: Teacher vaccination is ‘essential’ for school reopening
Meanwhile, one of the central questions about vaccination right now is when will educators across the country be able to get their shots.
Emergency doctor Dr. Leana Wen told CNN Sunday that teacher vaccinations are crucial when it comes to reopening the school, which differs in her opinion from the school’s reopening guide released last week by the CDC.
The agency’s guidelines did not list vaccination as a “key” strategy for opening schools, but instead focused on measures such as masks and physical distancing, among others. Vaccinations for staff and teachers are “an extra layer of protection,” Walensky said previously.
On Sunday, Walensky told CNN that while vaccination for teachers is not a prerequisite for reopening schools, current CDC guidance specifies that those most at risk should have virtual options.
“I am a strong advocate for teachers to receive their vaccinations, but we do not believe it is a prerequisite for schools to reopen,” she said.
But Wen called the teachers’ shots “essential.”
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“If we want students to be in school for face-to-face classes, the least we can do is protect the health and well-being of our teachers, especially since in many parts of the country teachers are already being brought back to school in narrow and poorly ventilated areas, with many students not always wearing a mask or practicing physical distancing, ”Wen said.
CNN’s Keith Allen, Ben Tinker, Michael Nedelman, Maggie Fox and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism