American vaccines are accelerating. But experts say you should keep wearing a mask

As the US steps up its mass vaccination campaign, public health experts are warning against complacency and a possible new surge in cases.

On Sunday, Dr. Michael Osterholm, who heads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, compared the current situation of Covid-19 in the United States to “the eye of the hurricane” in an interview with presenter Chuck Todd on Meet the press. Of particular concern, Osterholm said, are the coronavirus variants that have the highest transmission rates and are believed to be the most deadly.

“It seems things are going very well,” Osterholm said. “You can see blue skies. We have been through a terrible, terrible year. But what we know is about to befall us is the situation with this variant B.1.1.7 … we have to keep the United States as safe as possible from this virus by not giving in to any of the public health measures we take . I have taken “.

One such public health measure has been increasingly successful in recent times: White House Covid-19 Czar Jeff Zients He said Meet the press On Sunday a record 2.9 million Covid-19 vaccines were administered on Saturday, setting a new record for the third day in a row.

On average, Zients said, the United States is administering about 2.2 million injections per day, an increase of 1.3 million doses per day compared to levels in mid-January.

Y according to Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser on the White House Covid-19 response, the majority (59 percent) of adults 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, as have about 23 percent of all American adults.

Surveys suggest that vaccine hesitancy is declining in the US as well, even as vaccine supply increases. According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center on Friday, a combined 69 percent of the US population has already been vaccinated or plan to receive a vaccine when one becomes available.

That’s a significant step from November, when only 60 percent of American adults said they would definitely or likely receive the vaccine when it became available, according to Pew, and even more from the lowest point of confidence in US vaccines. In September, when only 51 percent planned to get vaccinated. Public health experts believe that 70 to 80 percent of Americans will need to be vaccinated for the US to have herd immunity.

Vaccine hesitancy fell even more dramatically among African-Americans in Pew’s most recent survey: 61 percent now say they have already been vaccinated or plan to get vaccinated, compared with 42 percent in November.

Those stats are just the latest good news about vaccines in the U.S., following the Food and Drug Administration clearance of a third vaccine for emergency use late last month, and President Joe’s announcement Tuesday. Biden that the US was “on track to have a sufficient vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May.”

On Saturday, Biden presented a even more ambitious goal, suggesting that the United States may have enough vaccines by mid-May.

Biden also announced a new partnership between pharmaceutical giants Merck and Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday. The two companies are poised to work together to increase production of the recently approved Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine, which clinical trials have shown to be highly effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalizations from Covid-19.

And billions of federal dollars for vaccine distribution are almost on the way after the Senate approved a $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package on Saturday along strict partisan lines. The bill will return to the House this week for a final vote, and is expected to land on Biden’s desk for his signature shortly thereafter.

Combined, the vaccine news points to a much more optimistic trajectory for the country heading into spring and summer, as noted by Dr. Anthony Fauci in Face the nation Sunday.

“We need to gradually retreat [on restrictions] as we vaccinate more people, ”she told host Margaret Brennan. “And that’s happening every day, more and more people, and particularly as we get more doses, which will increase dramatically as we get to April and May.”

Don’t relax just yet, public health experts say

Despite a wave of good news in recent weeks, Fauci also warned against revoking the restrictions too quickly, noting in his Face the nation It appeared on Sunday that although Covid-19 cases in the US have fallen dramatically in recent weeks, the decline is “beginning to stabilize.”

“The plateau at a level of 60,000 to 70,000 new cases per day is not an acceptable level,” Fauci said. “And if you look at what happened in Europe a few weeks ago, they are usually a couple of weeks ahead of us in these patterns, they were also going down and then they stalled. And over the last week or so, they’ve had about a 9 percent increase in cases. “

However, not all US states have taken Fauci’s warnings seriously: Despite concerns about a variant-driven surge in the US, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves moved to lift mask mandates and loosen other public health restrictions in his states last week, alarming public health officials.

“When you look at the numbers in Mississippi”, Reeves He said CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, “Doesn’t justify government intervention. … Our number one tool against the virus is getting down to business. “

However, according to the Washington Post, Mississippi lags the rest of the nation in per capita vaccine distribution as of Thursday, as is Texas. And while vaccines are an important mitigation tool, Osterholm advocated keeping other techniques to stop infections as well, saying Meet the press, “You wouldn’t see me tonight in a crowded restaurant somewhere, even with my shot.”

Noting that the public health guide continues to recommend masks and social distancing, some of the Republican governors of Abbott and Reeves, such as West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, have expressed confusion with the decision by Texas and Mississippi to relax restrictions. early.

“For crying out loud,” Justice said. Face the nation Sunday, “If we could be a little more cautious for 30 more days, or 45 more days, or whatever it takes to get to rock solid ground, that’s the approach West Virginia will take.”

Not only is justice’s stance backed by public health experts, but polls also suggest it is popular: According to a new ABC and Ipsos poll, the majority of Americans, about 56 percent, believe the mandates of masks are loosening up too fast.

Zients reiterated that position to Todd on Sunday.

“We need to make sure we don’t let our guard down,” Zients said. “We need to stay on this path and beat this pandemic.”

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