Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Drs. “The virus will continue to develop and mutate,” Anthony Fauci said during a conversation with reporters on Friday.
Federal and state governments are trying to get the population vaccinated, but even the most optimistic forecast suggests many, if not most, Americans will have to wait until summer to get vaccinated.
Is there any way to prevent the worst? Can the use of better masks help to overcome more rigorous social testing?
President Joe Biden’s first first executive order was a federal facade order – something affecting federal offices and contractors, because he could not tell the states what to do. The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention is considering whether recommending double masking may help. Many experts recommend that Americans begin wearing N95 masks – hospital-quality facial coverings that are still in such short supply.
There is an uproar for more testing. The new administration has issued strict testing requirements for international travel and is debating whether testing is required for domestic travel.
The new CDC director, Drs. Rochelle Wallensky says the introduction of new variants means that Americans should have twice the impact of what they are already being told – but millions of Americans are still not doing.
Valensky told a White House this week, “The emergence of variants underscores the need for public health action. First, get vaccinated when it is your turn.”
“Second, wear a mask. Practice social disturbances and wash your hands. And finally, now is not the time to travel. But, if you must be safe, follow the CDC guidance.”
But public health experts are pessimistic that Americans are going to change their ways, one year into an epidemic. Americans who are already going to wear masks are doing so. Those who are ready to live in the house or can, are already doing it. Lockdowns have become unpopular and local authorities are not ready to implement them, anyway.
IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said, “We are not seeing governments taking precautionary measures as quickly as possible and have incorporated that information into modeling.” “Without measures to control the spread of the disease, mobility remains high and transmission is high.”
If Americans wore only masks and lived more at home, the deaths would have been less. If IHME said that most people followed social disturbances and masking guidelines, 30,000 fewer people would die by May 1.
Risk communication expert Peter Sandman says there is an argument for this.
“It may be easier to sell new precautions than the old one. And that is why double masks have been getting so much attention in recent times,” Sandman said.
But Murray does not think people will go for it. Nor is Michael Osterholm the director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
“We’ve got a Category 10 storm. People don’t understand us,” Osterholm told CNN.
Osterholm suspects that better masks, or more masks, or double masks, will help.
“People believe that is better,” he said. But most people do not already wear masks correctly, leave their nose open, or allow air in and out at the sides.
“It’s the first thing. Wear them properly. But people think, ‘If I just put more now I’m suddenly more protected.’ And it’s not just the case. “
The extra layers can trap more particles, but they also make the mask uncomfortable, he pointed out. “But if you apply a second mask, it’s hard to suck air now. At that point, it leaks from the sides,” he said.
The theory is that better masks can slow down the epidemic, but it doesn’t work in real life, Osterholm said.
“If we had one N95 for everyone, if everyone actually uses one N95 effectively, we could actually make quite an impact in four weeks. But I’m dreaming.”
Now anti-maskers have a hard core. “There is a group of 25 or 30% or more who see wearing a mask as shameful and they won’t. These are the same people who if you sent two N95s to their homes, they wouldn’t use them Are going They said.
The same goes for increased testing.
“A lot of people who say that if we just tested everyone and tested the house, we could really cut down on the way the transmission works – my answer is that most home testing is … do you think That people who are going out of bars and people who are exposing themselves in large groups are going to take a test? ”Osterholm asked.
“Those who don’t leave their homes – they will. They will test themselves every day when they don’t need to.”
As for the lockdown, they are not only unpopular – they don’t work, said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“There is a danger when doing this,” Adalja told CNN.
“You say, ‘No, you can’t eat food in a restaurant, so instead’ let’s all go to Jimmy’s house and eat pizza and sit around and watch a football game together. Then they all Shout and shout and shout together, which, he said, is probably not going to happen in a restaurant where you all are, where you are getting people.
“If you tell people that they never let anyone come to your house, they are not going to follow it.”
A lot of proliferation, research indicates, is happening at celebrations such as weddings, holiday celebrations, high school sports and other community events.
It is from here that Adalja feels that better and consistent messaging can help.
“It’s too much, can you open the windows, can you make it out, make sure no one you invite is waiting for a test result that’s part of the contact trace check “This kind of approach is better than never mixing. With someone outside your home. They just aren’t going to do it,” he said.
The longer the epidemic lasts, the more careless people are likely to get. At-risk communication expert Sandman said that fear of new variants could lead people to freeze or respond more responsibly.
“Like the original arrival of the Kovid-19 virus in the US, it will be, once again, an exponential change,” he said. “And once again, the inability of the human psyche to truly understand what ‘exponential’ means will lead us to be unprepared – psychologically as well as practically.”
And all it takes is one slip, Osterholm said.
“Like pregnancy – people say ‘well, we took care most of the time.” With this one, failure is not an option. “
Sandman said that people are struggling with the idea of new variants given the new threat.
So is vaccination the best and only hope? Fauci thinks so. “The best way to prevent further development of the virus is to prevent it from replicating and you can vaccinate people as quickly as possible by doing so,” he said.
But, hope for vaccines, paradoxically, can easily encourage people on other measures. Just as they should double down.
“The same old precautions – masks, social disturbances, etc. – are becoming even more important,” Sandman said.
“Selling means trying to get people through how exponential growth works. Somehow, we need to be more vigilant, the way imminent vaccination allows us to be much less cautious instead Is tempting. ”