America’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has warned that it is too early to end Covid-19 restrictions, even though Texas and Mississippi have lifted mask mandates and limits. of trading capacity this week.
States are easing restrictions after a drop in cases, though that decline is beginning to stabilize at a high rate of 60,000 to 70,000 infections per day.
“We’re going in the right direction, but we just have to wait a little longer,” Fauci told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.
Public health experts have warned that the United States could undermine vaccine-related progress and allow thousands of preventable deaths by lifting restrictions at the first sign of improvement. More than 524,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US, and January was the deadliest month of the pandemic so far.
Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said turning the restrictions on and off risks another increase.
“This is not going to be indefinite. We need to gradually back off as we vaccinate people, ”he said.
Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist who advised Biden’s transition team, warned that the United States was still “in the eye of the hurricane.”
Osterholm told NBC’s Meet the Press that the situation appeared to be improving, but said he was concerned that the B117 variant, which is 50% more infectious than other variants in the US, could create a new surge.
“We have to keep America as safe as possible from this virus by not compromising on any of the public health measures we’ve taken and we need to vaccinate people as quickly as possible,” said Osterholm, director of the Center for Research and University of Minnesota Infectious Disease Policy.
On CNN’s State of the Union, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said he had lifted restrictions in his state due to declining rates of hospitalizations.
“Our goal in Mississippi has never been to get rid of the virus … our goal is to make sure we protect the integrity of our healthcare system,” said the Republican.
Mississippi has seen an average of 461 cases per day, 17% less than the average two weeks ago, according to the New York Times. There were 1,240 deaths from Covid-19 in the state in January, the highest of any month since the pandemic began. Approximately 16% of residents have received a first dose of vaccine.
“The figures in Mississippi do not justify government intervention,” said Reeves, who encouraged residents to continue wearing masks in crowded settings.
Other governors have held their state’s mask mandates and said they will remain in place until there is a substantial improvement in infection rates.
Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, told ABC’s This Week that his state’s mask order was followed by a “significant drop in cases.”
“We’ve seen it throughout the last year – these skins really work,” DeWine said.
He said his state would withdraw health orders once it had 50 or fewer cases per 100,000 people for two weeks. Although rates were still high in Ohio, he said, vaccine distribution in the state was improving every day.
“But while we do that, we cannot give up the defense,” DeWine said.
The dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Ashish Jha, said decisions like those by Reeves and Texas Governor Greg Abbott to lift restrictions could delay the normalization process of life and put the residents at risk of infection and death.
“Given how close we are to the finish line, anyone who gets infected today and dies in three or four weeks is someone who would have been vaccinated within a month,” Jha told ABC. “That is why it is urgent to move on a little more.”