After weeks of progress in the fight against COVID-19, a drop in new cases of the disease in the U.S. has stalled. At the same time, states are rushing to lift restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the disease. viruses, setting the stage for what could prove to be a grim fourth wave of cases and deaths.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, overturned his statewide order for masks on Wednesday and lifted all COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, stating, “Now is the time to open Texas 100 percent.”
While Texas, like most US states, had seen the number of new COVID cases drop dramatically from the highs reached in early January, in the last week it has gone in the opposite direction, with new cases. increasing again by 27 percent.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, also a Republican, issued a similar order Wednesday.
“The governor’s office is getting out of the business of telling people what they can and can’t do,” Reeves said at a news conference in which he repealed the state mask order and removed all COVID restrictions on businesses. .
As in Texas, that move came after weeks of declines in new cases, with the exception of the one in which restrictions were removed, when Mississippi reported a 62 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases. .
Public health officials have been warning of a possible fourth wave of the pandemic if the nation lets down its guard, especially as the seven-day average of new cases stands at roughly 65,000 in the US.
“I don’t know why they are doing it, but from a public health standpoint it is inadvisable,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during an interview with CNN Wednesday night. “If you look, right now, the curves of decreasing infections that are going down, it has reached the point where the last seven days have stagnated. We have been in this scene before, months and months ago when we tried to open the country and open the economy, when certain states did not comply with the guidelines, we had rebounds that were very problematic. “
Hours earlier, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, acknowledged that a year of restrictions was helping to drive a worrying change in behavior.
“The resistance has run out,” Walensky said during a news conference Wednesday morning. “Fatigue is winning, and the exact steps we have taken to stop the pandemic are now flagrantly ignored too often.”
While both Abbott and Reeves have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as of Tuesday, less than 7 percent of eligible Texans and just over 5 percent of adults in Mississippi had done so. In Mississippi, 70 percent of white residents had received at least one injection, while only 24 percent of black residents had, according to data provided by the state.
Lifting mask mandates and other restrictions with so few vaccinated people and in states where cases are on the rise is a risky proposition.
“What we don’t need now is another raise,” Fauci said, adding: “It’s just inexplicable why I would want to go back now.”
While the Biden administration has been able to increase the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the question is whether enough people will be inoculated quickly enough to minimize the risk of virus mutations.
More communicable variants dating back to the UK, South Africa and Brazil are already circulating in the US, although existing vaccines have been found to be effective, albeit to a lesser degree, against them. But every day that the virus continues to circulate, the probability that a new variant will emerge, whose biological purpose is to reproduce, that can evade the antibodies produced by past exposure to older strains of COVID-19 or our existing vaccines.
A new strain of the disease, known as B.1.526, was recently detected in New York a year after COVID-19 practically brought the city to a halt.
“I am concerned about his immune leakage,” Dr. Eric Topol told Yahoo News reporter Alex Nazaryan on Thursday.
While research continues on the new variant, it is likely not the last as long as the virus continues to circulate.
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