US is in awkward position as Covid cases rise alongside vaccinations, experts warn

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US is in awkward position as Covid cases rise alongside vaccinations, experts warn


Party people flock to the beach to celebrate Spring Break, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Miami Beach, Florida, United States, March 6, 2021.
Marco Bello | Reuters
With the possibility of summer barbecues in just a few months, along with the promise of a widespread supply of Covid-19 vaccines to the United States by the end of May, many Americans may feel that the country has finally turned the corner from the pandemic.
But for leading infectious disease experts, the country is not there yet.

“When I am often asked: ‘Are we turning the corner? “My response is more like,” We’re around the corner, “” White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Before the United States can reach its long-awaited destination – a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy – it must put more vaccines into the arms, infectious disease experts told CNBC. But as the United States continues to report new daily immunization records, the number of new cases is simultaneously increasing again.

The United States records a weekly average of 61,821 new cases of Covid-19 per day, a 12% increase from a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Daily cases now increase by at least 5% in 27 states and DC

Coronavirus hospitalizations are also starting to rebound. The United States on Thursday reported a seven-day average of 4,790 Covid-19 hospital admissions, a 2.6% increase from the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are in a delicate and tenuous period of transition,” Dr. William Schaffner, epidemiologist and professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, told CNBC. “We’re fine, but we’re not there yet. ”

Don’t “grope the ball”

The rise in infections coincides with an accelerated vaccination campaign that is starting to affect more people.
The United States now administers an average of 2.6 million vaccines per day and more than a third of American adults have received at least one dose, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly half of people aged 65 and over have completed all of their necessary shots, according to CDC data. However, only 19.4% of the adult population is considered fully vaccinated, which is necessary to achieve the high level of protection provided by vaccines currently being deployed by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

While most states have issued plans to open up vaccine eligibility to all adults before President Joe Biden’s May 1 deadline, only six have offered to offer the vaccines widely so far, data shows. recent tracks by the New York Times.

“We’re on the proverbial 10-yard line,” Schaffner said. “We’ll pass the ball and have a touchdown, but don’t feel the ball on the 10-yard line. ”

Some states are widely reopening their economies while abandoning masked mandates too soon, Schaffner added. The return of travelers during spring break taking advantage of cheap flights and hotels has further increased the risk of new infections.

“All of these things could conspire to create a new wave of cases before vaccinations really start to reduce transmission,” Schaffner said. “We have the danger – and I mean the danger – of having another outbreak in the next couple of months. ”

The variants are emerging

Another concern is the spread of highly infectious coronavirus variants, particularly the one first identified in the UK and dubbed B.1.1.7., Infectious disease experts told CNBC. The CDC is closely following another variant found in New York, called B.1.526, which is also considered to be more transmissible compared to previous strains, agency director Dr Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday.

A more transmissible virus could lead to more infections and inevitably hospitalizations and deaths even as the most vulnerable are vaccinated against the disease, experts warn, making the race to inoculate more people crucial.

“The variants really throw a key into the answer,” said Dr. Angela Hewlett, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, stressing that vaccines should still provide protection.

“We just need to vaccinate more of our population to really eradicate this thing,” Hewlett said.

The increase in travel could reinforce the spread of B.1.1.7, which is of particular concern in Florida, where out-of-state spring break visitors could bring the virus back to their local communities, Cindy Prins said. , epidemiologist at the University of Florida.

Florida has identified more than 1,000 cases of the coronavirus with the B.1.1.7 variant, most of all states to date, according to the most recent data from the CDC.

“There is no doubt that there are a lot of people who have come from out of state. This happens every year for spring break, ”said Prins. “And then the problem is knowing what is brought back to their own state. Will they bring back the variant? ”

– CNBC Hannah Miao contributed to this report.

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