Analysis: Vaccinations against Covid-19 are increasing. But familiar mistakes could lead to more misery

Why Young People Are Not Safe From Covid-19 - Dr Wen Explains

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“We are so close – so close – to getting back to the daily activities that we miss so much,” said Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a recent White House briefing on Covid-19 . “But we’re not quite there yet. ”

And again, it may be familiar mistakes that hinder the country’s progress: lifting critical measures too early, ignoring expert advice, and politicizing public health tools.

“At this point in the pandemic, we know what to do,” said Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and CNN medical analyst. “And by not doing it, and in some cases going against the guidelines, we are doomed to repeat what happened before. “

It could mean more unnecessary infections, hospitalizations and more American lives lost.

“Better times are ahead,” President Joe Biden said earlier this week. “We can have a safe and happy 4th of July with your family and friends, in small groups in your backyard. The real question is: how much death, disease and misery are we going to see by then? “

Lifting rescue measures too early

After a catastrophic winter flare, cases of the virus plummeted several weeks earlier this year. At the same time, vaccinations began to slowly increase.

Governors have pointed to the declining number of Covid-19s and new vaccines as a reason for increasing capacity limits and – in some cases – abandoning mask mandates. Leading health officials – including Walensky and Dr Anthony Fauci – have advised against it.

But in the past six weeks, more than a dozen state leaders have eased restrictions – even as the number of cases began to flatten to levels experts warned were uncomfortably high, before ‘they do start to rise again gradually.

Tracking cases of Covid-19 in the United States

Experts are worried about the rapid dropping of security measures as the virus is still rampant. They already worried – and they were right.

Go back to a year ago – when over 90% of Americans were stranded when the first wave of Covid-19 hit the country. Some of those measures only lasted a few weeks, even as the United States led the world with the most infections reported.

Former President Donald Trump, hoping to quickly reopen the economy, touted the progress of the Covid-19 epidemic, tweeting last April that the country was witnessing a “flattening of the curve.” In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the stay-at-home order about a month after it was passed, saying the state “was starting to see glimmers that the worst of Covid-19 may soon be behind us.” Other states, like Georgia, have reopened businesses with restrictions and pushed for a return to normalcy.

By Memorial Day, infections in parts of the country were skyrocketing again as some Americans flocked to parks, restaurants and beaches to celebrate the holidays. And then, a violent summer wave prompted states to take a break or cancel their reopening.

Why Young People Are Not Safe From Covid-19 - Dr Wen Explains

“The surge across the southern states this summer, which was due to the premature lifting of restrictions and masks,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “It looks like what we are seeing now. “

“Prematurely relaxing masks and social distancing restrictions, that seems to be a running theme with each of the peaks we’ve seen,” he added.

This week, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey became the latest head of state to announce that masks would no longer be mandated statewide, adding that residents were still “strongly encouraged” to wear them. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced on Wednesday he was easing remaining restrictions on Covid-19, saying the state was “Open for business. “

The reopenings across the United States concern epidemiologist Michael Osterholm. The variant has already taken its toll in Europe and experts say it is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness and potentially more fatal.

“I’m very concerned that as much as vaccines are a major new development, our openness to what we know is happening in Europe… it’s a really difficult proposition,” said Osterholm.

Against the advice of experts

Public mitigation measures are our best bet to beat a new wave as we increase our immunization numbers. With only about 25% of American adults fully vaccinated, experts say the United States is far from where it needs to be in controlling the spread of the virus.

But getting the country to heed expert advice was not an easy task before – and it is an even greater challenge in the face of fatigue from Covid-19, nearly 13 months after the start of the pandemic.

Fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk for themselves, according to new CDC guidelinesFully vaccinated people can travel at low risk for themselves, according to new CDC guidelines

“There are two reasons half a million Americans have lost their lives,” Hotez said. “One was due to the virus… the second was the challenge. The challenge of public health interventions. “

Mistrust of both political leaders and residents.

Remember the CDC’s warnings several months ago about the dangerous potential of Thanksgiving travel. Despite these warnings, the number of trips soared, as did infections, a few weeks later. This is not the only time that this has happened.

“Anytime you have an increase in travel – whether it’s July 4th, Thanksgiving, or the winter holidays – where people mix across households, it has … led to a surge,” epidemiologist Dr. Celine Gounder recently said on CNN.

The number of trips exploded again last month. Popular spring break destinations have seen crowds pack bars and restaurants while ditching masks and social distancing measures. And while it may seem safer to do so now, it isn’t. There is still a lot at stake.

You are vaccinated now, so can you eat out?  What you should knowYou are vaccinated now, so can you eat out?  What you should know

“You don’t want to be the person who dies three days before your due date for your Covid-19 injection,” Osterholm said.

A high number of infections could now mean A) more preventable illness and death and B) a higher likelihood of more worrying variants of the virus developing, Wen said.

“In a sense, we could also extend the pandemic here in the United States and around the world by not taking aggressive action now,” she added.

Vaccines could be a strong incentive for people to listen to advice, experts say, providing a clear end game.

“Giving people a clear timeline is important because we can’t just tell people to wait forever,” Wen said. “But if we say to people, ‘It’s only a matter of weeks before you’re fully immunized, please can you wait until then?’ I think a lot of people would be willing to do that. “

Politicize public health tools

But among the factors that are hurting the United States the most in its response to Covid-19, experts say, is the deep division that has helped politicize vital public health tools, like face masks.

Don't throw away your masks yetDon't throw away your masks yet

“A mask is nothing more than a life-saving medical device, and yet it has been categorized in all kinds of other ways that were neither factual nor scientific, and frankly dangerous,” said the Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, in an interview with “Axios on HBO” in February. “And I think you could argue that tens of thousands of people have died as a result. “

Trump, who has repeatedly downplayed the danger of the virus, ignored advice from the scientific community and refused to wear a mask during his campaign rallies. Some governors have refused to implement a statewide mask requirement. An Arizona city leader staged a protest in response to a local order for masks. Last month, residents of Idaho held “Burn the Mask” rallies, where they set face masks on fire in several barrels.

“There were people who weren’t wearing masks because of a political statement,” Fauci told CNN last week during the national mask debate. “It’s really, you know, inexplicable, because it’s not a political thing. It is a public health measure. “

And now parts of the country could make the same mistake with vaccinations. A CNN poll conducted by the SSRS released last month showed broad political divisions over vaccines: While 92% of Democrats said they had received a dose of the vaccine or were planning to get one, it is fell to 50% among Republicans.

“I’m really worried and I’m actually pretty sure we’re not going to achieve collective immunity because of this,” Wen said. “At least we’re not going to achieve collective immunity in 2021. I can’t see us getting to this point because of how vaccines have been so politicized. Experts, including Fauci, have estimated that between 70% and 85% of Americans would need immunity – either through a vaccine or cure after a Covid-19 infection – to control the disease. virus in the United States.

There is currently a lot of debate about vaccine passports.  What are they and how would they work?There is currently a lot of debate about vaccine passports.  What are they and how would they work?

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson recently told CNN that among Republicans, part of the vaccine reluctance is “natural resistance to the government and its skepticism toward it.”

“I expect that as a country we will achieve an immunization rate of 50% of the population. But we will have a harder time going from 50% to 70%. And it’s about overcoming skepticism, it’s about education, ”he said.

Asked if he thinks the politicization of vaccines could prevent the United States from achieving the immunization levels necessary to suppress the spread of the virus, Hotez said, “It will. Unless there is a change or a change, it will be. “

This is why, he added, active efforts must be made, including at the federal level, to reach these communities and fight against anti-science and disinformation campaigns and encourage vaccinations.

This is the only way to achieve the normalcy that we have all dreamed of so much.

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