With variant B.1.1.7 spreading rapidly and the decision to loosen too soon, the US could repeat the European mistake of letting Covid-19 break out.
With each vaccinated citizen, the United States is closer to its goal of winning a pandemic that has killed more than half a million lives, leaving long-lasting consequences for many others. But this country faces more great challenges.
The states continued to lift restrictions, despite warnings from top health experts. On March 6, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the number of new infections had a very high trend after a sharp decline, many fast-spreading variants were also circulating. .
Some Americans are giving up personal responsibility to the community and stopping wearing masks, although variant B.1.1.7 has appeared in at least 46 states. “Variation is growing exponentially. So it’s very likely we’re on the verge of a new outbreak,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, an expert in infectious diseases and epidemiology.
Research shows that in the US, B.1.1.7 is 59% to 74% more contagious than before. The current vaccination rate is not fast enough to counteract that increase in the coming week.
“With an injection capacity of 2.9 to 3 million doses per day, in the next 14 weeks, when an outbreak hits, the vaccine won’t solve the problem,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota, said.
According to him, the US should learn from Europe, which has struggled with B.1.1.7 after it first appeared in the UK. Just a month ago, variant accounted for about 4% of positive cases in the US. “Today the number is up to 30-40%. According to what can be seen from Europe, if they reach 50%, the number of cases will increase again,” Mr. Osterholm said.
After several weeks of decline, the number of new Covid-19 patients increased again at a high level. On average, more than 60,000 Americans have been infected with nCoV every day for the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number is slightly lower than last summer’s peak.
Dr. Fauci said that the United States should not loosen the order until the daily number of new cases falls below 10,000.
“I know you want to get back to normal, but you’ll only cost yourself more if you ignore public health guidelines, especially when we are recording between 55,000 and 70,000 new infections each. When there are such viruses circulating in a peaceful area, it is almost certain that the number of positive cases is about to spike, “he said.
According to the New York Times database, the average number of new infections between March 1 and 6 was 61,000, the lowest since October, but close to the peak of last summer. The number of deaths has decreased, partly due to vaccinations in nursing homes, but the country regularly records 2,000 deaths a day.
Dr. Fauci warned the US is following Europe’s recent “broken car tracks”. “They used to have good results. Now, in the past week, the number of positives has risen by 9% – something we want to avoid,” he said.
He warns the virus will continue to transform as it multiplies. This process is prolonged if more immunocompromised people are infected. The maintenance of a mask, hand washing and social separation are essential.
However, some state leaders announced they were extending an order restricting Covid-19. Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced last week that he would deregulate the mask and extend restrictions on business from March 9. The Governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, made a similar decision. Mr. Fauci said the move was “incomprehensible”.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), works to persuade states to maintain restriction orders. The agency’s new report found that infections in counties that allowed restaurants to resume operations increased a few weeks later.
As of March 7, more than 58.8 million Americans had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine. Another 30.6 million people have received two full doses. Both groups make up about 9.2% of the population. According to experts, it is important to vaccinate as many people as possible, before the highly contagious variation permeates the country.
The good news is that all three approved vaccines are effective against B.1.1.7, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, head of the Department of National Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Research published March 4 shows that this variant evades the immune system, but not enough to reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. It also does not re-infect people who had previously contracted Covid-19. So by doubling the precautions and vaccinating as many people as possible, America could win B.1.1.7 and get back to normal life faster.
Thuc Linh (Follow CNN, NY Times)