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A concerning variant is about to become dominant in the US, experts say, and how Americans act could help fuel or curb a surge

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At least a dozen state leaders have softened Covid-19 restrictions this month, often citing improving Covid-19 trends and the growing number of vaccinations. At the same time, air travel reaches the era of the pandemic rchords and the first crowds of spring breakers have begun to descend toward Florida and other sunny regions as there are cases of a dangerous variant increases.

The Transportation Security Administration said it examined more than 1.3 million people at airports on Sunday, meaning some 5.2 million passengers have flown since Thursday. This is the highest number of people who have traveled by air during any other four-day pandemic period.

It is a combination of all those factors, officials fear, that could lay the groundwork for another rise.

“We’ve seen pictures of people enjoying spring break parties, without masks,” the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Monday. “All this in the context of 50,000 cases a day.”

So is another climb inevitable?

“We could go in any direction,” Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician, told CNN on Monday. “What happens now is up to us and whether we continue to mask and avoid meetings inside as we should be to the point that we are vaccinated.”

In this March 9, 2021 file photo, travelers stroll through Salt Lake City International Airport

It will soon be dominating a dangerous variant

Security measures will be especially crucial now that multiple variants of the virus are circulating, including the highly contagious variant B.1.1.7 that was first identified in the UK.

Los Angeles County business owners are happy to welcome customers as the restrictions ease.

It is expected to become the dominant variant in the United States later this month or early April, Walensky said Monday.

To date, cases of variant B.1.1.7 have been found in 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, according to CDC data.

“The way the variants are spreading is dropping the guard,” Dr. Monday said. Richard Besser, former CDC acting director at CNN. “By not wearing masks, by not distancing oneself socially. If we can stay there for a few more months, there will be enough vaccine to vaccinate all the adults in America.”

“Then we can set aside some of the current restrictions. But if we do it too quickly, we could see an increase in cases, we could see a setback that is happening in many European countries and that does not have to be the result here in America, “he added.

Research published last week suggested this the variant was associated with an estimated 64% higher risk of dying of Covid-19.
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And another peer-reviewed study has linked the variant to a higher risk of death, according to a document accepted by the Nature magazine. This time, the risk of death from the variant was estimated to be about 55% higher than the previous strains after being adjusted for various factors such as age, sex and where and when the tests were performed. .

A subsequent analysis of the study that reported missing and potentially misclassified test results found that the increased overall risk of death may be slightly higher, about 61% more than previous strains.

The study was unable to account for vaccination nor could it demonstrate why the variant could be more lethal than previous strains.

Daily vaccination figures reach record levels

But there is good news: vaccinations are on the rise and experts expect Americans to see an appearance of normalcy over the summer.

Data updated by the CDC on Monday show that the country reached a seven-day average of about 2.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine administered per day, a new record.

This comes as more states they extended the eligibility requirements for vaccinations.
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In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves announced Monday that the state will open appointments to all residents over the age of 16 starting Tuesday.

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is the only one available for people 16 years of age or older, while Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are restricted to people over 18 years of age.

“Starting tomorrow, ALL new appointments will be open to ALL Mississipians. Get your friends shot and we’ll be back to normal.” wrote on Twitter.
In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice expanded the list of pre-existing medical conditions that make residents eligible for a vaccine.

“We are on a fast slope to be able to get our lives back to normal, and that is what we want more than anything,” Justice said.

To date, more than 71 million Americans have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. More than 38 million have been completely vaccinated, approximately 11.5% of the American population.

Most Americans receive their second dose on time

In addition, most people who have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine receive their second dose on time, according to early CDC data.

But CDC researchers warned that the initial groups prioritized to receive the vaccine (health care workers and residents of long-term care centers) have had easy access to a second dose through their workplace or residence.

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“As priority groups expand, adherence to the recommended dosing range may decrease,” they wrote in the report released Monday.

For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it is recommended to administer two doses 21 and 28 days later, respectively, but the researchers noted in their report that, if necessary, up to 42 days between doses are allowed.

The report includes data from more than 37 million people who received at least the first shot between Dec. 14 and Feb. 14.

Among those who had received both doses, the researchers found that 95.6% received their second dose within the recommended time interval.

They noted that intense weather events caused distribution challenges and canceled appointments during study time and that further research will be needed to examine the completion of the second doses over a longer period of time.

“Continuous monitoring of batch completion status across jurisdictions and by demographic characteristics is important to ensure equity in vaccine administration and vaccine coverage, especially as vaccination efforts they extend to additional population groups, ”they wrote.

Michael Nedelman, LaCrisha McAllister, Gregory Lemos, Deidre McPhillips, Pete Muntean and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.

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