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US could be on the cusp of Covid-19 infection surge officials have been dreading, expert warns

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“I think we will see an increase in the number of infections,” emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen said Wednesday night. “I think what does help on this occasion is that the most vulnerable (especially residents in nursing homes, the elderly) are vaccinated. Therefore, we can prevent an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.”

But governors cited fewer cases of Covid-19 and more vaccines as they lifted measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

All this, although they are cases of worrying variants, especially the highly contagious variant B.1.1.7climbing. Variants have the potential to eliminate all the progress the U.S. has made if Americans relax with security measures, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned recently. Variant B.1.1.7, he said this week, is expected to become the dominant variant in the US later this month or early April.
Despite warnings, crowds of spring breakers are gathering, Florida officials report too many people and not enough masks – and across the country, air travel numbers are reaching pandemic-era records.
Now, as a country centimeters closer to the 30 million infections reported, cases are up more than 10% in 14 states this week compared to last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, with half of those states rising more than 20%.

“We’re really in a race here,” Dr. Richard Besser, the former CDC acting director, told CNN on Wednesday. “We are in a race to vaccinate the population. At the same time, we are fighting the exhaustion of the people with the restrictions set by public health and we are fighting the passage of so many governors to remove the restrictions that are protecting us all. “.

“These factors are really worrying,” he added.

An usher holds a mandatory poster during the Big Ten college basketball game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Maryland Terrapins on March 11, 2021, in Indianapolis.

What is causing some local points?

Michigan cases are rising faster, with more than a 50% jump this week compared to the previous one, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Delaware, Montana, Alabama and West Virginia have also experienced large increases.

There is a long list of factors contributing to the rise in cases in Michigan, according to Dr. Jennifer Morse, the medical director of the Mid-Michigan District Department of Health.

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These include back restrictions, an outbreak in prison, Covid-19 fatigue, lack of masks, and the B.1.1.7 variant that fuels the increase, Morse told CNN. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer eased restrictions earlier this month, raising capacity limits in restaurants as well as retail stores, gyms and other facilities.

“My only hope is that we’ve been vaccinating very aggressively and we’ve been working pretty well on the different vaccination categories,” Morse told CNN. “And my hope is that this will help prevent (cases) from going up as blatantly as they did in the fall.”

In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday that Covid-19 hospitalizations “increased” slightly in the state, asking residents to continue their mitigation efforts “for a while longer.”

“We have 70 people in the ICU, that’s a little more,” Justice said.

Justice had moderated the restrictions earlier this month, increasing the capacity of bars, restaurants and other businesses to 100% and increasing the limit of social gatherings.

During Wednesday’s briefing, he added that the state has had “seven outbreaks in the community of our churches” in five counties.

Church meetings “can really cause a problem, because we sing … probably hugs,” the governor said. “If you decide to go to church, please keep this bench between you and wear the mask.”

More evidence will help stop it from spreading, CDC says

As the number of vaccinations grows, what could play a key role in helping control the pandemic will be to make coronavirus testing more accessible and cost-effective, health officials said at a hearing on Wednesday. Commerce and Energy of the House.

“You’ll see more soon,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Walensky, director of the CDC, added: “I think once we vaccinate teachers, we can do tests in schools (serial tests, cadence tests) to identify possible infections, asymptomatic infections, close clusters and keep our schools open. “.

The Education Secretary says the school in the fall will look more like it was before Covid.

His statements came on the same day that the CDC released updated guidelines on testing, saying more and better testing should help detect asymptomatic cases and control the spread.

The general guidelines, Walensky reported at a White House briefing, describe the tests available to detect the virus, how to choose one, the reasons for using them, and the impacts of vaccines on testing.

“It is important to note that so far the limited capacity of testing has resulted in our use of testing for diagnostic purposes to a large extent, when someone has symptoms or has been exposed,” Walensky said. “Only in a few selected sites have we taken advantage of how tests can be performed as a screening intervention with frequent testing to identify asymptomatic diseases and prevent clusters before they begin.”

Almost 1 in 8 Americans are completely vaccinated

Meanwhile, vaccinations have accelerated as officers compete to get as many gunshots in their arms as quickly as possible.

More than 73.6 million Americans have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine to CDC data. And more than 39.9 million people are completely vaccinated, about 12% of the American population.
But the challenges, including vaccination doubts, misinformation and inequality, remain, and it’s not entirely clear when The US will achieve herd immunity – the point at which there are enough people protected against the virus to suppress the spread.
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On Wednesday, Fauci and Walensky withdrew against questions about the herd’s immunity, saying much depended on how quickly Americans take the vaccines.

“We continue to push to vaccinate as many people as we can,” Fauci said. “And as we do this, you’ll see the type of infection, the dynamics of the outbreak, less and less, so whatever this time of year: mid-summer, late summer, early fall, I’ll be much, much better that now “.

For now, the United States still has a long way to go to overcome the hesitation, said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

Vaccination is the country’s best hope for going beyond the pandemic, ”he said,“ and yet there is all this overlap, and some of it is political and some of its theories of network conspiracy. social, and some are distrustful of everything the government had anything to do with. “

“We still have a long way to go to try to get over it,” he told CNN on Wednesday.

Achieving vaccine equity is important, CDC says

In addition, in the first two and a half months of vaccine distribution, counties considered to be highly socially vulnerable had lower vaccine coverage than counties considered to be low socially vulnerable, according to a study released Wednesday by the CDC.

The agency’s social vulnerability index identifies communities that may need additional support in emergencies based on more than a dozen indicators in four categories: socioeconomic status, household composition, housing status. racial / ethnic minority and type of housing.

On March 1, vaccination coverage was approximately 2 percentage points higher in counties with low social vulnerability than in counties with high social vulnerability, and the differences were largely driven by socioeconomic disparities, particularly differences in proportion of the population with a high school diploma. and per capita income.

Only five states — Arizona, Montana, Alaska, Minnesota, and West Virginia — had higher coverage in counties with high social vulnerability. And best practices in these states include prioritizing ethnic and racial minority groups in early vaccine coverage, active control of vaccination barriers, directing vaccines to vulnerable communities, offering free transportation to sites vaccination and collaboration with community partners, according to the study.

Achieving vaccine equity, the CDC said, is an important goal that requires “preferential access and administration to those who have been most affected” beyond proportional distribution based on population.

CNN’s Brandon Miller, Deidre McPhillips, Melissa Alonso, Naomi Thomas, Nick Neville, Maggie Fox, Adrienne Broaddus and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

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