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American coronavirus: 500 days since first known American death from Covid-19, vaccine variants and hesitation threaten to prolong pandemic

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New York and California, which were home to some of the nation’s deadliest virus hotspots last year, fully reopen in time for summer as Sunday marks the 500th day since the first known death from Covid-19 in the states -United.

Since then, at least 601,740 Americans have died from Covid-19, according to the most recent data from Johns Hopkins University. The past few months have seen fewer cases, hospitalizations and deaths overall – advances that health experts attribute to vaccines. -Moving average of 13,997 new cases per day this week from the peak of 251,834 cases on Jan.10, to deliver an average of more than 3 million doses of vaccine per day in April, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

But there is still a long way to go, warned CNN medical analyst Dr Leana Wen on Saturday evening.

“We certainly have to recognize that we have come a long way and come out of the worst. We are not going to see the massive surges that we saw during the holidays,” said Wen, who is the former commissioner of the Baltimore Health.

“The problem, though, is that we should really be looking at the numbers for each community instead of looking at the United States as a whole, because while the United States as a whole is doing so much better, and there are Pockets across the country that have very high immunization rates, we also have pockets across the country that are currently experiencing massive outbreaks where their hospitals are filling up again, ”Wen said.

While health experts agree that full vaccination offers protection against some variants of Covid-19, Wen added that it is not known if a vaccine-resistant variant will emerge.

“We just don’t know. If this is something we learned during Covid-19, it’s how humble we have to be in the face of this virus,” she said.

She noted that it is “certain” that new variants will develop, which could make the vaccines slightly ineffective, but not entirely.

“This is another reason why those who are not vaccinated should be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Wen said.

Vaccination delays continue in some states

As of Saturday, 44.9% of the total U.S. population was fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 53.2% had received at least one dose.

Fourteen states have fully vaccinated more than half of their population, according to CDC data, and 16 states have met President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4.

Nationally, 65.3% of adults have received at least one dose, with the current vaccination rate being 1.3 million doses per day, CDC data showed on Saturday.

Mississippi, one of the southern states with some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, has fully immunized 30% of its total population while 33% have received at least one dose, according to health data from the Status released Friday.

Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba told CNN on Saturday that the state is so far behind on vaccinations in part because of “a dynamic of so many people who do not have health care doctors day-to-day primary care, and this is another example of how this pandemic is highlighting disparities in health care. ”

In Hinds County, where Jackson is located, 40% of the total population is at least partially vaccinated while 36% is fully vaccinated, according to state data.

“If we see people who don’t have primary care doctors and we ask them to get vaccinated, we ask them to deviate from the norms they have in every other way of their life,” he said. added Lumumba. “People who haven’t been to the doctor for many years, and in some cases never, and now we’re trying to encourage them to… go for the arm shot.”

Lumumba noted that one way to encourage immunization is to “meet people where they are,” whether in barber shops or in churches. He noted that accessibility to vaccines and the historical mistrust within black and brown communities contribute to the low vaccination rate in his town, which has a population of around 85% black.

Variants on the rise

Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Wyoming join Mississippi to be among the states with the lowest vaccination rates. This is a problem because experts have warned that the emerging variants could cause serious illness for the unvaccinated.

The CDC has predicted that the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, could become the dominant strain in the United States.

The Delta variant, as well as the Gamma or P.1 variant, were considered variants of concern by the CDC, meaning that their danger comes from their ability to be transmitted more easily or to cause more serious illness.

The Gamma variant, first identified in Brazil, has been detected in all US states where the CDC has information on the variants.

Vaccination has proven to be the best way for the United States to get ahead of the variants. A recent study from Public Health England found that two doses of a coronavirus vaccine is “very effective against hospitalization” caused by the Delta variant. The study found that the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine was 96% effective against hospitalization after two doses.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy previously told CNN that there was not enough data to indicate the effectiveness of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine with respect to the Delta variant, but he has shown it to be effective. can help prevent hospitalizations and death when people are infected with other strains. .

“The key is to get the shot, to get the two doses,” Murthy said.

Steve Edwards, CEO of CoxHealth, a system of hospitals and clinics based in Missouri, told CNN on Friday that the Delta variant is different from others.

“We can’t say why one patient is bad and another is good. There is just something different about the way this variant affects our patients’ immune systems,” Edwards said.

He added that in addition to low vaccination rates in Missouri, the Delta variant is playing an important role in increasing the number of cases in its hospitals.

“I think the Delta variant is what powers that,” he said. “Much of the south, the Midwest, a lot of the places that have low vaccination rates – if they’re faced with the Delta variant, will see a similar kind of wave of patients as we’re starting to see in this. moment.”

CNN’s Virginia Langmaid contributed to this report.

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