According to the latest forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, 91,000 more Americans are expected to die from the virus by June 1. “The most uncertain factor in the trajectory of the epidemic over the next four months is how individuals will respond to the steady decline in cases and daily deaths,” the IHME team wrote. “More rapid increases in mobility or reductions in mask use can easily lead to increased cases and deaths in many states in April. .7 variant, first identified in UK. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously warned of the variant’s expected “rapid growth” in the United States in early 2021, adding that it would likely become the predominant variant in the country by March. The IHME team wrote that while the B.1.1.7 variant currently accounts for probably less than 20% of infections, that number could increase to 80% by the end of April.
That’s why experts say the United States should step up testing as well: not only to track infections and antibodies, but variants as well.
“We were late on testing from day one,” Kathleen Sebelius, former secretary of Health and Human Services said Saturday. The United States must now “focus both on the tests we need to identify who has the disease, and then on the serological tests that will tell us more about the antibodies and the type of variant that is circulating.”
5.5% of the United States fully vaccinated
Although vaccinations are ongoing, they are unlikely to help the United States achieve herd immunity levels anytime soon.
So far, more than 42.8 million Americans have received at least the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to CDC data.
More than 17.8 million people have been fully immunized. This represents about 5.5% of the American population.
Herd immunity is achieved when the majority of the population becomes immune to an infectious disease – either through infection and recovery, or through vaccination. Dr Anthony Fauci estimates that between 70 and 85% of the American population must be immunized for herd immunity to take effect against the virus.
The IHME team wrote that they don’t expect the country to achieve collective immunity until next winter.
“The model suggests we should have a calm summer,” IHME director Dr Chris Murray told CNN on Friday. “But we know Covid is really seasonal, so when the next winter rolls around we have to have a much higher level of protection to stop Covid in its tracks than we are likely to achieve.”
To speed up taking at least the first doses in the arms, the United States should consider delaying the second dose of the vaccine, another expert said.
“Everyone needs a second dose, there’s no question about it,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health said Friday. “I think the question is, right now we’re waiting four weeks between the first and second dose. What if we go six weeks or eight weeks or 10 weeks – not much longer than that.”
His comments came on the same day that two senior US officials – Andy Slavitt, senior advisor to the White House Covid-19 response team and Fauci – said they didn’t think the US should delay or skip the second doses of vaccine. Jha says his suggestion is common ground to quickly vaccinate more high-risk people.
Teachers union calls CDC guidelines a ‘safety guardrail’
Amid the ongoing challenges for vaccinations and concerns of another increase in cases, local leaders are also struggling to understand what a safe return to class looks like.
The school reopening guidelines released by the CDC this month focus on five key Covid-19 mitigation strategies: universal and correct wearing of masks; physical distancing; hand washing; cleaning of facilities and improvement of ventilation; and contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.
Vaccines and tests are “extra layers” of protection, the agency said.
Friday, CDC director. Dr Rochelle Walensky told a White House briefing that with these strategies schools can open up, no matter how much virus spreads within a community.
“There are opportunities for in-person learning at all stages of … the spread of the community,” Walensky said. “I would actually invite schools to lean in and consider what is needed … to try to get more and more kids back to school.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told CNN on Saturday that the agency’s guidelines are a “guardrail” for teachers – and in a recent poll, most teachers said they would be comfortable returning to class with the help of testing, vaccine prioritization and mitigation strategies in place.
But so far, only about 28 states and Washington, DC, have started allowing all or some teachers and school staff to receive the vaccine.
And schools face another challenge when it comes to reopening for in-person teaching, Weingarten added.
When schools put some of these measures in place, including smaller class sizes and social distancing, they need more space and more educators, Weingarten said.
“The reason you have so many places in hybrid is that they don’t have space and they don’t have educators,” she said. “The real problem right now is how can we help take the far places and reverse them.”
CNN’s Maggie Fox and Lauren Mascaren contributed to this report.
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