“In a way, this was the first major stress test,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen. “We have lifted the restrictions en masse, people are going about their normal lives. We know that after the big holidays and an increase in tourist traffic, we had a significant increase in the infection rate.”
The US has had a lot to celebrate when it comes to recovery from the pandemic: More than half of the US has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and 12 states have achieved President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of the Americans get a vaccine at least one dose by July 4th.
And along with the increased vaccinations, there has been a decrease in cases.
However, Wen warned the US will have to wait and see if protecting a country not yet fully vaccinated can overcome the risk of masks foregoing and engaging in public institutions.
Even if cases weaken or flatten from their current rate of decline, Wen said she feared some communities will remain vulnerable.
“They have parts of the country with very low vaccination rates,” she said. “I’m really concerned that the unvaccinated people in these areas are spreading the coronavirus among themselves.”
And with variants spreading around the world, even falling cases could pose a problem by lessening the sense of urgency to vaccinate, Wen added.
Incentives and precautionary easing in the coming weeks
As the country waits to see how cases react to a weekend of celebration, some leaders are focused on offering incentives for vaccines while others continue to drop pandemic precautions.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced Tuesday a vaccination incentive lottery, the prizes of which include $ 1 million, two full four-year scholarships for eligible students, and 25 weekend getaways.
“We’re going to make one of you a millionaire on Father’s Day,” Justice said.
Meanwhile, Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud signed an order lifting a number of health orders related to Covid-19, including lifting a statewide mask mandate and opening access to prisons and detention facilities.
In Kentucky, senior centers will be allowed to reopen at full capacity from June 11, said Governor Andy Beshear. “The reason we can do this is because of vaccines. These things are miracles,” he said in a statement.
Omitting precautions could mean more cases
But as important as vaccinations are, they may not be enough to safely drop precautions, researchers reported Tuesday.
Even if the majority of the population is vaccinated, the lifting of precautionary measures could lead to an increase in the spread of the virus, they reported in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.
Mehul Patel, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues used a mathematical model to simulate the spread of the coronavirus in the North Carolina population.
They found that infections, hospitalizations and deaths would continue to increase if pandemic precautions such as quarantine, school closings, social distancing and wearing masks were lifted while vaccines were introduced.
“Our study suggests that in a population of 10.5 million, about 1.8 million infections and 8,000 deaths within 11 months from more effective COVID-19 vaccines, higher vaccination coverage, and the maintenance of NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions ) could be prevented, such as distancing and using face masks, “they wrote.
Patel and colleagues said their results suggest that a coordinated effort is needed to maximize vaccination coverage and take pandemic precautions “to reduce the COVID-19 burden to levels that allow a resumption of many economic, educational and could safely enable social activities ”.
Cases also declining in children
Fortunately, cases seem to be on the decline in children too.
The US reported the lowest number of new weekly Covid-19 cases in children since early October, with around 34,500 new child cases reported last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a report on Tuesday.
As of May 27, nearly 4 million children had tested positive since the pandemic began.
Children made up between 6% and 19.6% of the children tested for Covid-19, and between 5.2% and 34.6% of the children tested were positive for the virus, depending on the state.
“At this point in time, it still appears that serious illnesses due to COVID-19 in children are rare,” the report said. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on the longer-term effects of the pandemic on children, including how the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”
CNN’s Rebekah Riess, Michael Nedelman, Jen Christensen, Laura Ly, Rebekah Riess, Naomi Thomas, Sahar Akbarzai, Pete Muntean and Greg Wallace contributed to this report.
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