The number of Covid-19 cases in the United States has increased again. The vaccination campaign led by the Biden administration has made significant progress, but so has the spread of the variant of concern.
The B117 variant discovered in the United Kingdom is widely circulated in the United States. It is believed to be easier to spread, and there is growing evidence that it may be more deadly.
A variant found in South Africa, B1
All of this happened when many Americans believed that the country would move in a new “normal” direction, thanks to the amazing achievements of vaccine technology.
So, as the introduction of vaccines and the spread of variants start to fight, what do these competing ideas mean?
Dueling trends lead to uncertainty.
Cases and hospitalizations increased in the last week, especially in Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, which experts attributed to the B117 variant. Nationwide, the number of cases has increased by 10% over the previous 7 days.
“We look forward to it very much,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in this week’s Covid Working Group briefing. “But now I am very scared.” Varensky said that at a moment of backwardness, infection, hospitalization and death are a lagging indicator, giving her a feeling of “imminent doom.”
But attention to the rise of variables is only part of the picture. People also showed an increasing willingness to abandon the mask, stop social distancing and start traveling.
Professor Ali Mokdad, chief strategy officer and Covid-19 forecaster of the institute in charge of population health, said: “I don’t think the sky will fall, but what I worry about is the increase in travel rates and the wearing of masks. The decline in the number of people.” Health indicators and assessments of the University of Washington. “These are the two indicators we need to pay attention to.”
Mokdad University’s model predicts that cases will increase slightly and then continue to decline. This decline will benefit from mild weather, vaccination campaigns and outdoor activities.
Why does the forecaster disagree now?
Now, one-sixth of the population in the United States has received full vaccination, and 28.9% of them have received at least one vaccination. This week, new research shows that vaccines are still 90% effective in real life and provide hope for very effective vaccines for older children.
But this is still too low to stop the spread of the virus, and human behavior is still a wildcard.
Unlike other moments of the pandemic, there are signs that people are confident that the pandemic is improving, although cases are still high. Democrats and Republican governors are removing mask directives to allow increased indoor dining and lifting restrictions in stadiums and entertainment venues. People also seem to be more willing to travel, and are booking air tickets and cruise tickets for the near future.
This has led to huge changes in the prediction of the spread of the virus in the coming weeks. Some forecasts will decrease, while others will increase. The current uncertainty can be seen in the overall forecast of the cases collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Biden administration has asked people to continue to distance themselves from society and wear masks, and encouraged health leaders to expand vaccine eligibility standards. But in the end, with a federalized public health system, the states are responsible for their response.
“Honestly, I didn’t see us [having] Mokdad said. However, this is “unconditional”, provided that no new variants “appear and reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.”
Will there be more variants of interest?
In short: yes. Vaccines are static solutions against evolving viral targets. Existing and future viral mutations may weaken the effectiveness of vaccines. This is one of the reasons why many experts believe that more Covid-19 shooting may be needed in the future.
In addition, Mokdad believes that next winter the United States will need to be vigilant against the Covid-19 epidemic. Fewer people will be able to engage in outdoor activities by then, and some people will still hesitate to take the vaccine.
Part of the vaccinated population put pressure on the virus, requiring it to evolve to find more hosts. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Niaid) is already studying Moderna’s B1351 variant vaccine.
This sounds scary.
There are also signs of hope. The speed of vaccination is very fast. More and more American adults are being vaccinated. However, as the US vaccine shortage becomes surplus, challenges will arise.
Millions of Americans still lack the computer access or transportation needed to obtain the vaccine. Children under 16 make up about a quarter of the total population, but they are not yet eligible for vaccination. Certain groups are particularly reluctant to vaccinate, such as white Republicans.
Will the public continue to be vaccinated? Will people give up social isolation? Will travel increase? All these unknown factors about how people behave make it difficult to predict the direction of the current epidemic.
To be sure, it is too early for Americans to relax their vigilance.