The latest coronavirus update from researchers at Johns Hopkins University shows that more than 29.5 million coronavirus cases have been reported in the US since the pandemic began, along with more than 537,000 coronavirus-related deaths. The pandemic is still raging, though the US has a much better handle on things now than it did a year ago at this time.
Millions of stimulus checks started showing up in bank accounts on Wednesday, representing the third round of direct emergency payments to Americans to help them deal with the financial fallout of the pandemic. Moreover, we now have three coronavirus vaccines available to Americans, with 111 million vaccine doses having been administered to Americans through mid-day Wednesday (per Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker). So, why are public health experts like CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky still apprehensive about the near-term?
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The answer: Coronavirus variants.
During the White House COVID-19 Response Team Briefing on Monday, Dr. Walensky revealed that the more transmissible UK coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 is on its way to being the dominant strain of the virus in at least two states in the US. And that strain is actually already present in all 50 states in the US.
This strain, she continued, is on its way to quickly becoming dominant in California and Florida. By the end of March or in early April, though, the CDC is projecting this strain will be the dominant one everywhere in the US. That’s bad news. The good news is that all three of the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the US — from drug makers Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna — offer solid protection against the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant. “Please follow our recommended public health prevention precautions, and be ready to get your vaccine when it is available to you,” Dr. Walensky said.
“We are just starting to turn the corner. The data are moving in the right direction, but where this goes is dependent on whether we all do what must be done to protect ourselves and others.”
This includes refraining from certain activities for the time being, including unnecessary travel — something many people have increasingly run out of patience with, in terms of holding off a little longer. As we noted in a previous post, there have been massive spikes in Google Searches for phrases like “fully vaccinated travel” and “CDC guidelines for travel” in recent days.
“We are really trying to restrain travel at this current period of time,” Dr. Walensky said during the recent briefing, going on to hint that more clarity around travel might emerge from the CDC very soon. “And we’re hopeful that our next set of guidance will have more science around what vaccinated people can do, perhaps travel being among them.”
Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.