Public Health

“Now we have to push additional down”

States are easing social distancing rules, but it’s “too early” to take Covid restrictions back, warned Dr. Atul Gawande on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith”.

“We are currently in cases that are still above the highest value of our last spike, so we didn’t even fall below the spike last summer,” said the surgeon and professor at the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard . “We still have 2,000 deaths a day. So this is not where we are in good shape to just hit a plateau. We have to keep pushing down.”

According to a CNBC analysis of the Johns Hopkins data, the US is currently seeing a 7-day average of 67,365 new US cases per day, a 73% decrease from a high of about 249,000 in mid-January.

Gawande reiterated the reopening concern shared by Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said she was still “deeply concerned” about the virus.

“Our recent declines seem to be stalling – at over 70,000 cases a day,” Walensky said during a press conference Monday at the White House. “With these new statistics, I am very concerned about reports that more and more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19.”

Gawande argued that the new variants of Covid that are circulating in the US, including the latest variant in New York, B.1.526, should be another reason for Americans to remain vigilant when it comes to coronavirus.

The CDC reports that nearly 25.5 million Americans are fully vaccinated, about 8% of the country’s population, and that the demand for shots is high due to the delay in production.

“I think the evidence is pretty solid that it would be a wise thing to just give people who reported they were previously infected a single shot and allow more vaccinations for others,” Gawande said of a temporary strategy to further expand the current offer.

Two new studies from the UK show that vaccination can provide “robust” protection for Covid survivors. However, the CDC is currently debating the issue. Gawande told host Shepard Smith that he would like to see the CDC publish its review as soon as possible.

The U.S. vaccination effort is now armed with the Johnson & Johnson shot, the third approved vaccine in its arsenal to fight Covid. The White House said Americans could get the single vaccine as early as Tuesday.

“In terms of the anticipated supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, we will be handing out 3.9 million doses this week,” said Jeffrey Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. “That’s the entirety of Johnson & Johnson’s current inventory. We’re getting these cans out the door right now to make sure vaccines get in the arms as soon as possible.”

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