Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has slammed the decision to loosen coronavirus restrictions in some states.
While tens of thousands of Americans are infected with the coronavirus each day and more research suggests variants threaten another surge, some state leaders are loosening COVID-19 restrictions against the recommendations of health experts.
The decision to roll back measures is "inexplicable," Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
"I understand the need to want to get back to normality, but you're only going to set yourself back if you just completely push aside the public health guidelines – particularly when we're dealing with anywhere from 55 (thousand) to 70,000 infections per day in the United States," Dr Fauci told CNN.
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Alabama today became the latest state to make a major announcement about masks.
The state will allow its face-covering mandate to expire on the evening of April 9, Governor Kay Ivey said.
Earlier this week, the governors of Texas and Mississippi said they were lifting mask mandates and allowing businesses to operate at full capacity immediately or within days, announcements that came as health experts warn that the spread of more-transmissible coronavirus variants risks sending infection rates soaring once again.
Of particular concern to health experts is the B.1.1.7 variant which was first identified in the United Kingdom and has now been found in 44 US states, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.
A person with that variant can infect 43 per cent to 90 per cent more people than the older versions of the virus, according to evidence published on Wednesday by researchers the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
In a statement, the Infectious Diseases Society of America said the US must continue to use masks, social distance, wash hands and avoid large gatherings.
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"We can't forget the lessons this pandemic has taught us or its terrible toll, and we must not relinquish the ground we've gained," Dr Barbara Alexander, the president of ISDA, said.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said even in states where leaders are no longer requiring those measures, individuals can decide to "do the right thing" about distancing and wearing masks.
With less than 7 per cent of residents in his state fully vaccinated, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Tuesday lifting a statewide mask mandate and allowing businesses to operate at 100 per cent capacity, effective March 10.
"It is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, the reduced hospitalisations and the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed. We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans," Mr Abbott representative Renae Eze told CNN.
The governor said county leaders may opt to use mitigation strategies if regional COVID-19 hospitalisations rise above 15 per cent of bed capacity for seven days straight.
But they cannot impose jail time for people who don't follow COVID-19 orders, nor can residents be penalised for not wearing masks, he said.
READ MORE: About 70 per cent to 85 per cent of Americans need to be fully vaccinated for a return to normal, Dr Anthony Fauci says
In Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves said starting on Wednesday the state would lift its county mask mandates and allow businesses to operate at full capacity, citing lower hospitalisation and case counts.
Mayors of cities including Jackson and Greenville said they will keep enforcing citywide mask mandates.
Some public health experts have urged states to wait, at least for far more vaccinations and lower cases levels, before easing safety measures like mask mandates.
Dr Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Thursday that the more-transmissible B.1.1.7 variant was showing up in between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of the viruses obtained in surveillance checks in states including Florida, California and Georgia. Those figures – just one - two per cent four weeks ago – likely will double within 10 days, he said.
When that variant turned up in 50 per cent in surveillance checks in parts of Europe and the Middle East, "we (saw) a major surge in (overall) cases" – and the same could happen in the US, he said.
"Everything that the governors are doing right now to relax all the public health recommendations that we've made are only going to be a major invitation of this virus to spread faster and farther," Osterholm told CNN's "New Day."
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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also announced revisions to public health orders Tuesday, including dropping a 300-person limit for events at banquet centers. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a series of eased restrictions taking effect Friday, including expanded capacity for restaurants, retail, gyms, stadiums and other facilities.
And in Louisiana, the majority of businesses – including restaurants and salons – will be allowed to operate at 75 per cent capacity starting Wednesday, while religious services will no longer have capacity limits, the governor said.
Health experts encourage the public to accept Johnson & Johnson vaccine A. The third vaccine entered the US market this week after the US Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorisation to Johnson & Johnson's one-dose product. Before this week, the only COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the US – from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – were two-dose vaccines.
Health experts are excited about the new option, which they say is easily distributed due to its single-dose model and ability to be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures.
But some with the option to receive it have expressed hesitancy.
Because the public has heard that the shot is only 72 per cent protective in the US, and the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are about 95 per cent protective, some will think this is a "second class" vaccine, experts have said. Experts say those numbers are highly misleading – and are urging people to take whatever shot is first available to them.
"My big concern here is that the Johnson & Johnson is being labeled as the inferior vaccine," said Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore public health commissioner, "when that's not a fair assessment to make."
With limitations on distribution and the race to vaccinate Americans before another surge, some people may get to choose their vaccine, while others may not, officials have said.
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That is the right choice for the current emergency, a team of bioethicists wrote in a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"In most aspects of US health care, patient preferences are paramount, and currently Americans remain free to decline vaccination against SARS-CoV-2. But among the willing, a policy limiting choice among vaccines will bring efficiencies to the fair distribution of a critically scarce resource," they concluded.
As of Thursday morning, 16.3 per cent of the US population has had at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 8.4 per cent have had two.
Johnson & Johnson has set its sights on exceeding its target of 100 million doses by the end of June, CEO Alex Gorsky said.
And experts have estimated that vaccines will be available to all US adults by May, but the question of when children can be vaccinated isn't clear.
"Right now, we project that the clinical trials will give us information that by the time we get to the fall, high school students will be able to be vaccinated," Dr Fauci said Wednesday. "I'm not sure if it's going to be by the first day of school, but sometime in the fall."
Their younger siblings will have to hold out a little bit longer, he explained, during a livestreamed town hall event with members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
"The way the program is now scheduled, children who are elementary school, six to 12, that group of individuals...those individuals will not be able to be vaccinated until their trials are finished, which will likely be at the earliest, the end of this year," Dr Fauci said. "More likely the first quarter of 2022."
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/fauci-slams-loosening-of-us-covid-restricts/4520b26a-6fcc-449a-9f6f-b8911a320ac9