“For me, I think the vaccine should win,” added Jha. “That’s the big thing but: what Texas, Mississippi and other states are doing to relax and get rid of mask orders and sort of act like everything is back to normal, and that definitely goes down along with the variables.”
Texas and Mississippi governors are among at least a dozen state leaders who have eased restrictions this month – many attribute improved Covid-19 numbers and increased vaccinations.
For example, Mississippi saw a 19% rise in new cases from last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The state has an average of 463 new cases per day. Cases have increased over the past eight days.
New cases are still trending lower in the US overall and experts say more sustainable data – at least two weeks – are needed to set the trend. But with so many worrisome variables circulating in the country, detecting early warning signs may be key to curbing the ongoing spread.
The United States is creating a “perfect storm” scenario of variable spillover
There are several variables that worry experts at this time.
There is one “front and center”, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
It is the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first discovered in the UK and is now expected to become the dominant variant in the US in just weeks, according to the CDC.
“Our current models … a project that by the end of March, early April, B.1.1.7 will be the dominant variant,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Wallinski on Monday.
At least 4,690 cases of the variant have been reported in the United States – this most likely does not represent the total number of cases across the country, but rather represents only those discovered by scientists analyzing positive samples. The variant has been detected in at least 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
“I think the next several weeks will be all around B.1.1.7 and the race between the vaccine and the variant,” Osterholm said. “Mitigating as we are now … We are creating an ideal storm scenario for this virus to spread.”
Florida tops the US with the most cases of variant B.1.1.7 reported, according to the CDC. It has reported 738 cases of the variant – which is a total of 15% of all reported cases in the United States, the CDC data shows.
In Texas, 235 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been identified, according to the CDC. It is the sixth highest number in the country.
The group’s forecast published on Wednesday by the CDC predicted between 554,000 and 574,000 deaths from the Coronavirus in the United States by April 10. Last Wednesday, the previous group expected up to 571,000 deaths from the Coronavirus by April 3.
At least 536,925 people have already died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Various Approaches to St. Patrick’s Day
Some Irish pubs in New Orleans have announced that they will not open for celebrations, citing concerns about the spread of Covid-19 and restrictions on companies.
Finn McCall Irish pub, in Mid City, wrote on Facebook Monday that the crowds “won’t let us stay abiding by state and city rules”.
The post said, “As much as we would like to be open and see everyone’s faces, doing so would not only put our employees, but society as well” at risk.
New Orleans officials relaxed restrictions last week, allowing retail stores, restaurants, salons and other businesses to increase capacity to 75%. Bars, breweries, gyms and other venues are now 50% operational.
Meanwhile in Georgia, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said Tuesday the city is open, while urging support for Covid-19 mitigation efforts.
“It is important to note that Savannah is wide open. We have been wide open. The way we stay open is by asking for the use of masks,” the mayor said, indicating how important Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations are to the local economy.
Despite the pandemic and the city’s mask mandate, thousands of residents and tourists, some without masks and many not socially distant, crowded city streets and businesses over the weekend.
All states have vaccinated at least 10% of adults
Among the country’s population 65 years of age or older, more than a third have been fully vaccinated and nearly two thirds have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Additionally, all states have fully vaccinated at least 10% of the adult population.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Wednesday that, starting April 19, people aged 16 or over will be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
But while vaccination processes have accelerated, challenges remain – including vaccine frequency and misinformation.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said Tuesday that the church could play a leading role in increasing confidence in the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Many of those who could benefit greatly because they are at risk of developing serious and even life-threatening infections are still holding back,” said Collins, speaking at Washington’s National Cathedral, where religious leaders have gathered to help boost confidence in vaccines.
“Today, you all put hope in action,” he said. “I hope to end the terrible suffering and loss of life from Covid-19, and hope to end the economic devastation it has caused, and I hope that the vaccine not only protects you, but also – if we do this together – – your family, your friends, your community, your nation, your whole world.”
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Jamil Lynch, Gregory Lemos, Gisela Crespo and Michael Needleman contributed to this report.