For weeks, public health leaders in the US have emphasized that now is not the time to ease covid-19 restrictions and reduce security measures, warning that another potentially dangerous surge, driven by variants, could soon arrive.
But despite repeated warnings, more governors are easing covid-19 measures.
With less than 7% of residents in his state fully vaccinated and while communities are still recovering from a devastating series of winter storms, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a decree that nullifies most of his previous decrees related to the virus.
The decree lifts the state mandate to wear masks and allows companies to operate at 100% of their capacity, starting March 10.
Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas said a county judge could choose to use mitigation strategies if COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the state’s 22 hospital regions exceed 15% of hospital bed capacity in that region for seven days in a row.
But they cannot impose jail terms on people who do not follow COVID-19 orders nor can residents be penalized for not wearing masks, he said.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the move “doesn’t make sense,” while Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he was “flabbergasted” by the announcement and pleaded with residents to “act like we have a mandate” of wearing a mask, so that people continue to use it, so that companies continue to require it.
In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves said that starting Wednesday, the state will lift the county’s mask-wearing mandates and allow businesses to operate at full capacity.
“Our hospitalizations and the number of cases have plummeted, and the vaccine is being distributed rapidly. It is the moment,” he wrote in Twitter.
However, health experts say now is not the time to lift the restrictions.
“This is a huge mistake,” said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, of the Texas and Mississippi ads. “We have seen this movie and it did not turn out well.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also announced revisions to public health orders, including removing the 300-person limit for events at banquet facilities.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer revealed a series of relaxed restrictions that they will go into effect on Friday, including expanded capacity for restaurants, retail stores, gyms, stadiums and other facilities.
In Chicago, officials announced that indoor capacity in bars, restaurants and other businesses can now be increased to 50% and bars and restaurants will be able to stay open until 1 a.m.
And in Louisiana, most businesses, including restaurants and barber shops, will be allowed to operate at 75% capacity, while religious services will no longer have capacity limits, the governor said.
Demand for testing is dropping
It’s true that cases have dropped since their January peak and experts were encouraged by a steady decline in the number of Covid-19 cases over several weeks.
But two factors are important to consider: First, the steep decline in cases reported in the United States for weeks appears to have leveled off, according to the CDC director. And that plateau is still very high, with an average of more than 65,000 new cases daily in the US during the past week.
And secondly, it appears that fewer people are getting tested, although testing for covid-19 remains a powerful tool in the country’s battle against the virus, according to the CDC.
In the week ending Monday, the US recorded an average of about 1.5 million COVID-19 tests daily, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.
That’s about 26% less than the average in mid-January, when the US saw a seven-day average of more than 2 million reported tests.
“Widespread testing must continue to defeat the pandemic,” CDC’s Dr. Greta Massetti told Citizen Free Press. “It will take many months for every American to have the opportunity to receive one of the available vaccines.”
“In the meantime, it is critical that people continue to take preventive action.”
More good news for vaccines
So far, more than 51.7 million Americans have received at least their first dose of the covid-19 vaccine, according to CDC data.
More than 26.1 million have received both doses, according to the data. That means that approximately 7.9% of the US population is fully vaccinated against the virus.
The good news: President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. will have enough doses of the covid-19 vaccine for all adult Americans by the end of May, speeding up the administration’s previous goal timeline by two. months.
His remarks came as the president officially announced a partnership between drug companies Merck and Johnson & Johnson to help expand production of the newly licensed Johnson & Johnson covid-19 vaccine.
Governors across the country have said that the extra doses will help ramp up vaccines quickly, and some have even announced expanded eligibility guidelines as a result of the extra supply.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced that as of Wednesday, all essential frontline workers in Group 3 are eligible to schedule appointments for vaccinations, noting that the state also plans to make residents with comorbidities eligible. in Group 4 later this month.
North Carolina has created the vaccine priority groups and is already vaccinating Groups 1 and 2, which include healthcare workers, long-term care facility staff and residents, and older adults.
“The third vaccine and the improved vaccine supply will help us get more people vaccinated more quickly,” said the governor. “But as we said before, we still don’t have enough vaccines. You may have to wait for an appointment even if today’s action means you are eligible to get vaccinated.
For Americans who have already received a first dose, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should not replace second doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, except in “rare situations,” the CDC warned.
“Covid-19 vaccines are not interchangeable and the safety and efficacy of a number of mixed products have not been evaluated,” said Dr. Sarah Mbaeyi, a CDC medical official, said Tuesday. “We don’t want people to start mixing and matching whatever is easiest to get.”
Vaccine Orientation Coming Soon
For Americans who are already fully vaccinated, recommendations on what to do are on the way.
The CDC will release a guide for fully vaccinated people when it’s ready later this week, a CDC official told Citizen Free Press.
The official confirmed the general topics contained in the guide that were first reported by Politico.
The guide is reported to include a recommendation that fully vaccinated individuals limit their social interactions to small gatherings at home with other fully vaccinated individuals.
He will also reportedly recommend that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks in public and practice social distancing. It’s a recommendation that other health officials have also made, including Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Additionally, the guide is reported to include scenarios for Americans to consider when making plans, including travel.
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