Dr Anthony Fauci is finally giving Americans his blessing to have fun this spring break – but warns not to throw all caution to the wind and coronavirus cases and deaths continue to decline in the U.S.
‘We want people to have a good time on spring break, but don’t put your guard down completely,’ the nation’s top infectious disease doctor said on CNN Tuesday.
‘But don’t let your guard down completely. Just be prudent a little longer. We are going in the right direction, we are almost there.’
In spite of Dr Fauci’s own warnings that decline in new COVID-19 cases in the US are stalling – again – the average number of daily infections is now below 60,000 with 57,417 diagnosed with the infection on Tuesday.
That marks a nearly 50 percent decline from daily case rates just a month ago. The average number of deaths per day has fallen by 40 percent in the past 30 days and 1,947 fatalities were reported on Tuesday.
Dr Fauci at long last admitted that it’s ‘totally understandable’ that people want to travel and be in a ‘festive atmosphere,’ but he isn’t ready to throw all caution to the wind, saying that relaxing all restrictions is ‘inviting’ another surge.
‘It’s a concern when you start doing things like completely putting aside all public health measures as if you’re turning a light switch off, that’s quite risky, we don’t want to see another surge,’ Dr Fauci said.
The nation’s top infectious disease doctor isn’t abandoning his cautious principles and remains a waring voice, but his tone is starting to lighten.
Health officials also this week finally told Americans who are fully vaccinated that they can begin to resume some semblance of normal life.
New CDC guidance advised Americans who have had two doses of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines that they can safely see other vaccinated people indoors without masks, or see low-risk people from one other household.
But the health agency cautioned vaccinated people that they still should not travel, dampening the hopes of grandparents with out-of-state grandkids as well as to spring breakers, most of whom are not yet eligible for vaccines yet any way.
Americans as a whole may also be taking the pandemic more seriously than they seemed to last year, when spring break was a free for all in popular destinations like Florida.
This year, only about one in eight Americans said they had a spring break trip planned, according to data from the U.S. Travel Association.
Despite the threat of variants spreading in the U.S. there is good reason for a more optimistic outlook.
Yesterday marks the eighth Tuesday in a row that the seven-day rolling average of cases has declined in the U.S., falling 76 percent from the 219,000 case a day the country was seeing as of January 12.
The average number of daily deaths has declined steeply too, though less consistently.
There were an average of 3,288 coronavirus fatalities a day in the U.S. on January 12. As of yesterday, that average had fallen to 1,752, marking the fourth week in a row of declines.
Even Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr Rochelle Walensky had a more positive outlook on Wednesday.
‘The recent plateau of cases may be starting again to trend downward,’ she said during the White House response team’s tri-weekly briefing.
She noted that hospitalizations have declined too, with an average of 4,900 COVID patients admitted per day last week.
‘All of this is really good news,’ Dr Walensky said, but added: ‘The numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are still too high.’
As spring breakers set their sites on destinations near and far, cases and infection risks are still high in much of the country.
Risks of contracting coronavirus are still considered ‘high in every U.S. state except Washington, Oregon, Missouri, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, where there is a ‘medium’ risk, according to Covid Act Now.
And in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, the risk remains ‘critical’ because outbreaks are considered active in those states.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also said Wednesday that 51 percent of new cases in the metropolis are due to more infectious variants that emerged initially in the UK and in New York.
He said that 39 percent of samples tested for mutations there were positive for the UK mutations, while about 12 percent were positive for the quickly spreading New York City variant.
These variants – as well as those that have arrived in the U.S. after emerging in South Africa and Brazil – are the heaviest threat looming over the American fight against the pandemic.
CDC warned in January that the UK’s 70 percent more infectious B117 variant would likely become dominant in the U.S. this month.
It’s certainly gaining ground, with 3,283 cases confirmed in 49 states and territories, according to CDC data.
According to tracking of viral genome sequencing – the lab process scientists use to identify cases of variants – suggests that 30 percent of worldwide coronavirus cases and four percent in the US are caused by the UK variant, according to.
However data from Florida, which is a hot spot for spring breakers and coronavirus variants alike, has ‘encouraged’ scientists there that the UK variant won’t cause a fourth surge after all.
The state has more confirmed cases caused by B117 than any other, at 689. It is thought to account for 30 percent of all cases.
But daily infections there are staying level, at around 5,300 cases a day. They’ve even fallen slightly compared to last month.
Spring breakers, though at lower volumes, will undoubtedly head to Florida and other warm destinations like California and mask-free Texas.
The coming weeks may give a clearer picture of whether coronavirus variants and travel are mightier than the accelerating vaccination effort.