How in god's name are we facing yet another coronavirus surge?
The race to find a vaccine has now become a race to get folks vaccinated. It seems like a race we’re winning though, because fully a third of adults in the U.S. has received at least one dose of the vaccine, CNBC reported. At the same time, we’re beginning to see worrying upticks in COVID-19 cases. I’m no science wiz, but how is it that ⅓ of the country is at least half vaccinated and yet COVID-19 cases are surging?
For months, COVID-19 cases were declining as we impatiently waited for the shots to come. But now the vaccine rollout is in full swing, and yet the U.S. saw an average of 61,821 new COVID-19 cases per day last week, a 12% increase compared with the week before, CNBC reported. To make matters worse, the CDC reported that hospitalizations are also increasing. What’s going on here?
“We’re in a delicate and tenuous period of transition,” William Schaffner, an epidemiologist and professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, told CNBC. He added that part of the problem is that some states are simultaneously reopening for business and dropping mask mandates too soon. Some people may have gotten a little too comfortable after their first shot, which doesn’t offer full protection. And you’ve probably already heard about the spring break situation in Miami and other vacation destinations where partiers are thronging maskless.
Anthony Fauci agreed that some people are jumping the gun on travel and prioritizing the economy over public health. “What we’re likely seeing is because of things like spring break and pulling back on the mitigation methods that you’ve seen. Now, several states have done that. I believe it’s premature,” Fauci told Rolling Stone. Public health experts seem to concur, then, that the primary problem is our impatience. Europe’s third wave, truly, should have been a warning to us. Just today, the director of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, described a feeling of "impending doom" regarding capacity and social distancing mandates loosening up.
There are also, as I'm sure you've heard, scary new variants at play. Florida has reported more than 1,000 coronavirus cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first found in the U.K.. Experts warned that we might be able to keep the variants localized if people stayed put, but if folks keep flocking to places where the variants abound — which are potentially more infectious — and then take them back to their home states, we’re inevitably going to continue to see increases, according to CNBC. And while experts think the current vaccines may hold up against variants, the truth is that the virus, the variants, and the vaccines are all still too new for anyone to know for sure.
But while it’s easy to blame the spread of COVID-19 on young people, the truth is that it’s not just the unruly youth that are the problem. Almost half of Republican men said they wouldn’t get vaccinated. These rabid anti-vaxxers aren’t just ruining our future chances of gaining herd immunity, they’re also ensuring we can’t have nice things now. Thanks, 45. Your cruel legacy continues.
So, some states are heeding the call of scientists to ramp up vaccination efforts, but the lack of a consistent national approach to vaccine distribution is also making some people suspicious, and misinformation about the vaxx is still rampant. The reality is that experts have been saying for a while that while the vaccines are a crucial element of recovering our national health, they aren’t the only factor. Yes, you need to get vaccinated, but you also still need to mask up and remember that your vacation plans affect all of us.