On Friday alone, the country saw more than 1.4 million passengers in airports nationwide — which is a pandemic-era record.
“What we’re doing is essentially spreading the B.1.1.7 variant across the nation,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN on Sunday.
That’s because the number of prior infections and now vaccinations in the US have begun to form “enough of a backstop” to prevent another spike, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
“I think what you could see is a plateauing for a period of time before we continue on a downward decline — in large part because B.1.1.7 is becoming more prevalent, in large part because we’re pulling back too quickly, with respect to taking off our masks and lifting the mitigation,” he said.
Others say it’s hard to predict what will happen.
“It’s very hard to say,” Hotez told CNN. “We’re in a race, that’s what it comes down to. We’ve gotten a single dose (of Covid-19 vaccine) into about a quarter of the US population … and it could go either way right now.”
“This is why it’s really important for the governors to stay the course and to implement masks and social distancing,” he added.
Spring breakers worry officials
“I wish that folks would at least mask up,” emergency physician Dr. Megan Ranney told CNN Sunday, referring to the spring break crowds. “I expect that very few of those young adults have been vaccinated and watching them gather together in those crowds, even outside, gives me fear that they’re going to bring that B.1.1.7 variant back to their home state and spread it.”
Other experts have voiced the same concern, warning all the returning vacationers could help fuel Covid-19 surges in other parts of the country, especially now that vaccination numbers are still so low.
“We are very worried about transmissible variants. A lot of them have come through our travel corridors, so we’re being extra cautious right now with travel,” Walensky had told CNN.
Vaccine hesitancy is ‘worrisome,’ governor says
More than 44 million — about 13.3% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, the data shows.
Those challenges include vaccine hesitancy and political divisions. A recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS shows that while 92% of Democrats say they have gotten a dose of the vaccine or plan to get one, that falls to 50% among Republicans.
When asked why he believed there is skepticism among Republicans, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told CNN he thought it is a “natural resistance to government and skepticism of it.”
“The hesitancy is worrisome not just here, but all across the country, and I expect as a country we’ll get to 50% vaccination rate of the population. But we’re going to have a harder time getting from 50% to 70%. And it’s about overcoming the skepticism, it is about education … but it’s also confidence,” he said.
As more Americans see others get the vaccine, the governor said he expects the acceptance rate of vaccines to go up.
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson said late last week that while he encourages everyone to get vaccinated, “there’s still going to be a certain amount of people that’s not going to take the vaccine and they have every right to do that.”
“We got to do a better job of making sure everybody understands the importance of the vaccine, and yet maintain the respect of people that don’t want to take a vaccine, and it is going to be a challenge to see how many people we can get done, but we’re going to do everything we can.”
New data on AstraZeneca vaccine
The vaccine showed 79% efficacy against symptomatic disease and 100% efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization in a new, US-based clinical trial, the company said Monday.
The findings from the new Phase 3 trial, which included more than 32,000 participants, could boost confidence in the vaccine, which was originally developed by the University of Oxford.
The trial showed that the vaccine was well-tolerated and identified no safety concerns, the company said. An independent committee “found no increased risk of thrombosis or events characterised by thrombosis among the 21,583 participants receiving at least one dose of the vaccine,” according to AstraZeneca.
The new data came from a Phase 3 clinical trial conducted in the US, Chile and Peru. AstraZeneca says it plans to submit the findings to a scientific journal for peer review.
CNN’s Chuck Johnston, Niamh Kennedy, Carma Hassan, Deanna Hackney and Lauren Mascarenhas contributed to this report.