Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows more than 4,800 cases of coronavirus variants first spotted in the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been reported in the US. The true number of cases is likely higher — this number only represents cases that have been spotted with the help of genomic sequencing, the agency has said.
The decline of cases that officials reported earlier this year now seems to have leveled off, which has experts worried.
“Based on our previous experience in this country and in other countries, when you see a plateau it predicts another surge,” infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist Dr. Celine Gounder told CNN Sunday. “And we have these new variants that are also very much potentially fueling a more severe surge.”
Meanwhile, travel hits pandemic records
In Miami Beach, Mayor Dan Gelber said over the weekend local officials are seeing “too much spring break activity.”
“We’ve got a problem with too many people coming here,” the mayor said. “We’ve got a problem with too many people coming here to let loose.”
Meanwhile, air travel across the country is hitting pandemic records.
More than 1.3 million people were screened at airports on Friday — the highest number since March 15, 2020, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
“It was the 8th day this month that throughput has exceeded (one million). If you plan to travel, please wear a mask,” Farbstein added.
Good news for vaccines
So far, more than 69.7 million people have gotten at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. More than 37.4 million are fully vaccinated — roughly 11.3% of the US population.
On Sunday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and current Pfizer board member, offered more encouraging news.
“All of the evidence across all the vaccines now is pointing in the direction that these vaccines reduce asymptomatic infection and reduce transmission,” he told CBS.
“If that’s the case, the vaccine creates what we call ‘dead-end hosts’ — a lot of dead-end hosts — meaning people will no longer be able to transmit the infection,” Gottlieb added.
“What we’ve seen was the first installment of what you can do if you’re vaccinated … what you can do in the home setting, with the vaccinated people together or vaccinated people with an unvaccinated person,” Fauci told CNN Sunday.
“You’re going to see very soon similar types of guidelines for the American public, with regard to travel, the workplace, all kinds of different things,” he added. “You will imminently be seeing those types of guidelines coming out.”
Political divide over vaccinations
Health experts have estimated that somewhere between 70% to 85% of the US population must be vaccinated in order for the country to reach herd immunity against Covid-19. But major challenges remain, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week, including “constrained vaccine supply, ongoing vaccine hesitancy and increasing myths and disinformation related to Covid-19 vaccines.”
Another challenge: a political divide among Americans planning to get a shot.
A CNN poll conducted by SSRS, which was released on Thursday, 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.
It’s a finding Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson called “troubling.”
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp said in a news conference late last week the state is seeing vaccine hesitancy from White Republicans in several communities.
Another poll, by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist, found that nearly half — 47% — of people who supported President Donald Trump in the 2020 election said they would not get a Covid-19 vaccine if it became available to them, while only about 10% of people who supported President Joe Biden said they wouldn’t get a vaccine.
Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday” he thought that Trump telling Republicans to get vaccinated “would make all the difference in the world.”
“He’s a very widely popular person among Republicans. If he came out and said, ‘Go and get vaccinated, it’s really important for your health, the health of your family and the health of the country,’ it seems absolutely inevitable that the vast majority of people who are his close followers would listen to him,” Fauci said.
CNN’s Michael Nedelman, Anjali Huynh, Hollie Silverman and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.