(Trends Wide) — This delta variant could be the last big wave of the covid-19 pandemic, but now is not the time for the US to get confident, as it has yet to run its course, an expert said Monday.
“We still have a couple of months until this delta wave spreads across the country regionally and we’re done with it,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former director of the US Food and Drug Administration. FDA).
“You are beginning to see an upturn in cases in the coldest parts of the country, and as people are forced to stay indoors without masks, you will begin to see a rebound in cases,” said.
At the national level, the daily average of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from covid-19 is decreasing. In the last week, the average daily number of infections has fallen by more than 15,000, to exceed 86,000, and an average of 200 fewer people die a day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU, for its acronym in English).
Still, an average of about 1,500 people died each day in the last week of COVID-19, according to JHU data.
Much of the national improvement can be attributed to southern states emerging from the worst of the wave of variants, Gottlieb told Trends Wide. But not all regions are doing so well. The numbers are rising in the West and Midwest, and it is not yet clear how strong the impact will be in the Northeast, he said.
Gottlieb has predicted that the worst will be over in much of the country around Thanksgiving and that prevalence levels will decline around Christmas, but not all health officials are so sure.
“I’m not sure we can predict at this point that we won’t see an increase in winter,” said Dr. Leana Wen, Trends Wide medical analyst. “I really think it’s too early to celebrate and say the worst is over.”
Before that celebration, the United States needs to keep track of cases, hospitalizations and deaths down, a feat that depends on vaccinating more people, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday.
“We have about 68 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated and who are not yet,” said the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
“We need the overwhelming proportion of those unvaccinated people to get vaccinated and so we can be pretty sure that if we do that, we won’t see a resurgence.”
“This really depends on us and our ability to rise to the occasion and get people vaccinated,” Fauci said.
Vaccines are the key to accelerating the end of the pandemic
Vaccines, in addition to other tools such as tests, are what will help the Covid-19 pandemic reach its endemic phase in the United States, Gottlieb said Monday.
When a virus becomes endemic, it poses a persistent risk of infection, but it is not causing large numbers of cases with severe illness and death.
“The reason we’re going to get through this and the reason we’re going to accelerate our way through this pandemic to an endemic phase with this virus is because of the vaccine,” Trends Wide’s Chris Cuomo told Trends Wide.
“If you look at past pandemics, they have lasted for more than five years. This pandemic will probably not last that long in the West,” he said.
Gottlieb also said that treatments and testing are also important, but vaccines are “a key part” of the fight against the pandemic.
“The fact that we can build a wall of immunity through vaccination, and not only by massively infecting the population, will be the way to accelerate our exit from the pandemic towards an endemic phase with this virus in which, with luckily we can keep it at bay, “said Gottlieb.
Meanwhile, Pfizer and BioNTech said last week that they are seeking an emergency use authorization for a vaccine for children as young as 5 years old.
If approved, the increased accessibility will benefit young children’s health and the communities they occupy, experts said.
“We will really rely on children, the very young ones, getting vaccinated to increase overall immune protection,” Wen said.
Covid-19 vaccination mandates work, according to Fauci
As part of the campaign to increase vaccination, many health experts are calling for mandates in schools, workplaces and businesses.
Fauci told Trends Wide’s Wolf Blitzer that the federal government is trying to persuade people to get vaccinated on their own, but they may have to be required to do so.
“Obviously, we have tried very hard,” Fauci said. “We try to have trusted messengers and we try to stop this being an ideological or political statement, to return to the realm of pure public health, and try to convince people,” Fauci said.
“We don’t like telling people what to do about vaccines. But we know the mandates work,” he said.
But while many institutions have made the decision to force their students, employees and clients to be vaccinated, some state leaders are less inclined.
On Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting any entity from requiring people to get vaccinated.
“The covid-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but it should remain voluntary and never mandatory,” Abbott said.
Trends Wide’s Virginia Langmaid, Jamie Gumbrecht, Maggie Fox, and Jennifer Selva contributed to this report.