(Trends Wide) — For the first time since June, the rate of new deaths from covid-19 in the US is expected to decline in the next four weeks, according to a joint forecast by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for its acronym in English).
And for the third week in a row, Wednesday’s CDC forecast predicted hospitalizations will decline as well, a bit of hope as the more transmissible delta variant continues to spread.
Currently, an average of almost 2,000 people die and about 114,000 are infected with COVID-19 every day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), estimated that the delta wave of the pandemic could run its course by Thanksgiving, and that COVID-19 could turn out to be more of a seasonal nuisance than a devastating pandemic. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that depends on many more people getting vaccinated.
Of the entire US population, 55.5% are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to CDC data. Health experts cannot be sure what proportion of the population would have to be vaccinated to control the spread, but Fauci estimates that it would have to be the “vast majority”.
Authorities and experts are employing multiple strategies to try to increase vaccination protection.
Schools, businesses and employers have put mandates in place for students and employees to get vaccinated against the virus. And the FDA has authorized booster doses to increase the protection of the vaccine in vulnerable populations.
Health experts are also waiting for Pfizer to apply for an emergency use authorization for a vaccine that protects children ages 5 to 11. While some parents are eager to vaccinate their children, others remain hesitant.
Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Center for Vaccine Education at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, said he understands the concern and urged parents to “wait until you see the data before making a decision about vaccination.”
More people need to get vaccinated
Many health experts are hopeful that more people will decide to get vaccinated, as some regions maintain the number of cases.
The Yukon-Koshokwim Health Corporation in Alaska announced Wednesday that it was preparing for the possibility of rationing services under the Crisis Care Standards due to the rise in covid-19.
“We are doing the best for each patient, regardless of the resources available at any given time,” said Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges in a written statement.
“Unfortunately, however, as a result of the current wave of COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization and limited resources across the state, we are now in a position to make these difficult decisions on a daily basis,” he said.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said Wednesday that he believes the state is in the “eye of the storm,” and urged residents to get vaccinated to help slow the surge.
“We’re going to lose a ton of more people, West Virginia, for sure,” Justice said during a Wednesday briefing on COVID-19. “All I can do, with a clear conscience, is to continue to urge, by all means, that they get vaccinated.”
CDC urges pregnant women to get vaccinated
Some have been concerned about whether people who are pregnant or seeking to become pregnant are safe to be vaccinated, but the CDC made an urgent recommendation Wednesday that they get vaccinated.
People who are pregnant, have recently given birth, are planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding should get vaccinated, the CDC said.
“The CDC strongly recommends vaccination against COVID-19, either before or during pregnancy, because the benefits of vaccination outweigh the known or potential risks,” the agency said in a health alert.
“As of September 27, 2021, more than 125,000 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in pregnant people, including more than 22,000 hospitalized cases and 161 deaths.”
The risk is not just for the mother. Covid-19 in pregnancy can lead to premature deliveries or babies born so sick that they have to go directly to the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU.
“Other adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as stillbirths, have been reported,” the CDC notes.
“Pregnancy can be a special and stressful time, and pregnancy during a pandemic is an added concern for families. I strongly encourage women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant to talk with their healthcare provider about the protective benefits of the covid-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe, “said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, in a statement.
Vaccination mandates begin
At the local and federal level, authorities are implementing vaccination mandates to increase protection.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced stringent new vaccination regulations for federal workers, large companies and healthcare personnel, in a widespread attempt to contain the latest wave of covid-19.
He ordered the Labor Department to require all companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are vaccinated or tested once a week. Companies could face fines of thousands of dollars per employee if they fail to comply.
Those requirements are still weeks away, but employers should wait for them to arrive this year, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
Employees of the New York hospital system are required to get vaccinated against the virus, and some employees already face the consequences of not complying.
The St. Barnabas Hospital Health System had 58 employees as of Wednesday who had not submitted proof of vaccination, spokesman Steve Clark said.
Employees are suspended and have until Monday morning to show proof of vaccination. If they don’t, they will be fired, Clark said.
“Patient care has not been compromised at all,” Clark said. “The schedules have been created accordingly. People will work overtime, or part-time or agency staff will be brought in when necessary,” he explained.
Trends Wide’s Naomi Thomas, Lauren Mascarenhas, Deidre McPhillips, Melissa Alonso, Andy Rose, Maggie Fox, Nikki Carvajal, and Mirna Alsharif contributed to this report.