Given the rapid pace of vaccinations and the fact that 71 percent of Americans age 65 and older have already received a vaccination, the nation seems to be breathing a collective sigh of relief that the U.S. is no longer in the frantic triage mode that characterized much of the past year, even if not all the data is moving in the right direction.
While government officials like Fauci and Dr. Rochelle Walenski, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, continue to urge Americans to pretend and not be wary – especially when new options emerge – the nation has arrived at a quieter moment of self-reflection, when it’s time to reflect on how one of the world’s richest and most powerful nations failed to avert nearly 550,000 deaths.
While tens of thousands of bereaved families are still trying to figure out what else could have been done to prevent mass casualties of this magnitude, CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked six leading pandemic doctors to give their opinions in a new documentary airing Sunday night. They came to the chilling conclusion that the vast majority of deaths in America could have been prevented – a painful interpretation of the past year for a nation still struggling with loss of life.
As the US returns to normal, the best outcome of this moment of reflection is for Americans to continue to take the virus seriously and accept the role everyone can play in preventing more deaths by wearing masks, avoiding large crowds and getting vaccinated when it’s their turn. It is worrying that some people take the next step too quickly, although the risks are still high: Miami Beach is struggling to cope with the large number of vacationers flooding the city.
Walenska said Friday that the number of cases is trending in the wrong direction, down 7 percent from the previous seven-day period, and noted that the average number of deaths is still about 1,000 per day. The number of hospital admissions also increased slightly this week from the previous seven-day period.
I remain deeply concerned about this development. We’ve seen cases and hospitalizations go from historic declines to plateaus to increases, Walenski said at a White House Covid 19 task force briefing Friday. And we know from previous outbreaks that if we don’t get it under control now, it’s possible that the epidemic curve could go back up. Please take this moment very seriously.
Controversy over the origin ofvirus
As doctors who have served in the Trump administration begin to speak more openly about the nation’s missteps, a crucial piece of the puzzle is understanding the origins of the pandemic – and what could have been done in those first few months to stop the spread of Covid-19, which was released on the 21st. January 2020 has reached U.S. shores.
In an excerpt from a CNN documentary released Friday, Dr. Robert Redfield, former director of the CDC, expressed further skepticism about China’s explanation for the first cases of Covid 19, which occurred at a moist market in Wuhan. He told Gupta he was convinced the pandemic had begun months before a mysterious group of pneumonia patients became known in the United States in late December. This raises the question of whether the United States and the world have lost valuable time in preparing for an epidemic to reduce the number of deaths.
Without citing anything to support his claim, Redfield also told Gupta that he believed the pandemic originated in a laboratory in China that had previously studied the virus, a controversial theory that the World Health Organization has called highly unlikely and for which there is no clear evidence.
If I had to guess, this virus began to be transmitted in Wuhan in September or October, Redfield told Gupta in an excerpt from the documentary COVID WAR: Says Pandemic Doctor, airing Sunday at 9 p.m. and on CNN. These are my own feelings. And only one opinion. Now, I’m entitled to an opinion too.
On Friday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Biden administration reserved the right to address the issue until the World Health Organization releases its final report on the origin of Covid-19. Peter Ben Embarek, who led the investigation into the origin of Covid-19, told reporters Friday in a separate briefing that the report was complete and would be released in the coming days. Researchers visited the lab at the center of the controversy, and Embarek told CNN in February that the team determined that the virus was much more prevalent in Wuhan in December 2019 than originally thought.
Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, appeared to downplay the likelihood that Redfield’s statement at a Covid 19 briefing at the White House on Friday was accurate.
There are, of course, a number of theories, said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Redfield said he gives an opinion on this possibility, but again, there are other alternatives – other alternatives that most people stick to.
Push to 200 million shots in 100 days
While the US waits for those results, the Biden administration on Friday announced new measures to reach the president’s new goal of 200 million admissions by his 100th day in office. Jeff Zients, the White House’s Covid 19 response coordinator, said maintaining the current vaccination rate of 2.5 million per day for the next five weeks would amount to vaccinating the sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium 50 times a day.
About 49 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, and about one in three has received at least one dose. But White House officials maintain that 71 percent of seniors have been vaccinated, as this age group is responsible for about 80 percent of Covid-related deaths to date.
Thanks to increased vaccine shipments, Zients confirmed Friday that there will be enough vaccine for every adult in the U.S. by the end of May and said the three manufacturers licensed to use their vaccines on an emergency basis in the U.S. – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – are setting and meeting their goals.
In an effort to increase the number of vaccine doses available at pharmacies and vaccination centers, the government announced Friday three new federal mass vaccination centers in Boston, Norfolk, Virginia, and Newark, New Jersey. At the president’s urging, Zients also noted that most states and the District of Columbia already have plans in place to have all Americans by 1. May to qualify for the vaccine.
There are obvious reasons to be optimistic, but no reason to relax, Zients said. This is not the time to let our guard down.
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