For the first time since early March, the seven-day average of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the United States fell below 2 million per day, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data published Saturday. On Sunday, the seven-day average edged back above 2 million per day.
Still, as the demand for vaccines has slowed, the outlook for the pandemic in America remains optimistic. Roughly 58% of US adults — and nearly 46% of the country’s total population — have now received at least one dose, according to CDC data. More than 34% of the US population is fully vaccinated, the data show, marking the fastest and largest mass vaccination effort in world history.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently estimated about 70-85% of people need to be immune for the country to reach a “total blanket of protection.” But he also said as “more and more people vaccinated — you will reach a point … where you’ll start to see the number of cases going down dramatically.”
That point might be coming soon, Fauci implied on Sunday, saying that he believes it might be time to rethink indoor mask mandates. “We do need to start being more liberal, as we get more people vaccinated,” he said.
While the thought of a future without masks could be incentive enough for some to get the shot, other states and companies are taking concrete (and creative) steps to get holdouts on board, offering a range of vaccine “bonuses” from cold hard cash to Super Bowl tickets for those willing to roll up their sleeves.
But beyond those perks lie the main incentives of the Covid-19 vaccines, which have sharply brought down cases, hospitalizations and deaths — and have brought us a first step towards life as we once knew it.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q: Is mask-wearing still necessary in the United States?
Against the backdrop of falling coronavirus cases and the rising number of vaccinated Americans, the CDC has updated its guidance to say that if you are fully vaccinated, you can now go unmasked among friends from multiple households during small outdoor gatherings or when dining outside. But unvaccinated people should still wear a mask at those kinds of gatherings, with the guidance that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people still wear masks during crowded outdoor events, such as concerts, parades and sporting events. The same guidance is in place for all indoor public spaces.
There are two main reasons to justify that continued caution. As viral transmission is still high in about 35% of US counties — home to almost 42% of the population — officials are worried that, statistically, large gatherings could still be spreader events. The vaccines don’t confer 100% protection and so-called breakthrough cases have been documented. Another issue is that most settings don’t require proof of vaccination. So, until systems are in place to identify those with natural or vaccine-acquired immunity, or enough of the country has been vaccinated, the CDC is likely to continue to recommend masking in indoor situations.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Medical journal slams Indian government for ‘squandering’ early Covid-19 success
India is currently in the midst of the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, reporting 366,161 additional cases Monday, bringing the total reported infections to more than 22 million. Its death toll, at 246,116, is the third-highest in the world, with modelling from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimating that India may reach 1 million deaths by August.
“If that outcome were to happen, Modi’s Government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe,” the Lancet editorial warned.
These working moms were doing it all. Then came the pandemic.
It’s been a tough year for moms. The brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic has fallen hard on these warriors, with many having lost their jobs, shelved their dreams, or pushed to juggle an insurmountable list of daily tasks. More than 2.3 million women in the United States left the workforce between February 2020 and February 2021, according to the National Women’s Law Center, driving the participation rate of women working down to 57% — a level last seen in 1988.
Women’s jobs and careers have been hit much harder than men’s in the pandemic, leading some like C. Nicole Mason, executive director and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, to label the downturn a “she-cession.”
Covid-19 patients in India have been infected with a “black fungus”
The Indian government reported that cases of a fungal infection called mucormycosis have been identified among Covid-19 patients, a condition that is generally seen with diabetic patients or those who have a suppressed immune system.
The infection most “commonly affects the sinuses or the lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air,” with some severe cases looking like blisters or ulcers, or even turning the skin black, according to information from CDC.
Dr. V.K. Paul, a member of the Indian government-run think-tank Niti Aayog, said Friday that the outbreak was “not big,” and that the situation was being assessed and controlled. Paul explained there are two elements to consider: “One that we are using drugs that suppress the immune system… [and] besides this, when a Covid patient is given oxygen, there is a humidifier which has water in it and the tendency to get the fungal infection increases.”
ON OUR RADAR
- The World Health Organization authorized China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use on Friday, paving the way for its purchase by COVAX, the initiative to provide equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines.
- As the coronavirus crisis in India has pushed the country’s health care system to the brink, the Indian diaspora in the US is pitching in to help, with Indian American doctors providing friends and family with medical advice over phone and video calls.
- Kelly and Kimberly Standard are identical twins. But the experiences the 35-year-old American sisters had with coronavirus were anything but identical, raising the question: Why do some people get so sick, while others don’t?
- At least six private hospitals in Nepal’s capital have stopped admitting Covid-19 patients due to lack of oxygen supplies, just days after Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli said the country’s coronavirus situation is under control.
- Japan’s Prime Minister has said it’s up to the International Olympic Committee to decide whether or not the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead on July 23.
- Across Spain, people partied into the early hours of Sunday, celebrating the end of a 11 p.m. curfew, which was lifted in 13 of the country’s 17 regions at midnight.
TODAY’S TOP TIP
Know your variants.
The CDC has designated three levels of variants. There are variants of interest, which have the potential to be dangerous but haven’t caused much disruption yet; variants of concern, which are more contagious, evade some treatments, cause more severe disease or get past diagnostic tests; and variants of high consequence, which significantly evade the effects of vaccines or treatments.
This week, the CDC said it had designated a coronavirus strain first seen in India as a “variant of interest,” adding it to the growing collection it’s keeping an eye on.