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Summer could be more ‘normal’ — especially if people keep getting vaccinated — Coronavirus Fact vs. Fiction

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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?

A: The short answer is, yes — for now. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta says that it is worth remembering why masks were recommended in the first place: To greatly reduce the amount of virus an asymptomatic carrier might release into the air.

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. 

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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

Medical journal slams Indian government for ‘squandering’ early Covid-19 success

The Indian government’s response to the second wave of Covid-19 in the country is “inexcusable,” according to a scathing editorial in The Lancet. The prestigious medical journal lambasted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in the May 8 article, saying that it ignored warnings of a second surge, encouraged complacency and failed to be transparent on Covid-19 data.

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.”

On the second Mother’s Day of the pandemic, CNN spoke with five women who used to feel they could do it all. Today, their realities have shifted. “I just want to maintain okay. I don’t even want to be great right now,” one woman said. “I just want to be okay, I want to feel okay.” Explore their stories here.

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

Elderly people queue for the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine on March 29, 2021 in Harare, Zimbabwe.

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.

Confused on the difference between the B.1.526 and the P.1? We’ve got you covered here.

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