“We have a high proportion of variants, which means the coronavirus is spreading faster,” Michigan housekeeper Gretchen Whitmer told CNN on Wednesday. “These are much more contagious and we are seeing it whether in youth sports or whether it is the re-engagement of some of our restaurants.”
New Jersey officials also noted variant B.1.1.7 as they reported an increase in cases and hospitalizations and warned that the numbers could remain high during the summer.
“The rise in cases is believed to be mainly due to more contagious variants, for example B.117, the UK variant, coupled with less cautious behavior,” Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said on Wednesday.
New hospitalizations have increased 28% in the past two weeks to more than 2,300 residents, Persichilli said. And between the first and the last week of March, there was a 31% and 48% increase in the number of hospitalizations among 20-29 year olds and 40-49 year olds, respectively. Meanwhile, older residents saw only single-digit percentage increases, she added.
In Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh is implementing a shelter-in-place period in response to an increase in cases among students and concerns about the presence of the B.1.1.7 variant on and around campus.
“The increase in positive cases since the end of last week is now among our students in residence,” says an official email from the university.
Fauci: ‘Hang on a little longer’
The good news is that vaccines given in the United States appear to protect people well against the B.1.1.7 variant.
But only 16.4% of Americans have been fully vaccinated and a large portion of the population remains vulnerable to the virus.
“We are vaccinating around 3 million people a day. With each passing day we are getting closer and closer to a greater degree of protection. So now is not the time to back down and declare a premature victory,” said Dr Anthony Fauci. CNN Wednesday.
“Hang in there a little longer,” he said. “Hang in there, keep taking public health action, and then we can pull out later when we achieve a greater degree of vaccine protection.”
But governors and local officials continued to announce an easing of restrictions, with several mask mandates lifted.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on Tuesday that he was lifting a statewide mask mandate and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will also continue his plan to end his tenure. mask the state next week, a spokesperson for the governor told CNN.
Millions more Americans become vaccine eligible
Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is the only one available for people aged 16 and older, while Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only available to people 18 and older.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced on Wednesday that all people aged 16 and over would be eligible for a vaccine starting Monday.
The change was made to comply with FEMA vaccination site rules, as well as to accommodate students who do not live in the state and people who live with multiple other people who may not have proof of residency. said state health commissioner Dr. Kristina Box. .
“It is our preference that the people who live in Indiana, work in Indiana, are the ones who come to get vaccinated here because we get vaccines based on our population, but what we want to do is that. ‘is removing all obstacles, ”Box said. .
Nursing homes see 96% drop in new cases
But already, vaccines are making the difference.
Nursing homes have seen a 96% drop in new Covid-19 cases since vaccine rollout began in December, according to analysis by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA / NCAL ).
On March 7, nursing homes across the country recorded the lowest number of weekly Covid-19 cases and deaths since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began tracking them, according to the report.
And on the same day, virus-related deaths in nursing homes were down 91% since December.
“This trend shows that when long-term care is a priority, as with the national vaccine rollout, we can protect our vulnerable elderly population,” Parkinson added.
CNN’s Naomi Thomas, Jen Christensen, Anjali Huynh, Alec Snyder, Rebekah Riess, Ganesh Setty and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.
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