Public Health Weekly

It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over

The latest Covid insights from former CDC Director Tom Frieden

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Encouraging progress

CDC reports encouraging progress in its weekly Covid summary and website, both of which continue to get better:

  • 11% decrease in cases this past week;
  • Test positivity rate is down by 11%, to an encouragingly low 4.1%;
  • Vaccinations are up to 2.2 million per day, an 8% increase over the prior week;
  • 65 million people have received at least one vaccine dose and 35 million are fully vaccinated;
  • Deaths are down 19% — this decrease is happening faster than the case decrease, and represents thousands of lives saved by vaccination.
  • More than 50,000 new cases a day;
  • Nearly 5,000 hospitalizations last week;
  • More than 1,400 deaths a day.

Variants remain concerning

Right now we’re in a race between vaccination and variants. Which of them wins will determine whether there’s a fourth surge. Variants are spreading, and may now be responsible for more than half of Covid-19 cases in New York City and a growing proportion elsewhere.

Is a fourth surge looming?

Will there be a fourth surge in the U.S.? Those who answered this (admittedly unscientific) poll are optimistic there won’t be.

Getting vaccines into arms

The CDC has issued guidance on what people who have been fully vaccinated can safely do — and what they should not do. This guidance, with the science brief that supports it, is a good example of evidence-based recommendations. As noted in this week’s JAMA, we need to have a clear discussion of what this guidance means for people day-to-day. As more data become available and more people get vaccinated, these recommendations will evolve. That’s how science works.

Re-opening

We should open schools and businesses safely. However, restaurants, bars, and large indoor events are much riskier, especially in places without mask mandates. A new MMWR study shows that masks work, and that places allowing on-premises restaurant dining had higher case and death rates. No worker should be avoidably exposed to Covid, or have to plead with a customer to mask up. OSHA should act.

Five points to end the week

First: Covid is far from over. Have a look at the map from The New York Times below. It’s still raining Covid pretty hard out there.