On the heels of the newly-authorized Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, some states are looking to lift pandemic restrictions, but experts are warning against opening up too soon.
“We should not ease up, allow indoor dining, big groups… getting rid of mask mandates. We have to hold on for another two or three months in this condition,” Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a former health adviser during Barack Obama’s presidency, told CNN. “We’re still having on average 2,000 deaths a day. We cannot become inured to that,” Dr. Emanuel said, adding, that COVID-19 numbers are “going to reverse and go up,” if restrictions are lifted too soon.
Several states have reported a decrease in positive rates and hospitalizations, some at levels they haven’t seen in months, still the CDC reported a two percent increase in the seven-day average of new cases. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky also reported Monday (March 1) a similar increase in the seven-day average of deaths.
“With these new statistics I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19,” Walensky said.
Despite the warnings, several states have already taken steps to ease restrictions, some are increasing indoor capacity limits, eliminating out-of-state travel restrictions, and even weighing getting rid of mask mandates.
If the protective measures are eased, Director Walensky warned the variants could completely undo the progress America has made.
“Please hear me clearly,” she said, “At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real thing to our people and our progress.”
Dr. Emanuel echoed the warning stating that thousands of lives are at risk if the pandemic measures are taken away. “Really what’s at stake here, by taking off that mask, by dining indoors, is really thousands of people’s lives,” Emanuel said. “That just doesn’t seem like a very big burden to save other people’s lives and maybe even your own life.”
For Black Americans, these warnings are especially relevant given the disproportionate amount of deaths within the community and other communities of color and vulnerable populations have seen related to coronavirus, as well as a lag in gaining access to the vaccines. With more than 200,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being distributed this week, officials are hopeful to get more people protected against the virus, and addressing inequality in access.
The vaccines, in conjunction with the pandemic guidelines, experts say, could be a lifesaver for thousands of people in the months ahead.
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