Surgeon opposes relaxing of Covid restrictions: ‘We haven’t even come down below the surge last summer’

Health, Fitness & Food

States are easing social distancing rules but it’s “too soon” to roll back Covid restrictions, Dr. Atul Gawande warned on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith.”

“We are currently at levels of cases that are still above the highest level of our last surge, so we haven’t even come down below the surge last summer,” said the surgeon and professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We continue to have 2,000 deaths a day, so this is not the level that we’re in a good shape to just plateau at, we’ve got to push further downward.”

The U.S. is currently seeing a 7-day average of 67,365 daily new U.S. cases, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data, down 73% from a peak average of about 249,000 in mid-January.

Gawande echoed the concerns for reopening shared by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, who said she is still “deeply concerned” about the virus. 

“Our recent declines appear to be stalling — stalling at over 70,000 cases a day,” Walensky said during a Monday White House press briefing. “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.”

Gawande argued that the new Covid variants circulating within the U.S., including the latest variant circulating in New York, B.1.526, should be a further reason for Americans to remain vigilant when it comes to coronavirus.

The CDC reports that nearly 25.5 million Americans are fully vaccinated, about 8% of the country’s population, and with manufacturing lagging, demand for shots is at a premium.

“I think the evidence is pretty solid that giving just a single shot to people who’ve reported that they’ve been infected before would be a smart thing to do and enable more vaccination to go to others as well,” Gawande said of a temporary strategy to make the current supply stretch further.

Two new studies out of Great Britain show that one shot of vaccine can offer “robust” protection for Covid survivors. The CDC, however, is currently debating the topic. Gawande told host Shepard Smith that he’d like to see the CDC get their evaluation out as soon as possible. 

The U.S. vaccination effort is now armed with the Johnson & Johnson shot, the third approved vaccine in its arsenal to fight Covid. The White House said Americans could start receiving the single-shot vaccine as soon as Tuesday. 

“As to the expected supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, this week we’ll distribute 3.9 million doses,”  said Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator. ”That is the entirety of Johnson & Johnson’s current inventory. We’re getting these doses out the door right away to ensure vaccines get into arms as quickly as possible.”

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