“America appears to be done with the pandemic,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “The virus is not done with us.”
More than 15,000 cases of the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, which also appears to be more deadly, have been reported in the US. While the US races to get Americans vaccinated in time, many experts are asking the public to hold onto precautions for just a little while longer.
“We are not going to have enough vaccines, the way we are going, into the arms of enough Americans over the course of the next six to ten weeks with this surge that we are going to stop it,” Osterholm told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “It’s just simply not going to happen.”
And though the US is vaccinating nearly five times faster than the global average, with 40% of adults having received at least one shot, lower income countries with limited vaccine access could become a site for variants to spin out of control, Osterholm said.
Fortunately, the US has conditions that could help combat another surge: increased vaccination rates, a significant percentage of the population having already been infected and warming weather, said Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA Vaccines Advisory Committee.
Restrictions ease with increased vaccinations
The White House said Monday that there will be enough vaccines for all Americans by the end of next month, and some states have begun making plans for a return to normalcy.
Hawaii is aiming to reopen inter-island travel by July 4, a goal that is accompanied by pilot programs with two companies that would allow the state to verify the vaccination status of travelers, Gov. David Ige said.
Cruises are hoping to soon return as well. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. aims to resume trips from US ports in July, and the company announced Monday that it will require all guests and staff be vaccinated.
“With vaccine mandates and strict health and safety protocols in place, we believe we can provide a uniquely safe and healthy vacation experience,” President and CEO Frank Del Rio said in a release.
Students hoping to enroll in Fort Lewis College classes in Colorado in the Fall will also be required to get the vaccines, the school said in a release Friday.
In Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser is calling for residents to get vaccinated as soon as they have the chance. She is also loosening many restrictions beginning May 1, including allowing seated live entertainment indoors at 25% capacity, and recreation centers, libraries, museums and galleries and non-essential retail will be able to operate with 50% capacity indoors or outdoors.
“We know that we can expect to see some increases in cases this month, but with vaccinations and continued safeguards we expect that later in the spring that those cases will come down,” the mayor said, before reminding residents to “get vaccinated as soon as you have the opportunity.”
Bowser is one of many local and state leaders to ease restrictions, though holding on to precautions is still a crucial part of the fight against the virus, Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
State leaders take varied responses to rising cases
Although vaccinations are growing quickly, cases of Covid-19 have been on the rise for four straight weeks — and that is due in large part to the variants, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
And across the state, there are at least 81 new clusters in K-12 schools, according to data released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Monday.
Despite increased prevalence of variants, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said he does not expect his state to experience another surge of cases.
The state has administered more than two million Covid-19 vaccines and more than 800,000 individuals are fully immunized, Lamont said. He added that due to the state’s progress, he expects that in-person outdoor and indoor graduation ceremonies would be possible, provided that attendee’s social distance and wear masks.
In Ohio, a rise in the positivity rate has sent the state to a “back to basics, common sense” order on Covid-19 prevention, Gov. Mike DeWine said.
The new, “simplified” order, which should be ready for signing by the end of Monday, includes wearing masks at most indoor locations, avoiding congregating in groups larger than 10 people and maintaining social distancing.
“It truly, truly is a race,” DeWine said. “These are the things that we need to do as we move forward.”
CNN’s Michael Nedelman, Deidre McPhillips, Nikki Carvajal, Kay Jones, Rebekah Riess, Jen Christensen, Dave Alsup, Joe Sutton and Alec Snyder contributed to this report.