Biden implores US to take COVID-19 seriously as cases climb

Health worker wearing respirator and face shield
Health worker wearing respirator and face shield

US Navy, Ryan M. Breeden / Flickr cc

As a possible fourth COVID-19 pandemic surge looms even amid expanded access to vaccines, President Joe Biden yesterday urged states and cities to reinstate face mask mandates and bid Americans to behave responsibly, the New York Times reports.

"Please, this is not politics—reinstate the mandate," Biden said. "The failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place."

Following similar patterns in Europe, average daily US coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are up nearly 19% over the previous 2 weeks, including a foreboding spike in northeastern states, as coronavirus variants rapidly supplant less transmissible strains. COVID-19 cases are rising in 30 states, Forbes reports today.

The United States reported 70,265 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 685 deaths; 39,924 Americans are hospitalized, according to the New York Times. The US 7-day average climbed above 63,000 for the first time in nearly 1 month, the Washington Post reports.

Michigan, Vermont, and North Dakota all reported large increases in new cases, with a 57% increase in infections and a 47% increase in hospitalizations in Michigan, which eased coronavirus-related restrictions earlier this month. The 7-day average death rate still approaches 1,000 a day.

US cases today rose to 30,349,019, including 550,371 deaths, according to the John Hopkins online tracker.

Vaccine hesitancy ebbs

States such as Texas and Florida have rescinded their mask requirements and are defying Biden's appeal, even as spring break travelers flock to those destinations despite do-not-travel warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Still, nearly two thirds of Americans participating in an NPR/Marist poll released today said they back Biden's coronavirus response. Seventy percent of respondents said they have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine or plan to get one when appointments open up, up from 62% in February.

Similarly, only 17% of Americans participating in a large-scale US Census Bureau survey said they will definitely not or probably not get vaccinated, down from 22% in its January survey, the Wall Street Journal reports. While vaccine hesitancy is highest in the South, reluctance has declined there, as well.

In another hopeful sign, 55% of Black Americans taking part in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll said they had either been vaccinated or plan to be soon, a jump of 14 percentage points since February. That rate approaches those of Hispanic and White Americans (61% and 64%, respectively).

Expanding vaccine eligibility

The news comes as a number of states announce expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility. In New York state, those 16 years and older will become eligible on Apr 6, while those 30 and up were expected to be able to schedule appointments as soon as today, according to CBS News.

The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows that, as of today, 189,451,285 vaccine doses have been delivered and 147,602,345 have been administered, with 53,423,486 Americans fully vaccinated.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of county-level vaccination rates from the CDC, however, finds that vaccination rates don't directly correlate to coronavirus impact. For example, counties with low scores for community spread and low COVID-19 death rates have vaccinated more residents than those with high community spread and death rates (18.3% vs 15.7%).

Also of concern, counties with higher proportions of Black and Hispanic residents have lower vaccination rates than those with lower proportions (13.7% vs 16.4% and 15.0% vs 15.9%, respectively).

Other US news

  • With Biden earmarking $10 billion toward the creation of a national school COVID-19 testing program in order to reopen school doors, more school districts are working to formulate affordable pooled testing strategies, Politico reports. In pooled testing, nasal swabs from a cohort of students being taught together are tested to limit outbreaks and save the cost of frequent individual testing.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference yesterday in which he promised to take "executive action" against the institution of vaccine passports, which businesses and local governments could require for entry into different venues, according to The Hill. He also asked the state legislature to create a bill banning the passports.

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