COVID cases up slightly as spring break threatens progress

Miami Beach aerial view
Miami Beach aerial view

Mike McBey / Flickr cc

"We just do not want have a rapid uptick in cases; we are behind the 8 ball when that happens," said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, today during a White House briefing, as she urged Americans to remain vigilant against COVID-19 and avoid unnecessary travel in the coming weeks.

The message came after a weekend of spring break revelry resulted in officials in Miami Beach declaring a state of emergency in response to a surge of maskless visitors, NPR reports.

The city's mayor suspended outdoor dining after 7 pm and banned strolling on Ocean Drive after 8 pm.

"Now is not the time to travel," Walensky said. "We can look at the surge that happened in Europe, and we do not want that to happen [here]."

Hospitalizations, deaths stay low

The 7-day average of newly reported COVID-19 cases climbed by 2.6% on Sunday, the Washington Post reports, but hospitalizations and deaths remained down.

The increase could signal that highly transmissible variants, including B117, could be starting to cause a fourth surge just as millions more Americans become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Three million Americans were vaccinated on each day this past weekend, a first, and millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine should be available to states in the next 10 days.

"We must act now and I am worried that if we don’t take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge," Walensky said.

To that end, Walensky and Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor on pandemic response, urged Americans and businesses to adhere to mask wearing and physical distancing, even if and when individual states choose to remove mandates. And they urged all American adults to get the vaccine as soon as they are able.

The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows that 156,734,555 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States, and 126,509,736 doses have been administered, with 44,910,946 Americans fully vaccinated. According to the tracker, 82,772,416 million Americans have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The United States reported 33,645 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 432 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total, the country has confirmed 29,848,830 COVID-19 cases, including 542,636 deaths.

US trial shows 79% AstraZeneca vaccine efficacy

Also addressed at today's White House briefing were interim data from the US phase 3 trial of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, which demonstrated 79% efficacy at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% efficacy at preventing severe disease and hospitalization, with a favorable safety profile, according to an AstraZeneca press release.

Notably, there was no evidence if blood clots in the circulatory system, or thrombosis, in the vaccine group, Anthony Fauci, MD, chief medical advisor to the White House, said.

The company says it will submit the findings to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. The vaccine has already been approved for use in several other countries. And despite recent reports of adverse events, the US trial showed a favorable safety profile.

Even if the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved for emergency use in the United States, approval would come in May, after the country already has enough supply of vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson to cover the adult US population.

Like Pfizer and Moderna, AstraZeneca is a two-dose vaccine, but like Johnson & Johnson, it is built on an adenovirus platform and is refrigerator stable for up to 6 months.

Slavitt said today, however, more approved vaccines give the country more flexibility, if and when vaccines are approved for use in teens and children, and allow the United States to be in a position to give vaccine supplies to other countries.

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