States plan to lift remaining COVID-19 restrictions

Crowded outdoor dining
Crowded outdoor dining

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Across the country this week, governors are announcing plans to lift remaining COVID-19 restrictions and have made promises of a normal summer.

Relying on metrics that predict high vaccine uptake, Tim Walz, governor of Minnesota, said his state would end existing mask mandates by Jul 1 or earlier if 70% of Minnesotans ages 16 and older had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

On May 28, Walz said all remaining restrictions on businesses and social gatherings will end. "Let's just go get it done and end this thing," said Walz at a press conference yesterday, referring to his challenge to vaccinate 70% of the state's population.

In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced a loosening of restrictions beginning May 14, because the state is on track to have 70% of seniors and 50% of residents age 16 and up vaccinated. If the state does not see an increase in hospitalizations, Pritzker said he plans to fully open by Jun 11. "The light that we can see at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter as more people get vaccinated," Pritzker said at a news conference, according to WBEZ Chicago.

Cases drop but vaccination lags in young adults

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said today during a White House pandemic briefing that the new 7-day average was 45,800 daily cases, down 13% from the previous week.

But daily vaccination rates are also down. According to the CDC, as of May 6, the 7-day average number of administered vaccine doses reported to CDC per day was 2.1 million, a 26% decrease from the previous week.

The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 327,124,625 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States, and 254,779,333 have been administered, with 110,874,920 Americans fully vaccinated.

Walensky pleaded with younger Americans to roll up their sleeves, saying her three sons, ages 16, 19, 21, were now fully vaccinated. Only 1 in 5 Americans ages 18 to 29 are vaccinated, and only 1 in 3 of those ages 30 to 39 are vaccinated, Walensky said.

CDC changes tune on aerosol spread

Yesterday, the CDC updated its information on how COVID-19 spreads, acknowledging that inhalation of very fine respiratory droplets and aerosol particles is one of the main routes of exposure and that risk of inhaling the virus is greatest close to an infected person.

The CDC wrote, "Breathing in air with small droplets or particles that contain the virus when people are less than 6 feet apart," is the most common type of transmission.

But several aerosol scientists and epidemiologists said the CDC's acknowledgement does not go far enough in that it does not recommend the use of respirators and improved ventilation in indoor settings.

"As CDC has made clear, vaccination alone will not prevent the spread of the virus. Mitigation measures are also needed to limit exposures. We must control inhalation exposure of small aerosol particles to end this pandemic," seven US scientists wrote in a letter in response to the CDC guidance. The letter was emailed to journalists.

"CDC must immediately update and strengthen its guidelines and recommendations to protect the public and workers for inhalation exposures to SARS-CoV-2."

Lisa Brosseau, ScD, and Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News, were among the signers.

Other US developments

  • Pfizer and BioNTech have become the first companies to apply to the Food and Drug Administration for full approval of their COVID-19 vaccine for use in people 16 and older, the New York Times reported today. The approval process is likely to take months.

  • New York City is planning to offer tourists a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine as part of an effort to draw more people to city attractions, according to the Wall Street Journal. Tourists would be offered the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

  • California has its lowest COVID-19 hospitalization rate since the first few weeks of the pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reports. Hospitalizations have fallen by 93% since the Jan 6 peak.

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