Among the top concerns for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: travel.
“We are very worried about transmissible variants,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN late last week. “A lot of them have come through our travel corridors, so we’re being extra cautious right now with travel.”
The director has said that every time travel numbers are up, a surge in Covid-19 cases tends to follow — as was the case with major holidays like July 4, Labor Day and the winter holiday season.
“There’s about the same amount of travel now as happened during Thanksgiving,” she said.
Florida — a popular spring break destination — is already seeing packed beaches.
“We’re seeing too much spring break activity,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told CNN Saturday morning. “We’ve got a problem with too many people coming here, we’ve got a problem with too many people coming here to let loose.”
“We are concerned,” the mayor said. “It’s very challenging.”
In Orlando, Mayor Buddy Dyer urged visitors to practice Covid-19 safety precautions.
Keep your mask on. Here’s why:
“I think we are letting loose a bit too early. Because we’re talking about lifting mask mandates,” emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen told CNN Saturday. “I understand reopening businesses, I want our businesses and our schools, our churches and other institutions to reopen. We can do that if we keep in place mask mandates.”
In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday he was doing away with any restrictions on events or residents and was removing a mask requirement in state buildings.
But, citing concerns over the B.1.1.7 variant, that was first spotted in the UK and is now spreading in the US, one expert said now is the “wrong time” to be taking away mask mandates.
“If there was ever a time to put on the mask, this is it,” National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins told MSNBC Saturday. “Every bit of data proves that mask wearing reduces infections, reduces deaths are we are still seeing 50 to 60,000 cases a day right now… this is the time.”
Expanded eligibility in some states starting Monday
But the US still faces major challenges when it comes to getting shots in arms, including “constrained vaccine supply ongoing vaccine hesitancy and increasing myths and disinformation,” according to Walensky.
In efforts to boost vaccination numbers, state leaders across the country are announcing expanded requirements for vaccine eligibility.
“The national supply of the vaccine remains limited, so appointments for the estimated 4.4 million Californians with these conditions or disabilities will not immediately be available to all who are eligible,” state health officials said.
The dangerous side effects of a pandemic
For one, there have been “concerning” declines in childhood vaccinations against other infectious diseases, Walensky said during a White House briefing Friday.
“On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps to provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases,” Walensky said. “During the pandemic, we have seen substantial declines in pediatrician visits, and because of this, CDC orders for childhood vaccinations dropped by about 11 million doses — a substantial and historic decline.”
As leaders work to get students back to school, “we certainly do not want to encounter other preventable infectious outbreaks, such as measles and mumps,” Walensky said.
“When planning for your child’s safe return to childcare programs or school, please check with your child’s doctor to make sure that they are up-to-date on their vaccines,” she added.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he’s also worried about the mental health toll the pandemic has had on the nation.
“That’s the reason why I want to get the virological aspect of this pandemic behind us as quickly as we possibly can, because the long-term ravages of this are so multifaceted,” he told CBS on Thursday.
One expert told CNN Saturday it would be helpful for the US to prepare for a potential surge in mental health care needs by increasing access to mental health services.
“We know that 75% of adults here in America are feeling stressed — are feeling overwhelmed, anxious and depressed,” Riana Elyse Anderson, an assistant professor of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan, said.
“We have to be willing to heal.”
CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Naomi Thomas, Melissa Alonso, Rebekah Riess, Jacqueline Howard, Pete Muntean and Greg Wallace contributed to this report.