Now is a “dangerous” time to be unvaccinated, warned Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH, physician, health policy researcher, and Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health this morning. He appeared on This Week opposite host Martha Raddatz to discuss the raging cases in India, what’s safe to do here in America and why the pandemic isn’t over—but we may approach normality sooner that you think (he gave a date). Read on for his 5 essential pieces of advice that can save your life—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Had COVID and Didn’t Know It.
The CDC released new guidelines last week about being allowed to wear a mask indoors. Vaccinated people had more freedoms. “I thought the guidelines were a good next step,” said Jha. “Some of the details can be confusing, but the big picture take home was if you’re fully vaccinated, outdoors is more or less safe unless you’re in some very, very crowded space. The key issue now is what about indoors? And my sense as well, infection numbers are still above 50,000 a day—almost half of adults are not vaccinated—CDC is going to be hesitant about pulling back on indoor mask mandates, and I think that’s right. But as more people get vaccinated, we’re going to see that pull back as well. This is a pretty dangerous time to be unvaccinated, but what CDC is signaling is if you’re fully vaccinated, the freedoms are just becoming safer and safer for people.”
India is on fire with COVID-19, a humanitarian crisis that may spread to America. “The main variant that we’re seeing spread in India, B 18.104.22.168—they don’t evade our vaccines yet. Most of the data suggests that our vaccines will hold up. But of course, when you have major outbreaks, like this are the opportunities for more variants. And ultimately, what we need to do is we need to get this under control, as I said, purely for humanitarian reasons, we just don’t want tens of thousands of people dying every day. But second that the variants will spread to other parts of the world, including the United States, will leave unvaccinated people in America vulnerable. So there’s a lot of good reasons for us to be getting this under control.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s going to “fully” reopen his city by July 1st. Is that realistic? “I think it’s very achievable,” said Jha. “It’s all dependent on vaccinations, but if we keep going, even at the slower pace, if we keep vaccinating Americans, I think by July 1st, you’re going to see much of America feel close to normal. Look, it won’t be a hundred percent, but it’s going to be pretty close to what life was like before the endemic. It’s going to depend on vaccinations, but I’m very optimistic about this.”
How will we get the rest of the country vaccinated, Raddatz wondered. “Now it’s the ground game,” said Jha. “All the people who really, really wanted a vaccine have gotten it. We’re at about 55% of all adults. We need to get into the seventies and eighties in terms of proportion of adults, because obviously kids are not going to be vaccinated for a while. And therefore I think it’s about making it extremely easy—walk-in clinics, getting into doctor’s offices—and then also working with trusted voices, religious leaders, civil society leaders to advocate for getting people vaccinated. It’s going to make an enormous difference if we can get some more chunk of that unvaccinated population with shots into their arms.”
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP, wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don’t travel unless it’s necessary, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.