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Health experts warn of new coronavirus spike as states ease restrictions, spring break travel surges

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Health experts have urged Americans to remain vigilant as some states start to roll back coronavirus restrictions and others see a rise in visitors due to spring break.

Several variants of the COVID-19 virus have been identified across the United States, including a new variant in New York – which Dr. Anthony Fauci said is spreading “efficiently” through the state – in addition to the already-documented South Africa and United Kingdom variants.

At the same time, Texas and Mississippi announced Wednesday that they were removing mask mandates and lifting other coronavirus restrictions.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - MARCH 04: People walk near the beach on March 04, 2021 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. College students have begun to arrive in the South Florida area for the annual spring break ritual. City officials are anticipating a large spring break crowd as the coronavirus pandemic continues. They are advising people to wear masks if they cannot social distance. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA – MARCH 04: People walk near the beach on March 04, 2021 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. College students have begun to arrive in the South Florida area for the annual spring break ritual. City officials are anticipating a large spring break crowd as the coronavirus pandemic continues. They are advising people to wear masks if they cannot social distance. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The timing also raises concerns, as pictures and videos of spring break celebrations in Florida flooded social media. California and Texas have braced for a surge in visitors as spring break veers toward normal.

“We need to make sure that we do not let down our guard,” Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. “People do need to meet the president’s challenge of masking up. People do need to take the vaccine when it’s their turn. We need to stay on this path and beat this pandemic.”

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Zients continued to push the need to vaccinate Americans, claiming that the Biden administration has increased vaccination sites across the country.

“The FDA, the CDC, Dr. Fauci, all have said the same thing, which is we now have three safe and very effective vaccines and Americans should take the first vaccine that they are offered,” Zients said.

The emphasis on masks and vaccines is to allow states to reopen – with control: Business owners on Galveston Island, Texas, have cautiously welcomed spring breakers as a way to make up for the business they missed out on during the nearly year-long lockdown.

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“There are a lot of harms to closing businesses, not just economic harms, educational harms when it comes to schools, personal hardship, health harms from people not having work,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC director, during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “So it’s really important to get our economy open again as safely as possible.”

“Masks work, mask mandates work, and lifting mask mandates is very dangerous, particularly with the risk of more dangerous variants emerging and spreading,” Frieden added.

Frieden advised that mask policies are still useful, even as people get vaccinated.

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The move to reopen appears to be related to the plateau in cases, but that plateau is still too high, according to Frieden and Fauci.

New cases in the U.S. have hovered between 50,000 to 60,000 over the past week, which health experts have said is “not an acceptable level.”

“If you look at what happened in Europe … they’re usually a couple of weeks ahead of us in these patterns,” Fauci told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan. “They were coming down, then they plateaued, then over the last week they’ve had a 9% increase in cases.”

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“What we’re saying is we want to come back carefully and slowly … but don’t turn it, switch on and off, because it would be very risky to have another surge.”

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