The number of Americans now completely vaccinated for COVID-19 has surpassed the number of reported cases of the virus since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
Just over 30 million people have been completely vaccinated, 9.2% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Johns Hopkins data dashboard counts 29 million cases of the virus reported nationwide. But experts warn that reported cases could represent a fraction of actual infections.
Public health experts are also warning that the number of Americans getting tested for coronavirus has dropped significantly since January, possibly because Americans are growing complacent as the second year of COVID-19 marches on and millions get vaccinated every week.
Testing remains a staple of the effort to control COVID-19, along with wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowded indoor places and hand hygiene. Though officials are optimistic vaccines will offer protection, some warn the nation might be letting its guard down before enough Americans are protected from the virus.
“A lot of people are just kind of done with the pandemic,” said Mary Hayden, professor of internal medicine and pathology at Rush Medical College in Chicago.
But variants around the U.S. are rising, if trends are any indication: the country has doubled its known total of such coronavirus infections since Feb. 18. And more and more states have had case levels rise in the past week after a month of plateaus.
Also in the news:
►Colorado health officials are advising anyone who participated in a raucous Boulder party-turned riot to quarantine for at least 10 days and to get tested for COVID-19. The event turned so violent a car was flipped over and a police SWAT team used tear gas to break up the crowd.
►New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her country will now use only the Pfizer vaccine to inoculate its population. She says the decision was based on the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness.
►Dr. Anthony Fauci is projecting U.S. high school students will be able to get vaccinated early in the next school year and that elementary school students should be line for vaccinations in early 2022.
►Israel started vaccinating Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements on Monday. Over 3.7 million Israelis – more than 40% – have received two doses of the vaccine, but Israel had provided few vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
►Germany is looking to ramp up the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after authorities last week gave the green light for it to be administered to people 65 and over. Germany’s vaccine campaign has lagged behind Britain and the United States.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 28.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 525,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 116.8 million cases and 2.59 million deaths. More than 116.3 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 90.3 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Public heath experts have been critical of Texas, Mississippi and other states that have tossed aside mask mandates. They also warn of another threat to the country’s hard-fought gains against COVID-19: The number of Americans getting tested for coronavirus has dropped significantly since January. Read the full story.
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Down syndrome adults face high risk – but many can’t get vaccine
Recent studies indicate that adults with Down syndrome, specifically those 40 and older, are three to 10 times as likely to die from COVID-19 than the general population. The findings confirmed what many had already suspected – that those with the genetic disorder, already prone to respiratory issues, heart conditions and other risk factors for coronavirus, were more susceptible to the virus’ harmful effects. But Down syndrome priority for the vaccine varies from state to state.
“It’s clear that they should be moved to the front of the line,” said Republican Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Minnesota, lead author of a letter signed by bipartisan state legislators last month imploring health officials to prioritize adults with the condition. “I can’t emphasize enough how dangerous it could be for these individuals if they don’t get the vaccine.”
– Marc Ramirez
Biden to witness vaccinations at Veterans Affairs center in Washington
President Joe Biden and Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough will visit the Washington D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center today to witness the administration of vaccines there. The center is offering vaccines by appointment to Veterans qualify as frontline workers or are 65 or older, homeless or residing in group housing settings, are on a transplant list or have cancer and are receiving IV chemotherapy at the medical center. The VA has administered more than 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines at over 250 locations since its campaign to vaccinate millions of veterans enrolled in its system began Dec. 14.
Variant cases have doubled in US since Feb. 18, CDC data shows
The U.S. added a record 380 new coronavirus variant cases Sunday, continuing a trend that has seen the country double its known total of such coronavirus infections since Feb. 18. Different versions of the virus that causes COVID-19 are spreading quickly even as the pace of new infections has generally been falling nationwide.
The variants can spread more easily, dodge some treatments and immunities or both, leaving them a threat even as more Americans get vaccinated. The U.S. has 3,133 known variant cases, up from the 2,753 reported Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control said Sunday.
Most of America’s known variant cases are of B.1.1.7, which was first seen in the United Kingdom, with 3,037. Vaccines have proven effective against it but the variant is considered at least 50% more infectious than the original strain, making fast, widespread vaccination imperative.
– Mike Stucka
Michigan makes homeless people eligible for COVID vaccines
People who are homeless will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan starting Monday.
“Our vulnerable populations are high priority for us right now,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said, according to the Lansing State Journal. “This opens the door to make sure that population is also vaccinated and we don’t continue to have outbreaks in shelters.”
The news comes as infection rates are dropping and vaccine campaigns are ramping up. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced the further loosening of the state’s coronavirus restrictions, easing capacity limits in restaurants and other businesses while also allowing for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to end mask mandate in April
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday that he will end a mask mandate next month if the state’s test positivity rate or hospitalizations are low. Hutchinson on Friday lifted most of the safety restrictions placed on businesses to curb transmission of the coronavirus. He said that it’s time to “rely upon common sense and good judgment” versus mandates that are crippling businesses.
Last week, President Joe Biden dismissed the decision by some Republican governors to end mask mandates as “Neanderthal thinking.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the comment as a “reflection of his frustration” about Americans refusing to follow public health guidance.
Hutchinson does not agree. “Just give us our freedom back and lift some of our mandates,” he said. “That’s not caveman thinking, that’s common sense.”
Contributing: Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY; The Associated Press