STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

A safer time might be just months away. But don't abandon Covid-19 safety measures yet, experts say

Coronavirus cases in the US are dipping and the...

Posted: Mar 9, 2021 4:51 PM
Updated: Mar 9, 2021 4:51 PM

Coronavirus cases in the US are dipping and the number of daily vaccinations is rising. But public health experts are pressing two key concepts they say show that Americans still need to mask and distance for a while longer:

First, case levels are still as bad as they were during a difficult summer. Second, clues increasingly suggest a more transmissible variant is about to cause trouble.

The country has averaged about 57,400 new Covid-19 cases a day over the last week -- down 14% from the week before, and way below the country's pandemic peak of about 255,380 a day in early January, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

But the current level is similar to that of last summer, on either side of a July peak of more than 67,000 new cases daily -- and higher than a September valley of 32,500 from which a torrid fall and winter surge launched.

"We were talking about those numbers (above 50,000) back in the summer with horror. We've just gotten so used to astonishingly high levels of transmission, and now it's down to a roar, but it's still quite a bit," Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, told CNN Tuesday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has touted getting daily new cases down to well below 10,000 to lower the risk of surges.

Signs suggesting a highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant that was first detected in the UK could cause another rise in cases is another concern.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, has said the B.1.1.7 variant is showing up in 30% to 40% of the Covid-19 cases examined in US surveillance checks, up from just 1%-2% just weeks ago. When the saturation reached 50% in Europe, cases surged, he said.

In Houston alone, the variant was found in surveillance testing of wastewater at 21 of the city's 31 treatment plants on February 8; two weeks later, it was found at 31, the city's chief medical officer, Dr. David Persse, said Monday.

"With these new variants on the rise, we have to be really cautious. ... This is not a time to be relaxing those restrictions," Hotez said Tuesday.

Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sounded a similar note Monday.

"We're not done yet, Covid isn't done with us. The variants are still a risk," Frieden said. "You don't declare victory in the third quarter."

Dr. Chris Murray, director of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), said his team's projections show "things will slowly but steadily get better."

"But in our worst scenario, where people stop wearing masks faster, start having gatherings faster, then you can see a surge in April," he said.

You asked, we answered: Your top questions about Covid-19 and vaccines

Hospitalizations and deaths also have been declining

Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths also have been dropping.

The number of Covid-19 patients in US hospitals was around 43,100 as of Sunday, according to the Department of Health and Human Services -- nearly half the number seen a month ago.

The country has averaged 1,502 Covid-19 deaths a day in the last week -- down 22% from the week prior, the the lowest level since November 30, according to Johns Hopkins.

Another state leader announces eased restrictions

Despite experts' warnings about the dangers that persist, a series of states last week unveiled plans to loosen Covid-19 restrictions.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon announced he will lift the statewide mask requirement and will allow bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms to resume normal operations, starting March 16.

"I ask all Wyoming citizens to continue to take personal responsibility for their actions and stay diligent as we look ahead to the warmer months and to the safe resumption of our traditional spring and summer activities," the governor said in a statement on Monday.

A face-covering protocol will stay in place for K-12 schools, he added.

Other state leaders, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also announced earlier this month they were doing away with mask mandates.

Health officials including Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky have urged Americans to continue masking up and staying Covid-19 safe even as states move to eliminate restrictions.

"Listen to the recommendations of the CDC regarding mitigation methods, wearing of masks, physical distancing," Fauci told the National League of Cities on Monday. "Listen to what their recommendations are."

About 60% ages 65 and older have received at least one vaccine dose

While the number of Americans who have been vaccinated grows every day, the country is still likely a few months away from herd immunity -- the point at which enough people are protected against a disease that it cannot spread.

So far, more than 61 million people in the US have gotten at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. More than 32.1 million are now fully vaccinated, the data shows. That's roughly 9.7% of the US population.

About 60% of Americans ages 65 and older, meanwhile, have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, CNN analysis of CDC and US Census Bureau data indicates. That's a notable proportion, because the risk of severe disease and death increases significantly as a person gets older.

People ages 65-74 are 35 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 1,110 times more likely to die from Covid-19, than someone who is 5-17 years old, according to the CDC. People ages 75-84 are 55 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 2,800 times more likely to die; the likelihood is even higher for ages 85 and above.

The CDC on Monday released new guidelines for fully vaccinated people, saying they can safely visit with others who have been vaccinated, as well as small groups of unvaccinated people in some cases -- but safety precautions are still needed.

The guidance says fully vaccinated people can visit other vaccinated people indoors without masks or physical distancing, can visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household without masks or physical distancing -- if the unvaccinated people are at low risk for severe disease -- and can skip quarantine and testing if they're exposed to someone who has Covid-19 but are asymptomatic, but should still monitor for symptoms for two weeks.

Read more about the new guidance here

The CDC also noted its travel recommendations have not changed: it says people should delay travel and stay home. The guidance will continue to be updated, Walensky said on Monday.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319704

Reported Deaths: 7369
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22276267
Hinds20677421
Harrison18407317
Rankin13880282
Jackson13689248
Madison10249224
Lee10056176
Jones8464167
Forrest7827153
Lauderdale7260242
Lowndes6509150
Lamar634888
Lafayette6310121
Washington5420137
Bolivar4837133
Panola4669110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4604147
Marshall4573105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425373
Union415777
Monroe4155135
Neshoba4061179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386687
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3369111
Alcorn325972
Scott320174
Yazoo314171
Adams307486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298189
Tippah291968
Prentiss283861
Leake271974
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George252051
Newton248663
Tishomingo231568
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Clay187854
Stone187833
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135347
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127138
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108033
Tunica108027
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69532
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548323

Reported Deaths: 11288
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809531565
Mobile42066826
Madison35663525
Tuscaloosa26162458
Shelby25595254
Montgomery25081612
Baldwin21839313
Lee16265176
Calhoun14718325
Morgan14626285
Etowah14171363
Marshall12449230
Houston10764288
Elmore10295213
Limestone10182157
St. Clair10160251
Cullman9941201
Lauderdale9596249
DeKalb8967189
Talladega8458184
Walker7335280
Autauga7230113
Blount6944139
Jackson6922113
Colbert6414140
Coffee5627127
Dale4929114
Russell454941
Chilton4472116
Franklin431083
Covington4273122
Tallapoosa4136155
Escambia401780
Chambers3726124
Dallas3607156
Clarke352961
Marion3242106
Pike314078
Lawrence3129100
Winston283572
Bibb268464
Geneva257581
Marengo250665
Pickens236862
Barbour234659
Hale226878
Butler224071
Fayette218162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph187044
Monroe179341
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155657
Cleburne153244
Lamar146537
Lowndes142054
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113430
Coosa111429
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93534
Choctaw62025
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 83°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
78° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Oxford
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 75°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 78°
We continue to monitor a tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico. This will be in heavy rainfall two locations across the southeast over the course of the weekend, and flooding rainfall could be in tow as well. Things are looking better for Father’s Day itself, thankfully.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather