COVID-19 infections could be under control by July if people get vaccinated and continue to take reasonable precautions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report that analyzed data from six predictive models for future COVID-19 transmission that stated these two factors could bring COVID-19 to its knees.
The agency said that with "high vaccination coverage and moderate non-pharmaceutical intervention adherence, hospitalizations and deaths will likely remain low naturally, with a sharp decline in cases projected by July 2021." The CDC cautioned that non-pharmaceutical interventions, or NPI’s, such as reasonable social distancing and wearing masks at appropriate times, are critical factors that could prevent increases in severe COVID-19 outcomes.
According to The Washington Post, the optimistic report was released Wednesday and reflects a nationwide confidence that the U.S. will return to a degree of normalcy soon. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that the modeling results offer a viable plan out of the COVID-19 pandemic as long as Americans continue to get vaccinated and follow mitigation measures to avoid infection from the virus.
"The results remind us that we have a path out of this, and models, once projecting really grim news, now offer reasons to be quite hopeful for what the summer may bring," she said, according to the Post.
Each of the models studied by the CDC offered different scenarios on how COVID-19 could play out after the number of cases peaked in March, fell in late spring, and then hopefully will continue to plummet this summer. Experts explain that even if the most optimistic scenarios unfold, case rates and hospitalizations will differ from state to state.
The CDC report said that deaths from the disease could drop to 100 weekly this summer and less by September, according to Dr. Justin Lessler, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Medicine, one of the paper’s authors. The Post reports that currently 4,000 Americans are dying from COVID-19 weekly, and approximately 578,000 have died since the start of the pandemic.
To achieve the result outlined by the CDC, Lessler said that 90% of those eligible would need to be vaccinated, which the professor admitted "may be on the optimistic side given rates of vaccine refusal in some areas."
"We have to regard everybody’s hesitation and skepticism seriously," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He told CNN that the anxiety over COVID-19 itself and the pressure to get vaccinated make people understandably nervous.
Experts are also concerned about the variants that could cause future outbreaks of disease. Some epidemiologists believe that even if the disease is contained by the summer, it could erupt again in the fall. The CDC did not take into account the possible situation in which a highly aggressive variant — one that may elude out current vaccines — gets a foothold in America, says the Post.
The virus has surprised many infectious disease experts in the past who attempted to model its trajectory. There has been unexpected resurgence when people let their guard down and do not follow mitigation efforts. Healthcare officials, including the CDC, say that wearing masks and observing social distancing are measures that need to continue to beat the pandemic.
But getting vaccinated is the key that can unlock the door to freedom.
"Vaccines matter most," said Katriona Shea, a professor of biology at Penn State and a senior author of the CDC report. "It’s absolutely possible to get a full rebound. But if we get enough vaccine uptake and high enough compliance with precautions, it is possible to bring it down."
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