Health officials urge caution as states ease COVID restrictions

Nikki Battiste
·2 min read

There are glimpses of post-pandemic life across America. People are eager to get back to normal, but health experts say now is not the time to let our guard down. 

Arizona is ending restrictions on bars and restaurants and allowing baseball fans to attend spring training. Connecticut announced plans to lift capacity limits on most businesses. Atlanta is ready to host the NBA All-Star Game, with fans pouring in from out of state. Elsewhere, children are returning to classrooms.

State-run mass vaccination sites at Yankee Stadium and the Javits Center in New York City have received more vaccines with the addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Both sites have begun taking overnight appointments to meet the demand. 

This comes as the average number of new COVID cases has plummeted from 250,000 to 66,000. But the past few days, those numbers have plateaued. It's a major sign, says Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

"When you have that much viral activity in a plateau it almost invariably means you are at risk for another spike ... many countries in Europe have seen just that," he said. "And now over the past week, they saw an increase in cases by 9%, something we desperately we want to avoid." 

As states like Texas and Mississippi roll back mask mandates, the CDC released a sobering new study, which looked at counties that allowed indoor dining and those with mask mandates. It found that those with restrictions had far lower rates of illness and death. 

"Strictly following prevention measures remains essential for putting an end to this pandemic. It also serves as a warning about prematurely lifting these prevention measures," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC. 

As for prevention, there is promising news as two million Americans are now getting a vaccine dose every day on average — that's more than double from Inauguration Day. Some of the doses are finally reaching meatpacking workers, who were hit hard by the pandemic. 

A vaccine clinic opened Friday at a processing plant in Colorado, where an outbreak last year claimed six lives and infected hundreds. Over the next two days, 2,500 hundred employees will be vaccinated. 

In rural Kentucky, a UPS truck dropped off about 200 Johnson & Johnson vials to a tiny, 25-bed hospital on Thursday. 

"My most vulnerable population in our rural setting have a difficult time getting access to the distribution sites located in the urban centers of the state," said Patrick Branco, the CEO of Russell County Hospital. 

The vulnerable include 90-year-old Alberta Thomas, a COVID-19 survivor. 

"I have never known tiredness or weakness," she said. As soon as I found out about this shot, I said, I will get that one. Yeah, I will get that one. It was top priority." 

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