The US is celebrating a return to normalcy, but the true test of COVID-19 progress is two weeks away, says expert

(CNN) – While Memorial Day was a milestone for the covid-19 pandemic to return to normal, it could take another two weeks to determine where the United States really is, one expert said.

“In a way, this was the first big stress test,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen. “We have lifted the restrictions en masse, people go on with their normal lives. We know that in the past, after major holidays and an increase in travel, we had a substantial increase in the rate of infections.

The United States has had a lot to celebrate when it comes to recovering from the pandemic: More than half the population has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 12 states have reached President Joe Biden’s goal. to have 70% of the population vaccinated with at least one dose before July 4.

And along with the increase in vaccines has come a decrease in cases.

This Tuesday, for the first time since March 2020, United States recorded a seven-day average of fewer than 20,000 new cases daily. And less than 5% of the United States population lives in a county that is considered to have high transmission of COVID-19, according to CDC data.

These companies continue to offer gifts to vaccinated 0:56

But Wen warned that the country will have to wait to see if protecting a population that is not fully vaccinated can outweigh the risk of forgoing masks and participating in public settings.

Even if cases stabilize or decline from their current rate of decline, Wen said he is concerned that some communities remain vulnerable.

“There are parts of the country with very low vaccination rates,” he said. “I am really concerned that unvaccinated people in those areas are passing the coronavirus to each other.”

And with variants spreading around the world, even cases that drop too low could cause a problem by reducing the sense of urgency to get vaccinated, Wen added.

Incentives and precautions will be relaxed in the coming weeks

People walk on Coney Island beach as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in New York on May 19, 2021. (Credit: Angela Weiss / AFP)

As the country waits to see how the cases respond to a weekend of celebration, some leaders are focusing on offering incentives for vaccines while others continue to scrap pandemic precautions.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced Tuesday a vaccination incentive lottery with prizes including $ 1 million, two full four-year scholarships for eligible students and 25 weekend getaways.

“On Father’s Day we are going to make one of you a millionaire,” Justice said.

Lotteries to promote vaccines against covid-19 in the US 0:55

Meanwhile, Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud signed an order voiding a number of COVID-19-related health orders, including lifting a statewide mask mandate and opening access to jail and detention facilities.

In Kentucky, senior centers will be able to reopen at full capacity beginning June 11, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday. “The reason we can do that is vaccines. These things are miracles, “he said in a statement.

Abandoning precautions could mean an increase in cases

But as important as vaccines are, they may not be enough to safely remove the precautions just yet, the researchers reported Tuesday.

Even with the majority of the population vaccinated, removing the precautions could lead to an increase in the spread of the virus, they reported in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.

Mehul Patel, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his colleagues used a mathematical model to simulate the spread of the coronavirus in the North Carolina population.

They found that infections, hospitalizations and deaths would continue to rise if pandemic precautions such as quarantine, school closings, social distancing and the use of masks were lifted while vaccines were implemented.

“Our study suggests that, for a population of 10.5 million, approximately 1.8 million infections and 8,000 deaths could be prevented over 11 months with more effective covid-19 vaccines, increased vaccination coverage and maintenance of IPN. (non-pharmaceutical interventions), such as distancing and wearing masks, ”they wrote.

Patel and his colleagues said their findings suggest that a coordinated effort will be needed to maximize vaccine coverage and take precautions against a pandemic “to reduce the burden of covid-19 to a level that can allow the resumption of many economic activities,” educational and social in a safe way.

Cases also decrease in children

Fortunately, cases appear to be declining in children as well.

The United States reported the lowest number of new weekly COVID-19 cases among children since early October, with approximately 34,500 new childhood cases reported last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a report Tuesday.

As of May 27, nearly 4 million children had tested positive since the start of the pandemic.

Children made up between 6% and 19.6% of those tested for COVID-19, according to the states that reported figures, and between 5.2% and 34.6% of children tested tested positive for the virus, according to the state.

“At this time, it still appears that severe illness due to covid-19 is rare among children,” the report said. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on the long-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including the ways in which the virus can harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional effects. and mental health ».

– CNN’s Rebekah Riess, Michael Nedelman, Jen Christensen, Laura Ly, Rebekah Riess, Naomi Thomas, Sahar Akbarzai, Pete Muntean, and Greg Wallace contributed to this report.

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