(CNN) – Don't let Super Bowl Sunday turn into Superspreader Sunday.
Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are getting better and better in much of the United States. However, according to health experts, this advance could quickly be reversed if fans party with people who do not live with them.
"Having people gathering in close proximity to private homes is one of the most effective ways to spread the disease," said Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky Public Health Officer. "We cannot afford to spread the disease with these mutations and these variants now."
Baltimore City officials are also urging people to stay home this Super Bowl Sunday.
Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor, said, "While instinct is to celebrate together, we cannot get cocky."
"We need to keep doing the things we know are effective at taming the virus: wear a mask, keep social distance and avoid gatherings," he said. "We can beat this thing, but we have to be smart."
This is especially true after a new study found that the highly contagious B.1.1.7 strain, first detected in the UK, is now rapidly spreading in the US.
While the B.1.1.7 strain still makes up a relatively small fraction of the known US cases, it doubles about every 10 days, according to researchers.
U.S. laboratories are still only sequencing a small fraction of the coronavirus samples, the researchers said. It is therefore not clear which variants are in circulation in the country.
Last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted that variant B.1.1.7 could be the predominant strain in the U.S. by March. It is estimated that the virus is about 50% more transmissible.
Without "determined and immediate public health action," the researchers warned, more transmissible variants are "likely to have devastating effects on COVID-19 mortality and morbidity in the US in a few months."
Why some Covid-19 numbers are getting better
After a miserable start to winter – marred by record-breaking new cases, hospitalizations and deaths – new cases and hospital stay numbers are improving.
According to the COVID Tracking Project, the U.S. has just spent its eighth straight day with fewer than 100,000 people hospitalized for Covid-19 hospitalization.
And the seven-day average of new cases fell from 220,000 on January 6 to 120,000 on Saturday.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, such good news is likely the result of waning infections while on vacation, as well as Americans doing better job with safety precautions.
"I think that's what happens: a combination of natural climax and people doubling in on public health interventions," Fauci told MSNBC on Friday.
But daily deaths from Covid-19 are still high. According to the Johns Hopkins University, the US has reported a daily average of more than 3,000 Covid-19 deaths for weeks. The average daily death toll exceeds the number of lives lost in the 9/11 attacks.
Some say safety measures, not vaccinations, are a must for school openings
The CDC is expected to release guidelines this week on how to safely open schools during the pandemic.
On Sunday, Fauci and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, while it is important to vaccinate teachers, it is not a requirement to open schools.
However, mitigation measures are a must.
Opening K-8 schools in 100 days is a priority for the Biden administration, Fauci told NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, but "they will need help" so schools can "have the skill with masks" Ability to better ventilate all the things you want to do. "
"It would be great to have all the teachers vaccinated as soon as possible," said Fauci.
Gottlieb, a former commissioner for the US Food and Drug Administration, told CBS "Face the Nation": "I think the prerequisite for opening schools is introducing mitigation measures in schools."
He noted that research showed that people who wore masks remained aloof and took precautions, “there is very little transmission in the classroom. The schools are not a transmission vector. "
Gottlieb said while it would be good to vaccinate teachers quickly, "I don't think this is necessarily a requirement. I think schools have shown that if they have taken precautions in the classroom they can open safely."
Fauci: There probably isn't enough time for certain 1-dose studies
The two vaccines currently administered in the US by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna require two doses three or four weeks apart.
However, the offer is still limited. And health experts have debated whether the US should now give first doses to as many people as possible, with the risk that some people may delay the second dose.
Fauci said there may not be enough time to study how much protection a dose offers or how long that protection could last.
"At this point we will already be in the arena to have enough vaccines anyway," Fauci told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.
“From a theoretical point of view, it would be nice to know if you are getting just one dose, how long it will last, and how strong the effect is,” said Fauci. "So it would be great to have the degree, but I don't think we can make it in time."
Fauci said he believed "you can have so many people … their first dose at the same time that you keep the second dose on schedule."
In the meantime, a third vaccine that only requires one dose could be available to the public in the coming weeks.
Johnson & Johnson officially asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday for emergency approval to use its single-dose Covid-19 vaccine. A decision could be made by the end of this month.
AstraZeneca's vaccine is under discussion
Early data suggest that two doses of another vaccine, this one from Oxford / AstraZeneca, offer "minimal protection" against mild and moderate Covid-19 from variant B.1.351, which was first identified in South Africa, Oxford University announced on Sunday .
According to a press release from Oxford University on Sunday, viral neutralization against the B.1.351 variant was "significantly reduced" compared to the earlier coronavirus strain.
The study, which was not published, included approximately 2,000 volunteers, who averaged 31 years old. About half received the vaccine and half received a placebo.
The effectiveness of the vaccine against severe Covid-19, hospitalization and death has not been assessed.
After the Financial Times reported the study on Saturday, AstraZeneca believes the vaccine could protect against serious illness. The company said it has begun adapting the vaccine to the variant "so that it is ready for fall shipment should it be needed".
The World Health Organization's independent panel on vaccination will meet on Monday to discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine and studies evaluating how effective it is against the B.1.351 strain, WHO technical director for Covid-19 said, Maria Van Kerkhove, opposite CBS & # 39; s Face the Nation on Sunday.
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca told CNN on Saturday that a small study found that the company's Covid-19 vaccine offered limited protection against mild illnesses in cases caused by variant B.1.351. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.
There are "some preliminary studies that indicate decreased effectiveness," Van Kerkhove told CBS. "But these studies have not yet been fully published either."
Where the US is on vaccines
More than 30 million Americans have received at least their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the CDC.
More than 8.3 million people were fully vaccinated with two doses. That's roughly 2.5% of the US population.
In some parts of the country officials are working to improve access to vaccines for underserved and vulnerable communities.
In the Houston area, local officials say hospitals that are open to uninsured people receive a lower percentage of doses than private hospitals.
"You can have the best health care in the world, but when people can't access it, it's like you don't have it at all," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
"If you want to eradicate the inequality, you need to send the cans to the venues that reach these regions."
In the northeast, some people are not vaccinated on Sunday because of another challenge: the weather.
A massive winter storm that hit the region last week disrupted vaccination efforts in several states. On Saturday, Cuomo said some vaccination centers in New York would shut down on Sunday.
"New Yorkers with test or vaccination appointments at these locations will receive notification of these suspensions via text message and phone," the governor's office said. Appointments are postponed for later in the week.
"The perfect environment" for viruses to spread
While many parts of the country have relaxed Covid-19 rules because their numbers have decreased, others are sticking to their mandates.
Several bars in New Orleans have closed after breach of Covid-19 restrictions, officials said on Saturday.
Los Angeles County, suffering from a crippling Covid-19 crisis, recently announced that restaurants – with restrictions – could reopen for al fresco dining. But public health director Barbara Ferrer said the county is still "a long way from eating in the house".
"The virus can be transmitted very easily if you don't have your face covered," she said. "So if you have to eat or drink indoors and remove your face covering, this is the perfect environment for this virus to pass through."
The CNN wire
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