Though coronavirus vaccine administration is not at President Joe Biden’s hoped-for level of 1.5 million per day, the US has gotten closer, having averaged 1.3 million new shots a day over the last week, according to federal data.
Until now, the sluggish pace of distribution had most states’ demand for vaccines exceeding their supply as they raced to protect their first-priority populations, often healthcare workers and older Americans.
Now New York, with about 75% of hospital workers inoculated, may become the first state to offer vaccine access to people with the simultaneous presence of two or more medical conditions, no matter their age. The governor’s office listed cancer, chronic kidney disease, pulmonary disease and heart conditions as some of the comorbidities and underlying conditions that the state will use to determine eligibility for the Covid-19 vaccine.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said Friday that the state is now vaccinating those in the prison system along the same guidelines as the general public.
And in Texas, the Houston Health Department said Friday that it will prioritize “vulnerable populations” and “underserved communities” as it receives additional vaccine allotments.
When it comes to reaching the underserved, such as people who are homeless, those without insurance and migrant workers, local pharmacies and health centers are a better option than trying to “reinvent the wheel” with mass vaccination sites, Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir said in a radio interview aired Friday.
“I think trying to set up a big federal site in the middle of Dallas that will immunize 10,000 a day, that’s much less amenable,” the former Health and Human Services assistant secretary said on SiriusXM’s “Doctor Radio Reports.” “It’s not meeting people where they are, and it’s much less efficient than having the distributed network that we’ve already established and have been using for decades.”
Variant surges are possible but not inevitable
Health experts have warned that the spread of new variants, some of which appear to be more transmissible, could lead to them becoming predominant and spur more case surges.
But that is “a possibility, but not necessarily an inevitability,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC’s “The Beat” on Friday.
The virus can only mutate if it is able to replicate, Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
“When you have a lot of infection in your country, when you’re getting three to 400,000 new infections a day, the virus has an open playing field to replicate so much that it starts to mutate. That’s when you get the dangerous mutations,” Fauci told MSNBC.
One of the best ways to keep variants from spreading and to prevent more mutations, he said, was “to double down on public health measures to prevent the virus from going from one person to another: the masking, the distancing, the avoiding congregate settings.”
Another, he said, was for the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“As soon as the vaccine becomes available, please go out and get vaccinated, because the combination of vaccination and public health measures will bring the level of virus down so low you won’t give it a chance to mutate. That’s what we need to do,” he said.
Schools navigate returning to campus
Teachers and school staff have also been prioritized for vaccination as many states look to resume in-person instruction for the first time in nearly a year.
As of Friday, 24 states and Washington, DC, are allowing some or all of their teachers and school staff to receive coronavirus vaccines.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has said that with proper distancing, masking and testing in place, schools could safely resume in-person classes even before teachers get vaccinated. However, she has added that the CDC will release official guidance on school reopenings in the coming week.
Vermont has begun to even allow sports competition to resume February 12, so long as teams have no more than two games in a seven-day period, keep a minimum of three days between competitions and bar spectators.
However, following months of remote learning, officials at the Escondido Union School District in San Diego County brought students back on campus Tuesday.
But two days later, more than 100 students and staff were ordered to quarantine due to Covid-19 infections reported across their various K – 8th grade campuses.
The fear of such transmission between students and staff has snarled negotiations in the Chicago public school system, the third largest in the country.
Now a showdown is looming between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), after weeks of negotiations over the resumption of in-person classes.
Late Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS Chief Executive Order Janice Jackson said in a letter sent to teachers that pre-K and cluster program teachers and staff without accommodation who fail to report to work Monday will be locked out of the school’s online systems.
The union, for its part, said that city leaders had “walked away from the bargain table again.”
Officials plead against Super Bowl parties
As officials attempt to ramp up vaccinations, many are pleading with citizens to avoid Super Bowl parties on Sunday.
“Now is not the time for a Super Bowl party,” Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said in a briefing Friday. “Now is not the time to fumble the ball because you got careless by spending time with a bunch of people that are not in your household.”
Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack made a similar plea earlier in the week, asking residents to stay home Sunday.
“Have virtual Super Bowl parties. Enjoy the Super Bowl in the privacy of your own home,” Slack said. “When people get together in private residences in close proximity, that is one of the single most effective ways to spread this disease. We can’t afford to have the disease spread now, with these mutations and these variants.”