Anyone trying to keep abreast of the latest coronavirus-related headlines from around the world right now is likely to feel a bit chaotic, thanks to a surge in vaccinations in the US, but also the still uncomfortably high amount of vaccine hesitancy, coronavirus cases being down from their winter peak, but still surging across Europem and life feeling like it might start going back to normal soon, unless the states reopening too soon squelches that prospect.
During an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press over the weekend, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci acknowledged the improvement the US has been seeing in recent weeks — the hard-won improvement, thanks to a year of people living with restrictions on personal movement and on visiting businesses and schools, as well as the race to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. But he also warned our progress can quickly be undone, such as by states not waiting for a critical mass of people to get vaccinated and dropping face mask mandates and opening back up too soon. The US, as he put it, is not yet “in the end zone” of the pandemic.
“When I hear pulling back completely on public health measures, saying no more masks, no nothing like that, that is risky business,” Dr. Fauci said. “Don’t spike the ball on the five-yard line. Wait until you get into the end zone. We are not in the end zone yet.”
This is exactly what’s happening in Europe right now, Dr. Fauci continued in a separate interview over the weekend. Too many people, and too many public officials there, started relaxing the various safety measures earlier than they should have. New lockdown restrictions are now in effect in Italy, with ten regions of the country classified as “red zones.” That means they’re under the most severe restrictions – with schools as well as nonessential businesses closed.
ICYMI: Dr. Fauci says “people will be writing … and historically opining about [Covid-19] for years to come.” #MTP
Fauci: “We knew it was going to be bad but this really has turned out to be just a historic example of what a pandemic virus can do.” pic.twitter.com/QCXkVL1oox
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) March 15, 2021
Meanwhile, The Guardian notes that health officials in Germany and France are calling for renewed national lockdowns as a new wave of coronavirus cases fills up emergency rooms there. “More than a year after the start of the health emergency, we are unfortunately facing a new wave of infections,” said Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, according to the newspaper. “The memory of what happened last spring is vivid, and we will do everything to prevent it from happening again.”
In the US, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky spoke to this point during the White House COVID-19 Response Team Briefing on Monday. While the US has “come a long way from where we were in early January,” there’s still work to be done. For example, this might be an ominous sign: “This past Friday,” Dr. Walensky explained, “we saw more travelers pass through our airports — over 1.3 million. This is the most travelers that we’ve had in a single day since last March, before the WHO declared the global pandemic.
“In some parts of the country the weather has started to warm up and with the clocks changed this weekend, our days can seem a little bit more sunshine. And with the coming warmer weather, I know it’s tempting to want to relax and to let our guard down, particularly after a hard winter that sadly saw the highest level of cases and deaths during the pandemic so far.” This all comes, of course, within the context of, still, tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases in the US every day. All of which is to say, again, that the good news comes with a reminder that it can all change for the worse if we try to get back to normal too fast, too soon.