US officials, including President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said a few days ago that new COVID-19 guidelines were about to be released. The updated documentation would include recommendations for people who have received the full two-dose vaccine regimen, or a single dose of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The guidelines would explain safety measures for fully immunized people and list safe activities to participate in after being vaccinated. The officials said that vaccinated people will be able to meet indoors without wearing masks, assuming everyone in the group is fully vaccinated.
The vaccine needs up to two weeks after the second jab to develop full protection, so people will need guidance to know exactly what they can expect after vaccination. Also important is the fact that some people can still get infected once they’re fully vaccinated, the so-called breakthrough COVID-19 cases. That’s because the vaccines aren’t 100% efficacious. Also, they’re not meant to prevent infection. Instead, vaccines aim to reduce the severity of illness and prevent death.
The CDC should have released the updated guidelines on Thursday, but the agency has delayed the publication of new recommendations now that new daily coronavirus cases are no longer declining.
More than half of Americans over 65 have been at least partially vaccinated, NBC News reports. That’s according to a senior adviser to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response team.
As of Saturday morning, more than 54 million Americans received at least one vaccine dose. Almost 28 million got the full treatment. These figures put pressure on the CDC to release information on safe activities for vaccinated people. The agency has promised that updated guidance is coming soon.
“These are complex issues, and the science is rapidly evolving,” Walensky said. “CDC is working to ensure that the communications we release on this guidance are clear. We are making sure, and taking the time, to get this right.”
Health officials are reportedly worried that after weeks of steady decline, new daily coronavirus cases are no longer dropping. “The most recent data shows cases continue to fluctuate around 60,000 to 70,000 cases per day,” Walensky said. The decline of deaths has also flattened to around 1,900 per day.
Walensky said the figures are “still too high,” adding that they “have now plateaued for more than a week at levels we saw during the late summer surge.”
Health officials have warned against the easing of restrictions in recent days, just as some states have announced they’ll loosen face mask requirements. States including Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota are in the process of lifting mask mandates.
“I know the idea of relaxing mask-wearing and getting back to everyday activities is appealing. But we’re not there yet,” Walensky said. The CDC is working to simplify guidelines and make them clear for the public.
Fauci said during Friday’s briefing that the slowing decline of cases indicates the country is “at risk of another spike.” Other health experts said in recent weeks that the US could face a fourth COVID-19 wave. The various mutations that are spreading in the country are expected to drive up the number of cases, with the UK mutant expected to become dominant. Vaccines do work against mutations, but several studies show reduced efficacy against the Brazilian and South African strains.
The CDC released a report on Friday that shows indoor dining in restaurants is associated with increased COVID-19 cases and deaths. Wakensky said the data should serve as “a warning about premature lifting” of face mask requirements.