As coronavirus cases and deaths decline across the US amid vaccination efforts, the director of the CDC said Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans could participate in most indoor activities without wearing a mask.
“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”
Walensky also said: “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy. Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines and our understanding of how the virus spreads, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated.”
Walensky said fully vaccinated people should keep wearing their masks while riding public transit.
Walensky’s comments came hours after a prominent teachers’ union leader said the group’s members are “all in” on returning to in-person learning this fall.
One health expert declared of the current situation in the US: “We have, in effect, tamed the virus.”
On average, the US saw fewer than 40,000 new Covid-19 new confirmed cases daily over the past week, a 21% improvement compared to the week prior, Axios reported Thursday.
The site’s well known graphic of a state-by-state coronavirus map is currently showing all US states with either steady or declining rates of infection.
“Conditions have changed,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “We can and we must reopen schools in the fall for in-person teaching, learning and support. And keep them open. Fully and safely, five days a week.”
Weingarten, who supports the continuation of mask mandates, social distancing, and contract tracing at schools, said vaccines were key to her support for re-opening, noting that 89% of AFT’s 1.7 million members are fully vaccinated or wish to be.
“The fear that they will bring the virus home decreases the moment they get their shot,” Weingarten said in these remarks, also pointing to $123bn in federal aid to assist with schools’ recovery. The aid was part of a $1.9tn aid package Joe Biden signed in March.
While the CDC said in February that schools can reopen with new safety initiatives, many large US school districts have continued to operate largely or entirely online.
And in districts that have reopened to in-person learning, many students have decided to study at home, among them a disproportionate number of non-white students.
The decline in coronavirus cases also marks the first time since September that daily averages fell below 40,000.
In 37 states, there were declines in new cases last week, and “not a single state moved in the wrong direction,” Axios reported. The daily peak was nearly 250,000 daily cases in early January.
Coronavirus deaths in the US have also dropped to an average of approximately 600 daily. In more than half of US states, Covid-19 deaths have fallen to the single digits while some states have had days without any coronavirus deaths.
The number of US coronavirus deaths per day has not been this low since July 2020. Deaths peaked in mid-January, with daily averages totaling more than 3,400.
Meanwhile, nearly 45 percent of US adults are fully vaccinated, and almost 59 percent of US adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, per CDC data.
Hospitalizations have also dropped significantly across the US. Experts attribute the decline in deaths and hospitalizations to vaccination.
Dr Amesh Adalja, of Johns Hopkins University, emphasized the vital role of vaccinations despite challenges in reaching herd immunity in the US.
“The primary objective is to deny this virus the ability to kill at the rate that it could, and that has been achieved,” said Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at the university. “We have, in effect, tamed the virus.”
There have been 32,819,878 confirmed US coronavirus cases and 583,779 deaths, in the US, according to Johns Hopkins data.