Mounting fears of a new Covid surge
Health officials warned this week that the U.S. risked being hit by a fourth wave of Covid-19, with infections rising in 33 states even as the vaccination campaign continues to pick up speed. Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky said she felt a sense of “impending doom” as daily new cases hit 63,000—up 16 percent in two weeks. Because nearly three-quarters of seniors have received at least one dose of a vaccine, the spring surge is being driven by young and middle-aged people, many of whom have returned to old routines as states ease mask and social-distancing mandates. In Michigan, cases have spiked 800 percent among 40- to 49-year-olds and more than doubled among teens; in Massachusetts, under-30s account for 45 percent of new cases. Scientists believe the more contagious U.K. variant of the virus—now the predominant strain in five U.S. regions—is driving up infections. No other country battling that variant is “opening up everything,” said epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm. “You could not create a more perfect storm.”
With the U.S. administering 2.8 million shots a day—up 11 percent from last week—and 30 percent of Americans having received at least one dose, all 50 states have now expanded or will expand vaccine eligibility to everyone ages 16 and up. Covid cases should drop as more Americans get inoculated: A new CDC study of 4,000 essential workers found that Pfizer’s and Moderna’s shots cut infections by 90 percent in fully vaccinated people. Pfizer announced this week that a clinical trial had shown its shot to be 100 percent effective in children ages 12 to 15; the company hopes to start vaccinating that age group before the start of the next school year.
What the editorials said
The oncoming wave is a result of Americans once again acting “as if the pandemic were over,” said the Los Angeles Times. As soon as the winter spike started to drop, people began to pack onto planes, gather in restaurants, and throw raucous spring break parties. Such shortsightedness “comes with grave consequences”: Covid has already killed some 550,000 Americans. Let’s not add to that toll when we’re so close to vaccinating our way out of this pandemic. The Biden administration should curb the “hysterics,” said WashingtonExaminer.com. Yes, Covid cases are rising, but we now have the tools to fight back—vaccines being the most important. Instead of doom mongering, Walensky should explain the reality of “after Covid” life. The coronavirus will likely never fully disappear, and so we should shift from sweeping lockdowns to very targeted measures that protect vulnerable populations. We don’t impose a “5 mph speed limit” to eliminate all traffic accidents, and we can’t expect people to suspend their lives indefinitely.
What the columnists said
While many vulnerable Americans have been vaccinated, said German Lopez in Vox.com, the surge is still “scary.” In Michigan, hospitalizations and deaths “have already trended up.” Fewer hospitalized coronavirus patients nationwide are winding up in the ICU, likely because a greater percentage of the sick today are younger and have fewer underlying health conditions. But the wider the virus spreads, the more it will mutate and the greater the chance it will lead to a more infectious—or even vaccine-resistant—variant.
President Biden is urging states to reimpose mask mandates, said Zachary Faria in WashingtonExaminer.com. But that’s simply not necessary. In the three weeks since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted his state’s mask order—a decision Biden blasted as “Neanderthal thinking”—doomsday has failed to arrive in the Lone Star State. In fact, its “number of new daily cases is at its lowest since September.”
The fourth wave won’t be like the others, said Zeynep Tufekci in TheAtlantic.com. “Astonishingly efficacious vaccines” are being administered “at an incredible clip,” and the next 100 million shots could be given “as quickly as in a single month.” The surge could be further blunted because up to 100 million people have already had Covid and may have some level of immunity. Still, based on what’s happened in other variant-plagued countries, we will likely “see more younger, unvaccinated people falling sick and dying.” If we can just slow reopening for a month and pump vaccines at the areas with the highest infection rates, “this surge could be merely a blip.” ■