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U.S. states push for reopening despite growing dangers posed by COVID-19 variants

 U.S. states push for reopening despite growing dangers posed by COVID-19 variants

The COVID-19 pandemic has officially killed more than 600,000 people in the United States, according to the semi-official tally from Johns Hopkins University. But even though the coronavirus has killed more people in the United States than in any other country, US state governments are haphazardly abandoning public health protection against the deadly virus, and the Biden government is planning to reopen everything. the country on July 4.

U.S. states push for reopening despite growing dangers posed by COVID-19 variants
Medical staff wearing protective gear care for patients affected by COVID-19 at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Machakos County Level 5 Hospital, Machakos, Kenya, Thursday, June 17, 2021. Africa, whose 1.3 billion people represent 18 percent of the world's population, has received only 2 percent of all vaccine doses administered globally. (AP Photo / Brian Inganga)

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday that all state restrictions on social distancing, indoor gatherings and mask wear will end next Tuesday. This ends 15 months of state-imposed public health requirements.

All capacity limits will be removed for bars, restaurants, amphitheatres, churches and other covered venues, and the requirement to wear a mask will end ten days earlier than the previous July 1 target. Entry limits to most health and juvenile facilities will be removed, remaining only for visits to inmates and people living in long-term care facilities.

Whitmer bluntly acknowledged that his administration was now focused on increasing corporate and business profits, saying, “Our top priority is to use federal aid funds in a smart and sustainable way to get Michigan back to work. and revive our economy ”.

State health officials have justified the lifting of restrictions on the level of vaccination and the return of warmer weather as summer approaches. About 50 percent of the state's adult population are fully immunized, while 61 percent have received at least one injection.

Whitmer had said in April that she would lift the restrictions only when 70 percent of the population had received at least one dose. The promise was unceremoniously dropped amid a surrender to right-wing opposition, which reached such a point last year that far-right gunmen with ties to the Republican Party were arrested in the process. 'a plot to kidnap and assassinate the Democratic governor because of the steps she took to impose limited lockdown.

These figures, however, mask significant regional disparities. Better-off suburbs are more vaccinated than poor cities like Detroit and Flint, and far more than the predominantly rural northern half of the state, where economic dislocation and dominance of fundamentalist religion and the Republican Party play a role. pernicious.

The same disparities exist nationally. The vaccination rate in the northeastern and west coast states is over 70 percent, while in many poorer southern and western mountain states, the vaccination rate does not exceed 35 percent. hundred. The industrialized states of the Midwest, like Michigan, fall somewhere in between.

Some underprivileged urban areas in the Northeast have low adult vaccination rates: only 38 percent of adults in the Bronx and 41 percent of those in Brooklyn, two of the boroughs that make up New York City, have been fully immunized.

From May to June, the vaccination rate slowed sharply in the United States, falling by at least two-thirds from the peak in April, according to a Washington Post survey . In 12 states, mostly in the South and the Western Mountains, daily immunization rates have fallen below 15 injections per 10,000 population. In Alabama last week it was just four in 10,000.

According to the Post study , until about ten days ago, the vaccination rate was not strongly correlated with the rate of new infections, but that has started to change. Counties with low vaccination rates (less than 20 percent vaccinated) have seen their infection rates increase. In counties with high vaccination rates (at least 40 percent), infection rates are declining.

Under these conditions, with as many as 100 million unvaccinated American adults, as well as almost all children, there is a large pool of vulnerable people who are not protected against the new variants of the coronavirus which spread quickly. in the world.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this week that the Delta variant, first seen in India, is now a "variant of concern", making it a serious threat to unvaccinated people. The CDC estimates that the Delta variant accounts for up to 10 percent of all new COVID-19 infections in the United States, up from 2.7 percent two weeks ago, and up to 20 percent in the States from West.

The Delta variant is much more infectious than the Alpha or British variant, which became dominant worldwide over the winter and was in turn much more infectious than the original form of the coronavirus that emerged in China in December 2019.

In an interview with "National Public Radio" on Thursday, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: "If you are not vaccinated, you may be infected with the virus which now spreads faster and makes people more seriously ill ”.

Fauci pointed to the worsening crisis in Britain, although a greater proportion of the population is vaccinated than in the United States, because the Delta variant is spreading rapidly in the large proportion of the population that does not is still not vaccinated. He warned that US states that have much lower vaccination rates than Britain could be in great danger.

Likewise, Chief Medical Officer Vivek Murthy told CNN: "I am worried about those who are still without a vaccine" because the Delta variant "is increasing rapidly here in the United States."

Epidemiologists who are not compelled to work for the Biden government have been sharper in their warnings against complacency. Dr Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, stressed the danger of regional variations in the United States.

“Infections around the world continue to produce more complicated and dangerous variants,” he said. "We mistakenly believe the pandemic is over here, but over 100 counties exist where less than 20 percent of the residents have received a dose of the vaccine," Osterholm said. He added: "The challenge is what the next variant will look like."

Dr Peter Hotez, co-director of the Vaccine Development Center at Texas Children's Hospital, expressed concern about the impact of the Delta variant in his region of the country. “I'm really holding my breath about the South and what's going on in the summer,” Hotez warned in an interview with CNBC. “Here in the South, particularly in Louisiana, Mississippi, we are seeing really low vaccination rates. And less than 10 percent of teens are vaccinated in a lot of those southern states, so we have real vulnerability here ”.

Eric Feigl-Ding, epidemiologist and policy officer at the Federation of American Scientists, also warned that states with low vaccination rates could be at risk given the variant's rapid spread. "If the UK is the country we need to learn from, I think the US is going to see an upsurge in states with low immunization rates."

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