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Here's how close the US is to a possible COVID-19 surge, expert warns

Posted at 5:00 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 17:43:51-05

(WXYZ) — Health experts fear the US is on the verge of a COVID-19 surge. And are warning the next spike could be driven by the variant first found in the UK, B.1.1.7.

Case numbers may have plateaued across the US, but certainly not here in Michigan. Just one week ago I was talking about this, how our numbers were up by 6%. Now, we’ve had a 47% increase over the last 14 days. That in itself is a huge warning sign to Michiganders.

But back to your question, why the warning for all of the US? Well, first of all, it’s March. So St. Patrick’s Day is coming up and spring break for kids. And these two traditions are well-known for parties and large gatherings.

On top of that, there’s the rising numbers of the UK variant strain, B.1.1.7. Four weeks ago B.1.1.7 made up only 1 to 4% of the total virus cases…now it’s 30 to 40% of the cases. And if we look at what happened in Europe, they had a huge surge once the variant cases hit the 50% mark.

So to me, it feels like the perfect storm is brewing – we’ve got traditional celebrations and events, a very contagious variant, and several states who’ve done away with mask mandates or have eased up too early on safety measures.

The latest research shows that here in the US, the B.1.1.7 variant is 59% to 74% more transmissible than the original virus. In the UK, where it was first found, the reproduction rate has been estimated as high as 90%. And hospitalizations and death rates spiked not just in the UK but in Europe too.

Unfortunately, experts who have been tracking the variant have said that it’s very hard to control. And that’s why it’s important to get more Americans vaccinated. Right now, just under 10% are fully vaccinated. Likely not enough to stop a surge with this new variant.

Now, how do you know if you’re fully vaccinated? Well, the CDC says you are if:

  • you’ve had both doses of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine AND two weeks have passed since the second dose.
  • Or you’ve had the single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson AND two weeks have passed following that shot.

Now, if you’re fully vaccinated, what can you do? Well, the CDC’s guidelines say that:

  • Fully vaccinated people can visit other fully vaccinated people without having to social distance or wear a mask
  • They can meet at a single household and not wear a mask or physical distance from other people who are not vaccinated BUT only if they’re all low risk for getting severe COVID-19.
  • Also, fully vaccinated people don’t have to quarantine or be tested if they’re exposed to someone with the virus – as long as they don’t develop symptoms
  • But, fully vaccinated people will have to wear a mask and social distance if they visit people who are from multiple households and not vaccinated
  • And they still have to follow pandemic precautions when out in public so wear a mask, social distance and wash hands

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

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