Americans should be able to drop their masks as early as Memorial Day if the coronavirus pandemic continues its current course, a top physician claims.
Dr. Nicole Saphier, a radiologist from New York, says the need for masks and face covers will likely disappear “sooner than experts are willing to admit.”
In recent weeks, the US has seen COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations hit their lowest levels since they hit a deadly peak in January.
Vaccination efforts have also improved dramatically across the country, with more than 100 million Americans receiving one or more doses to date, the CDC said Friday.
The drop in the number of cases – which is largely due to the improved rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine – has sparked debate among politicians and health officials about when Americans can finally come back to life without restrictions.
On Friday, Saphier said that day could come at the end of April, as the population continues to strive to achieve herd immunity.
“ If the US coronavirus epidemic continues its current trajectory, the need for masks outside certain local outbreak areas will be over within weeks, ” the physician said in an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal
“I think it’s probably safe to end mask mandates at the end of April, but Memorial Day weekend is a more realistic target.”
Saphier explained that health officials should look at the situation as they would with the flu season, which killed an average of 220 people a day across the country for a year.
The current seven-day moving average for COVID deaths in the US is much worse – around 900 – but is still down 78 percent since January, the doctor said.
“ When the 14-day moving average of daily Covid deaths falls below flu levels, which could happen within the next two months, we need to adjust our thinking about the coronavirus accordingly, ” she continued.
[P]Ublic health authorities must generate accurate measures of progress – including natural immunity and vaccinations – and be open to changing their approach, including by relaxing restrictions that have proven ineffective or outlived their usefulness. ‘
Recent data has shown that infections are slowly starting to rise again, with an average number of daily cases up about 17 percent this week compared to the previous one, but those numbers are still significantly lower than earlier this year.
Friday, a Reuters analysis showed that the seven-day daily mean of cases in the United States has been rising continuously since March 19.
It comes despite encouraging trends in daily COVID-19 deaths. The average number of daily deaths has fallen below 1,000 for the past two days in a row, for the first time since November 10.
The average number of new daily COVID-19 cases is only about a third of what it was during the January peak, when the seven-day moving average exceeded 270,000.
Still, 1,064 people died of COVID-19 on Thursday, and the alarming rise in new cases is fueling the flames of health officials warning that the US is entering a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, nearly a third of the U.S. population has had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. According to data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100 million people have had one or more doses.
The rollout is progressing quickly now, but may not be fast enough to surpass the areas where the virus is resurfacing in places like Michigan, Florida and California.
And with two-thirds of the US still unvaccinated and traveling on the rise, these hot spots could be enough to spark another national wave of COVID-19.
At least 30 states and territories have seen an upward trend in new infections in the past two weeks.
Officials in a number of states across the US are warning of a revival in their jurisdictions.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown said on Friday that “the fourth wave of this virus is imminent.” Her state registered 512 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont’s health commissioner, said he was concerned about increasing Covid cases in the state.
‘My optimism is for the future, and the future is very close. But when it comes to the present, I’m honestly very concerned, ”he said at a news conference on Friday.
Puerto Rico is seeing a massive resurgence of the virus, with new infections rising 75 percent in the past 14 days.
Michigan, on the other hand, leads by far the pack in the continental US.
The state has seen a 65 percent increase in the number of new daily infections in the past two weeks.
Officials there blame the state’s latest wave of infections largely on the high prevalence of variants.