The US is facing a very real risk of losing all its recent gains in the battle against the virus as highly contagious variants take advantage of Americans getting lax with safety measures.

There are worrying signs already. While US Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations were trending downwards for several weeks, they are still alarmingly high. And that downward trend now seems to have stopped. The most recent seven-day average of new cases shows an increase of just over 2% compared to the prior week , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said yesterday. A similar increase was reported in the most recent seven-day average of deaths, she added.

“Please hear me clearly,” Walensky said. “At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress.”

Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who was a health adviser to the Obama White House and a member of the Biden Transition Covid-19 Advisory Board,said Americans need to hold on to the strict safety measures for another two or three months. “We should not ease up, allow indoor dining, big groups … getting rid of mask mandates,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) raised a similar concern yesterday, after the number of new cases globally rose last week for the first time in seven weeks. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the increase was “disappointing but not surprising,” adding that the agency is working to better understand increases in transmission.

“Some of it appears to be due to relaxing of public health measures, continued circulation of variants and people letting down their guard,” Tedros said. “Even as vaccines continue to roll out, we urge all governments and individuals to remember that vaccines alone will not keep you safe.”

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: Q: Which Covid-19 vaccine should I get?

A: There are now three Covid-19 vaccines authorized for use in the US and many people are wondering which one they should get.

We asked CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen to weigh in. Her top advice: “Take the vaccine that you are offered. All three vaccines are safe and effective. Think about other vaccines we take, like for the flu vaccine. Most of us don’t ask which company manufactures it. We just care that it works.”
Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

Vaccines dramatically cut risk of hospitalization in over 80s, real-world data shows

A single dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines reduces the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19 by more than 80% in people aged over 80, new data from Public Health England shows.

The effect was seen three to four weeks after vaccination. People aged over 70 were also shown to have up to 61% protection against symptomatic disease from the Pfizer-BioNTech shot and up to 73% from the Oxford-Astra-Zeneca vaccine.

The UK has administered Covid-19 shots to more than 20 million people, with campaigns first targeting the over-80s who are most vulnerable to the disease. The new data supports the country’s decision to use both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines at a time when other countries in Europe showed concern about using the AstraZeneca shot in older people. Meera Senthilingam repor

Unable to cope with new variants, Brazil’s hospitals reach breaking point

Intensive care units are nearing their limits across Brazil, as health experts and state officials beg the government to impose strictermeasures to reduce coronavirus transmission. The country is struggling to control the new, more infectious coronavirus variants. “The mutated virus has three times more contamination capacity, and the speed can surprise governors in terms of structure and support,” said Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello. This is the reality we have today in Brazil.”

UK hunts for person infected with Covid-19 variant

British health officials are racing to track down a person who has been infected with a Covid-19 variant first identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus. The person is one of six cases of the P.1 variant in the UK. The variant carries a pattern of mutations that appears to make the virus more easily transmitted. The unidentified individual did not complete a registration card associated with their test so officials are not able to easily find them.

ON OUR RADAR

  • A panel of WHO experts has strongly advised against using hydroxychloroquine to prevent Covid-19 after reviewing all existing studies on the subject.
  • A batch of Covid-19 vaccines had to be rescued by boat after heavy rains threatened the power supply at a Kentucky health facility.
  • Former US President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump received a Covid-19 vaccine at the White House in January, a Trump adviser told CNN.
  • A Trader Joe’s worker says he was fired after writing directly to the chain’s CEO calling for stronger Covid-19 safety protocols in his store.
  • The first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines sent through the COVAX program to Latin America landed in Colombia yesterday.
  • The European Commission has started laying the groundwork for a vaccine passport that could let European Union citizens travel this summer.
  • China plans to inoculate more than half a billion people by the end of June, respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan has revealed.
  • A California doctor’s trial was delayed after he appeared for a virtual court hearing while simultaneously conducting surgery.

TOP TIP

While many Americans are staying home for their own safety during the pandemic, home can be the most dangerous place for domestic violence victims. The usual places that victims escaped to in the past are not always available now.

Domestic violence incidents rose in the US by about 8.1% after the imposition of pandemic-related lockdowns, according to an analysis by the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice.
But help is available. If you or someone you know is being affected by domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline / 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) / TTY 1-800-787-3224. A worldwide list of directories is provided by UN Women. You can also find a list of national agencies on The Pixel Project.

TODAY’S PODCAST

“When you’re an inch away from all of your aspirations being taken away from you and the Games maybe even being completely canceled, it’s heartbreaking.” — Sandi Morris, 2016 Olympic silver medalist

Almost a year ago, athletes around the world learned that the Olympics would be postponed. For those who hoped to compete in the games, navigating this additional year has been a challenge, especially as Covid restrictions forced many professional sports facilities to close. Pole vaulter Sandi Morris and long jumper Tyrone Smith share their experience of training to compete in one last Olympics together, as a married couple. Listen now.

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