Americans should be able to ditch their masks as early as Memorial Day if the coronavirus pandemic continues on its current course, a top physician has claimed.
Dr Nicole Saphier, a New York-based radiologist, says the need for masks and face coverings is likely to pass ‘sooner than experts are willing to admit.’
Over the past few weeks, the US has seen COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations reach their lowest levels since hitting a deadly peak in January.
Inoculation efforts have also dramatically improved across the country, with more than 100 million Americans having received one or more doses so far, the CDC said Friday.
The drop in cases – which is largely a result of the improved rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine – has sparked debate among politicians and health officials over when Americans will finally be able to return to life outside of restrictions.
On Friday Saphier said that day could come by the end of April as the population continues to head towards achieving herd immunity.
‘If the coronavirus epidemic in the US continues on its current trajectory, the need for masks outside particular local outbreak areas will pass in a matter of weeks,’ the physician said in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal.
‘I believe it will probably be safe to end mask mandates by the end of April, but Memorial Day weekend is a more realistic target.’
Saphier explained health officials should be looking at the situation as they would with the flu season, which one year killed an average 220 people a day nationwide.
The current seven-day moving average for COVID deaths in the US is much worse – at around 900 – but is still a 78 per cent reduction since January, according to the doctor.
‘When the 14-day rolling average of daily Covid deaths has come down below flu level, which may happen within the next month or two, we should adjust our thinking about the coronavirus accordingly,’ she continued.
‘[P]ublic-health agencies need to generate accurate benchmarks of progress—including natural immunity as well as vaccinations—and to be open to modifying their approach, including by relaxing restrictions that have proved ineffective or outlived their usefulness.’
Saphier said Dr Anthony Fauci’s current
And while figures are significantly lower from January, recent data has shown infections have slowly begun to rise again, with average daily cases rising by about 17 percent this week compared to last.
On Friday a Reuters analysis showed the seven-day daily average of cases across the United States has been increasing continuously since March 19.
It comes in spite of encouraging trends in daily COVID-19 deaths. The average number of daily deaths has fallen below 1,000 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-rolling average exceeded 270,000.
Even so, 1,064 people died of COVID-19 on Thursday, and the alarming rise in new cases is fanning the flames of health officials warnings that the U.S. 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. More than 100 million people have had one or more doses, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
The rollout is now moving quickly, but perhaps not quickly enough to outpace areas where the virus is resurging in places like Michigan, Florida and California.
And with two-thirds of the U.S. still unvaccinated and travel on the rise, these hotspots could be enough to trigger another national surge of COVID-19.
At least 30 states and territories have seen upward trends in new infections over the past two weeks.
Officials in a number of states scattered across the U.S. are warning of upticks in their jurisdictions.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown said Friday that ‘the fourth surge of this virus is at our doorstep.’ Her state recorded 512 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Vermont’s health commissioner Dr Mark Levine said he was worried over the state’s rising Covid cases.
‘My optimism is for the future, and the future is very near. But when it comes to the present, frankly, I am very concerned,’ he said during a Friday press conference.
Puerto Rico is seeing a massive re-emergence of the virus, with new infections rising 75 percent over the past 14 days.
Michigan, on the other hand, far and away leads the pack in the continental U.S.
The state has seen a 65 percent increase in new daily infections over the past two weeks.
Officials there are largely blaming the state’s latest wave of infections on the high prevalence of variants.