It’s been one year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic — and at the time Dr. Fauci told lawmakers that "things will get worse."
This week he amended that statement. telling NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, "I did not in my mind think that 'much worse' was going to be 525,000 deaths."
After a brutal year of lockdowns and uncontrolled spread, U.S. deaths and cases are falling, as vaccines — developed at record speed — become more widely available. To date, more than 98 million doses have been administered in the US, at least partially vaccinating 19% of the U.S. population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The US government has purchased enough doses to immunize 750 million people, according to a Washington Post analysis – three times the adult population. President Joe Biden projects that enough doses will be in hand for all adults by May though it will be well into the summer before all adults who want a vaccine will be able to get one. He’s also promised to distribute surplus vaccines to countries in need.
Child vaccination remains much anticipated as decisions to re-open schools plague states. In the United States, there are 56.4 million K-12 students and 19.7 million college students. The average kindergarten enrollment rate in 20 states dropped 60% during the pandemic, according to a study by the Brookings Institution.
A Chalkbeat-AP analysis surveying 33 states showed that about 30% of all K-12 enrollment declines can be attributed to falloff in kindergarten enrollment alone — meaning the closures hit children at the most vulnerable stage of development. According to Dr. Fauci, it will likely be the first quarter of 2022 before elementary school children can get vaccinated.
To date, six states have ordered public schools open: New Hampshire, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas, and Florida, with West Virginia only mandating some grades open.
Four states — California, New Mexico, Delaware, and Hawaii — and Washington, D.C., have partial closures in effect, while the remaining states have no order in effect, leaving the decision up to local leaders.
While more than 30 states mandate mask-wearing, some states have recently decided to lift restrictions. In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves ended the state’s mask mandate in early March while also allowing businesses to operate at full capacity. Similarly, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ended state-wide requirements around mask-wearing and social distancing.
President Biden has noted prematurely lifting restrictions is a “big mistake,” calling such moves “neanderthal thinking.”
The president and public health officials are urging the public to remain vigilant and continue practicing masking and physical distancing.