- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2021

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue guidelines “imminently” for people who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Expanded vaccine supply has allowed the U.S. to reach an average of 2 million shots per day, leading to increased protection against the coronavirus. It’s also sparked a burning desire to know what’s permissible after Americans masked up and added “social distancing” to their lexicon over the past year.

Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said benchmarks for how immunized people can interact with others will be published in the next few days.

The high-profile doctor previously offered hints about what might be OK — for instance, a small dinner party in which all attendees have been vaccinated. He says it is different when you step outside the door and into society, where the virus is still swirling at dangerous levels.

The approved COVID-19 vaccines are terrific at staving off severe disease and death, though they aren’t 100%-effective in stiff-arming all infections. And scientists are still gathering data on whether vaccinated people pass along the virus with much regularity, so officials are being cautious as states race to protect more of their residents with the shots.

“We will be pulling back,” Dr. Fauci said of COVID-19 precautions. “It is not going to be this way indefinitely.”

The CDC guidelines should give Americans a fuller picture idea of what’s safe right now. One in five adults in the U.S. has received at least one shot of vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or the newly approved Johnson & Johnson version.

The Biden administration says there should be enough vaccine supply for all U.S. adults by the end of May.

Dr. Fauci said high school students will likely be able to get one this fall, while studies determine whether the shots are safe and effective for children in elementary school.

Red-state governors have cited the vaccination campaign and a sharp drop in cases in lifting mask mandates or occupancy limits on businesses in their states.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said employers and workers were suffering, so he’s opening up fully, and residents had enough know-how to protect themselves without a mask mandate. Governors in Iowa, Montana and Mississippi have also lifted mandates on face coverings.

The moves incensed President Biden, who accused them of “Neanderthal thinking” and said the vaccination campaign needs more time to do its work.

The rolling average of nationwide cases is down to around 60,000 from 250,000 in early January, though a recent plateau in the 60,000-70,000 range spooked Mr. Biden’s team.

“It may seem tempting in the face of all of this progress to rush back to normalcy as if the virus is in the rearview mirror. It’s not,” Biden adviser Andy Slavitt said Friday. “It’s better to spike the football once you’re safely in the end zone, not after you’ve made a couple of completions.”

Federal officials are terrified of fast-moving variants that sparked lengthy lockdowns in the U.K. and other parts of Europe.

Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, said roughly 1%-4% of observed cases where the dreaded “U.K. variant” a month ago. Now, they account for 30%-40%.

“We are in the eye of the hurricane right now. It appears that things are going very well. You can see blue skies. We’ve been through a terrible, terrible year,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But what we know is about to come upon us is the situation with this B117 variant, a virus that originated in the United Kingdom that today is wreaking havoc in parts of Europe.”

At the same time, he said the CDC should give vaccinated Americans some “reasonable information” that acknowledges the path out of the pandemic.

“I hope that the CDC guidance acknowledges that people are not going to do the extreme of staying masked through 2022 — that’s just not going to happen,” he said.

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