States across the country are lifting COVID-19 restrictions after more than half of adults in the United States have received at least one vaccine. Dr Eric Cioe-Peña, director of global health and emergency physician at Northwell Health, joined CBSN’s Tanya Rivero to discuss the latest news on the pandemic.
TANYA RIVERO: States across the country are lifting restrictions on coronaviruses, as more than half of adults in the United States have received at least one COVID vaccine. In Massachusetts, sports venues, like this one, can increase capacity by 25%. Amusement parks are also allowed to reopen and grocery stores and retail stores no longer have to offer opening hours for seniors. Illinois is another state easing restrictions this week, as it is set to move into what authorities are calling a transition phase on Friday. Capacity limits will be increased in restaurants, museums, amusement parks, etc.
Meanwhile, Connecticut has become one of the first states in the United States with more than 70% of adults to have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. The state health department says the data shows the COVID-19 vaccine to be effective. Over the weekend, Dr.Anthony Fauci was asked, with the results we’re seeing, if it’s time to start changing the mandates of indoor masks?
ANTHONY FAUCI: I think so. And I think you’ll probably see that as we go along and more and more people get vaccinated. The CDC will be near real-time, George, updating their recommendations and guidelines. But yes, we need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated.
As you get more people vaccinated, the number of cases per day will absolutely decrease. We have an average of 43,000 a day. We have to get it much, much lower than that. When this decreases, the risk of infection, inside or out, decreases significantly.
TANYA RIVERO: To find out more, I would like to call on Dr Eric Cioe-Pena. He is Director of Global Health and Emergency Room Physician at Northwell Health. Doctor Cioe-Pena, welcome. What a pleasure to have you with us. So do you think this current focus on indoor masks should change in light of this new information that we have?
ERIC CIOE-PENA: So hello – or good afternoon. Thank you. I think we are heading for a change. I want to be careful about how quickly we change. We must remember that only one in three Americans is vaccinated. And so we still have to proceed very carefully.
But that’s the reason we were all so excited about the vaccination and why everyone gets vaccinated, is that we’re going to take a big step towards normalcy, and that’s a huge deal. And I think the more people we can get vaccinated, the more safely we can get closer to that normal. And so I hope this is the first step for many.
TANYA RIVERO: And we mentioned that many states are already easing restrictions this week. Do you think this is the right time to start doing this?
ERIC CIOE-PENA: I think we need to intelligently relax some restrictions. I think we need to show people who get vaccinated that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I also think that, you know, if we act too quickly, we might see something like what is happening in India, where our rate of viral transmission has far exceeded our rate of vaccination.
So we have to be careful. We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation like this. But we are way ahead of India. And I think we’re starting to see the numbers go down because of that and because people moving around the world who are at risk are getting vaccinated.
TANYA RIVERO: What happens in India, however, worries you every time there is a boom anywhere in the world and who could possibly come back here as well?
ERIC CIOE-PENA: Yeah, absolutely. You know, there is no security until we beat him all over the place. And that’s why my health system has taken some important steps to make sure we are sending supplies, PPE to India to help our colleagues there. We are not done until it is finished everywhere. And that creates the risk of variants that could avoid the vaccine that could be reintroduced into the United States.
We know that travel bans are really not effective in preventing the spread of variants. We saw it with the UK travel ban, the South Africa travel ban. It just doesn’t work. We must continue to fight against this. But that doesn’t mean we can’t smartly relax restrictions to allow people to reap the benefits of being vaccinated this summer, and I think we are.
TANYA RIVERO: And speaking of travel, Doctor, we’ve seen a record number of travelers this week. More than 1.7 million people were tested by the TSA on Friday. This is the most since March 12, 2020, so we are going back before the pandemic. What do people who want to travel back now need to know?
ERIC CIOE-PENA: I mean, I think we just have to keep in mind that – that travel is one of the risks for people who aren’t vaccinated to get infected. The more people who are not vaccinated who travel, they have the potential to infect people who are vaccinated thanks to this low vaccine failure rate and could – could spread – transmit COVID to – to d ‘other people.
So we have to be careful about this. I mean, I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet. And we have to convince – if everyone who gets vaccinated could convince two of their friends to get vaccinated who aren’t, we would beat that. We would be done with that by the end of the summer.
TANYA RIVERO: But here’s the problem, Doctor, I have a feeling that at this point, everyone who really wants to get vaccinated has already been vaccinated, and those who are not vaccinated are absolutely not going to get vaccinated, is -this not. So how do you approach this group? I have a feeling that the people who are going to be influenced are already gone, but there’s always, you know, a group that is pushing its way through and not getting the shot. How do you approach this?
ERIC CIOE-PENA: I have a little more hope than you. I think there is probably a third group who don’t want to go to a mass vaccination center, want to have a conversation with their doctor before getting vaccinated, are in no rush to get it, but don’t is not categorically dug. their heels. It makes me really nervous to think that 60% of Americans are overwhelmed with vaccinations.
I think it’s less than that. But there’s this second group that’s going to need a little more coercion, a little more direct conversation with their doctor they trust to get the shot. And I think we have to start hitting this group, and then we can start working on the people who are adamantly against and – and figure out how to reach them.
TANYA RIVERO: And what’s the last thing you hear about kids, right, the 12-14 age group still waiting for FDA approval, are there any more? news about it?
ERIC CIOE-PENA: I haven’t heard much. I know there is a timeline that says there should be approval for an EUA in the next week or so. I haven’t heard any new information about it.
We obviously all look forward to this for teens. Everyone wants to know if children six months and older will be approved before the school year next year. These are all million dollar questions right now.
TANYA RIVERO: Right. Alright, well, Dr Eric Cioe-Pena, thank you very much for joining us. We still appreciate it.
ERIC CIOE-PENA: Thank you for.