Sunday, 4 April 2021

Masks off by Memorial Day? Top physician says US could be weeks away from herd immunity as death rate drops 78% from January peak and more than 100million Americans get first vaccine dose

 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 vaccine rollout - has sparked debate among politicians, health officials and the general public over when Americans will finally be able to return to life outside of restrictions.

New York-based radiologist Nicole Saphier says Americans will be safe to ditch their masks sooner than experts 'are willing to admit'

New York-based radiologist Nicole Saphier says Americans will be safe to ditch their masks sooner than experts 'are willing to admit'


Dr Saphier (pictured) believes the country could be ready to scrap mask mandates as soon as late April, but said Memorial Day weekend is perhaps a 'more realistic target'

Dr Saphier (pictured) believes the country could be ready to scrap mask mandates as soon as late April, but said Memorial Day weekend is perhaps a 'more realistic target' 

On Friday Saphier said that day could come by Memorial Day on May 31, as the population gets closer to 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 had killed an average of 220 people a day nationwide. 


The current seven-day moving average for COVID deaths in the US is much worse - at around 900 - but it marks 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 believes the country is much closer to reaching protective immunity than officials want to acknowledge and said she believed Dr Fauci's threshold for it was 'unreasonably high.' 

Three women are seen wearing face shields as they walk by the bars and restaurants on South Beach in Miami, Florida last month

Three women are seen wearing face shields as they walk by the bars and restaurants on South Beach in Miami, Florida last month

Maskless Ohio University fans watch the 2021 NCAA Tournament at a bar, as COVID restrictions are eased in Athens, Ohio on March 20

Maskless Ohio University fans watch the 2021 NCAA Tournament at a bar, as COVID restrictions are eased in Athens, Ohio on March 20

The top infectious disease expert has said Americans will have reached herd immunity only when 85 per cent of the population is fully inoculated. Right now, only 17 per cent has been fully vaccinated. 

Saphier said Fauci's benchmark also 'ignores that many unvaccinated Americans—perhaps as many as 120 million, have immunity owing to prior infection' as seen in some studies.   

The physician went on to criticize the notion of having to wear a mask despite being fully vaccinated.

'If you've been vaccinated, there's almost no direct safety benefit—to yourself or others—of wearing a mask. You still have to do so only because immunity is invisible.

She added: 'Public-health officials and politicians risk a public rebellion if they don’t start taking common sense into account and instead persist in labeling anyone who questions their decrees “antiscience.” After more than a year of restrictions, they should prioritize getting back to normal.' 

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. 

Almost 60 million are fully vaccinated - either by having both doses of the pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single required dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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. 

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