“We must act now, and I am worried that if we don’t take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge — just as we are seeing in Europe right now and just as we are so aggressively scaling up vaccination,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.
And high levels of infection now could also mean problems for vaccines later on, one expert told CNN.
“Not only does uncontrolled spread cause avoidable illness, hospitalization and death, but it increases the risk that an even more dangerous variant may emerge that could make the vaccine less effective,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, a former CDC director.
Travels and crowds tend to lead to surges
While vaccines are being rolled out, Frieden says Americans should continue taking precautions, like wearing face masks and limiting travel and indoor time with people not from their household.
“When people travel and mix, you can see a big surge of infections a couple of weeks later,” he added.
Vaccines have already saved thousands of lives
Frieden says he believes the US will likely see another surge, but this one will be “far less deadly” because of the vaccines that are being administered.
“We estimate that vaccination has already saved at least 40,000 lives in the US,” Frieden said. “These are really good vaccines and the quicker we get them out the better.”
The Data and Safety Monitoring Board “expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data,” the statement said.
“We urge the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data and ensure the most accurate, up-to-date efficacy data be made public as quickly as possible,” it added.
Earlier, AstraZeneca said it hoped to deliver 50 million doses within a month if it gains emergency use authorization.
“We plan to submit to the FDA in the first half of April, assuming the FDA is very supportive of our submission,” Ruud Dobber, president of AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceuticals business unit, told CNN in a statement.
“After an approval from the FDA, we will instantly release 30 million doses in that first phase, and then in the same month another 20 million,” the statement added.
Recommendations for the fully vaccinated
Americans who are already fully vaccinated should feel free to visit their unvaccinated family and friends without restrictions, CDC officials said, but added that visits should be limited to one unvaccinated household at a time.
“In the setting that the unvaccinated people are from a single household, and all the unvaccinated people are at low risk of severe Covid-19 illness, no prevention measures are needed, so these visits could happen indoors with no mask or physical distancing,” CDC epidemiologist Tami Skoff said.
For example, fully vaccinated grandparents can visit their unvaccinated daughter and her unvaccinated children indoors and without masks, assuming none of them is at higher risk for severe disease, Skoff said.
The recommendations only apply to people who are fully vaccinated, Skoff said, meaning it has been at least two weeks since the second dose of a two-dose vaccine series or two weeks since receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection, and therefore potentially less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others,” Skoff said.
But there are two important exceptions that would require everyone to follow safety precautions: if any of the unvaccinated people at at high risk for severe Covid-19 or if there are more than two unvaccinated households mixing.
A third of hospitalized patients experience long-term effects
Researchers are also trying to understand more about the long-term aftermath of infections — and just how many people may be impacted.
About a third of hospitalized Covid-19 patients experience long-term effects that can affect multiple organ systems, according to a comprehensive review of scientific studies published in the journal Nature Medicine.
The researchers reviewed scientific literature on post-acute Covid-19 — meaning complications caused by the virus that extend beyond four weeks after symptoms started.
“Long Covid” effects can have an impact on more than a half dozen organ systems, including the pulmonary, hematologic, cardiovascular, neuropsychiatric, renal, dermatologic, gastrointestinal and endocrine systems, the studies show.
Among the most common prolonged symptoms: fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, tachycardia, anxiety, sleep disturbances, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The researchers suggested a framework to care for these patients through multidisciplinary long Covid clinics and praised the work of patient advocacy groups, including the COVID Advocacy Exchange, the Body Politic and Survivor Corps, for gathering data about patients’ symptoms and coordinating with researchers to help gather more information.
CNN’s Pete Muntean, Michael Nedelman, Ryan Prior, Christopher Rios, Ben Tinker and Maggie Fox contributed to this report.