The head of the National Institutes of Health forecast on Sunday that the U.S. could finally reach “herd immunity” from the coronavirus with 70 to 85 percent of the population either vaccinated or having previously been infected by the disease, adding that some parts of the country are approaching that level.
While experts “don’t really quite know” what percentage of the population has to be vaccinated or have had the disease to achieve herd immunity, Dr. Francis Collins nevertheless estimated that the level is “up there around 70, 85 percent,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd.
“We’re not there yet. You can see some places in the country that are getting close to that with a combination of having had a lot of cases of COVID, which also provides you with some immunity, plus the vaccines,” he added.
But other parts of the country, as well as the U.S. in general, are not as close to those levels yet.
“There are other places that are way behind, and those are the places we all worry about as the next hotspot,” said Collins.
“You can see Michigan has gone through a terrible time in the last month. They are now getting past that, which is really encouraging. But what’s the next one? You can look at the map and say, ‘Where are vaccines lagging?’ Those are the places to worry about,” the NIH chief continued.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 28 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated thus far. In many places, however, vaccines are available but there is little demand for them.
It’s also possible that current hotspots are occurring in regions that have historically had stricter, longer-lasting lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions, such as Michigan, New York, and California.
Other red states including Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Missouri, and Arkansas that began reopening months ago or never issued statewide lockdowns and mask mandates have been experiencing significant declines in new infection rates over the past several weeks.
Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott was heavily criticized by President Joe Biden and his health advisers including Dr. Anthony Fauci for announcing in early March he would be lifting all coronavirus restrictions including mask mandates, with Biden calling that “Neanderthal thinking.”
“Today Texas recorded the lowest 7-day COVID positivity rate since that data began being calculated: 5.3%,” he tweeted March 28, more than three weeks after he lifted restrictions.
“We also recorded the largest daily number of vaccines administered to Texans: 342,849. More Texans getting vaccines will keep down the positivity rate,” Abbott noted further, adding that getting a vaccine is “always voluntary.”
GOP Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi quickly followed Abbott’s lead and lifted all of his state’s COVID restrictions.
In fact, fully open states like Florida, Texas, and others have substantially lower infection rates than Michigan, Pennsylvania, and other Democrat-leaning states and enclaves where coronavirus restrictions are continuing.
According to the CDC, Michigan has experienced the worst COVID positivity rates in the country over the past few weeks, with 390.2 cases per 100,000 over the past week alone.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has blamed the spike on residents who traveled to Florida for spring break and asking anyone who has gone to the Sunshine State to self-isolate and work from home for a week after returning while having their kids remote-learn for a similar time period, Fox News reported Monday.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania experienced a positivity rate of 221.4 per 100,000 over the past seven days, while New York City has reported 206.1 cases per 100,000 over the same timeframe.
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