NEW YORK -- An influential COVID-19 model has predicted the total number of US deaths from the virus by August 1, a number that researchers say will be impacted by how many Americans continue to wear masks as vaccinations continue.
A model from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's (IHME) predicts about 618,523 people will have died from coronavirus in the US by August 1. If 95% of the US population wore masks, the projection drops to 604,413 deaths.
In the worst-case scenario, in which fully vaccinated people return to pre-pandemic levels of mobility, the prediction grows to 697,573, the IHME forecasted. The projection factors in the rate of vaccine distribution as well as the concerning spread of more transmissible variants.
All 50 states are on track to open vaccines to Americans 16 and older starting April 19. Though the increased inoculations are an important step in defeating the virus, health experts warn the country is in a race against variants, like the B.1.1.7 first identified in the UK, that have the potential to cause another surge in cases.
The US on Friday reported at least 80,157 new cases, the third day in a row and the fourth day in the last week with at least 75,000 or more cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Overall, more than 561,000 people have died from coronavirus to date, according to the tally.
Vaccines are an effective tool against virus spread, but they are not perfect and should be supplemented by precautions like wearing masks and avoiding indoor gatherings, said Dr. Anthony Fauci.
"I don't think I would -- even if I'm vaccinated -- go into an indoor, crowded place where people aren't wearing masks," the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Business Insider.
Pfizer looking to expand vaccinations to Americans as young as 12
To date, the youngest Americans eligible for the vaccines are 16.
But on Friday, Food and Drug Administration acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said the agency will evaluate "as quickly as possible" Pfizer's request to expand the emergency use authorization of the drug maker's COVID-19 vaccine to include people ages 12-15.
"While the FDA cannot predict how long our evaluation of the data and information will take, we will review the request as expeditiously as possible using our thorough and science-based approach," Woodcock said on Twitter.
Dr. Syra Madad, senior director of the System-wide Special Pathogens Program at New York City Health + Hospitals, told CNN on Saturday that making the vaccine available to the 12 to 15 age group excited her as a parent.
"We should all be very hopeful," said Madad, a fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. "This is very welcome news. We know that children are vulnerable to infection and hospitalizations... They certainly are rising in cases."
The pharmaceutical company said it will seek similar rulings by other authorities around the world in coming days.
"These requests are based on data from the pivotal Phase 3 trial in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age with or without prior evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which demonstrated 100 percent efficacy and robust antibody response after vaccination with the COVID-19 Vaccine," Pfizer said in a statement.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are up, CDC director says
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing -- particularly for younger people -- while deaths are going down, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a White House briefing Friday.
Increases in cases and emergency room visits are being seen in younger adults, many of whom have not been vaccinated, she said.
Those ages 18 to 25, 26 to 54, and 55 to 64 have increasing numbers of emergency department visits, she said, while people aged 65 and older have decreasing visits, "likely demonstrating the important impact of vaccination in protecting against disease requiring hospitalization."
Walensky said that while those are national statistics, the trends are magnified in some areas of the country.
With the spread of the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant as well as the lower proportion of younger people who have been vaccinated, the surge that experts fear could greatly impact younger Americans.
"We have to think about the B.1.1.7 variant as almost a brand-new virus," Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine said earlier this week. "It's acting differently from anything we've seen before, in terms of transmissibility, in terms of affecting young people, so we have to take this very seriously."
Concerns of adverse reactions
In Colorado, following reports of adverse reactions, three drive-up vaccination sites will stop offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Saturday.
The sites are Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs and Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo, according to a press release from Centura Health.
The health care network reiterated CDC guidance that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and effective, but said the decision was made due to the nationwide shortage of the vaccine and instances of adverse reactions that occurred at a vaccination event at Dick's Sporting Goods Park earlier this week.
The Dick's Sporting Goods Park vaccination site had to shut down early on Wednesday after at least 11 of the more than 1,700 people receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine experienced adverse reactions.
However, officials in Wake County, North Carolina, plan to resume administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as soon as Monday, after pausing Thursday when 18 people at the PNC Arena experienced "mild to severe reactions immediately" following their vaccinations.
The decision comes "following a thorough internal review that further supports the findings of the CDC and the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services. The findings align with those from other similar events across the country, which indicate no issues of concern," it said in a statement.
The CDC, in a statement to CNN, said it's aware of the various incidents related to the J&J vaccines reported in Iowa, Colorado, Georgia and North Carolina.
At this time, the CDC and FDA "are not recommending health departments stop administering any lots of COVID-19 vaccine," the statement said. "CDC has performed vaccine lot analyses and has not found any reason for concern."
Madad told CNN on Saturday that the adverse reactions are "consistent with side effects that we normally see after vaccination."
"Right now, the benefits certainly outweigh the risks, but more information hopefully will come out to the general public," she said.
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