3 weeks since CDC’s guidance change

How are things looking?

It’s been three weeks since the CDC updated public health guidelines.

Did vaccine hesitancy improve?

This was a driving reason the CDC updated their guidance. And, it’s an interesting question to explore. After the announcement on May 13, it looks like there may have been an uptick in vaccinations (starting May 18).

However, the FDA and CDC authorized emergency use of Pfizer for 12-15 year olds on May 12. So, when we remove 12-15 year olds from this graph (thanks NYT), this uptick diminishes. If you squint, it might still be there.

The Kaiser Foundation also conducted a poll among the unvaccinated after the updated CDC guidance: “Does this guidance make you more likely to get the vaccine?” 85% said no and 10% said yes. This probably explains the small aforementioned uptick.

Is mask use crumbling?

One of the biggest concerns was the new guidance would indirectly change mask use among the unvaccinated. As we know, this guidance relies on an honor system and puts the onus on businesses to endorse and enforce. There hasn’t been any data (that I’ve seen) on behavior change after the updated CDC guidance. But, we do know that right before the change, mask wearing was already decreasing among unvaccinated (source).

Are we going to have another wave this summer?

Obviously we will have to wait to see. But, this is still possible, especially in some states (I’m looking at you, South) for a few reasons…

  1. Vaccination rates drastically range across states. For example, Louisiana has 34% vaccinated and Mississippi has 31% vaccinated. This is half the rate of Vermont (65%), Massachusetts (61%), and Maine (60%).

  2. Yesterday, the Lancet (highly reputable journal) published predictive modeling for a possible next wave. Scientists found that if 100% of Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities on July 4, a surge would lead to 337,865 new cases (which is a peak 21% higher than in January 2021). Hospitalizations and deaths would be lower than the previous wave, but still noteworthy (9,780 hospital admissions and 1,261 deaths). Even if 70% resumed their pre-pandemic activities, we would have a surge. It wasn’t clear, from this article, how many people CAN resume pre-pandemic activities without the possibility of a surge.

  1. Finally, the unvaccinated group is getting the wrong message. Overall, cases continue to decrease. Which is, obviously, great! But we are largely ignoring the changing denominator. Among the unvaccinated, transmission is high and, in some states, we’re actually seeing worse waves right now than we saw during the holidays. For example, in Maine and Colorado the pandemic is spreading as fast among the unvaccinated as it did during the winter surge.

We see similar trends with hospitalizations and deaths. For example, in Florida hospitalizations among unvaccinated is the same rate as hospitalizations on Feb 26.

Bottom line

We have to wait and see what this pandemic throws at us next. This is hopefully nothing (especially among the vaccinated) but it could be something (especially among the unvaccinated). This summer will be interesting to follow.

Love, YLE