CDC experts insist: "use of facemasks should be universal"
by carlos matías
"The use of facemasks must be continuous and universal for all communities and population groups. We don't want any more deaths, either inside or outside the United States. Vaccinations and face masks are the two main measures to prevent and stop the spread of the disease.” That's how emphatically stated epidemiologist Peggy Honein, head of the Atlanta CDC's coordination with state health departments to curb Covid. Honein heads the CDC's State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Pandemic Support Task Force. "Even with vaccines, we can't let our guard down."
Dr. Peggy Honein made these statements at a meeting with journalists from media outlets around the world organized on September 2 by Ethnic Media Services, via videoconference. Honein was joined by Dr. Cindy Friedman, an infectious disease specialist in the Division of Global Migration; Jennifer Layden, an epidemiologist considered "key" in the Public Health response to Covid; and Kevin Chatham-Stevens, chief physician of the CDC Vaccine Task Force and a pediatrician.
"Who would have thought in 2020 that, at this time in September 2021, we would still be talking about Covid?" wondered Dr. Honein. "Last June, the number of infections was twelve thousand new cases per day, on average across the country, and it looked like there might be room for some hope. However, the Delta variant, which appeared this summer, has increased the national level of disease more than tenfold, with one hundred and fifty thousand new cases every day. We have more than a thousand deaths per day; we have exceeded 640,000 at the beginning of September [by the middle of this month the figure has risen to 666,440 deceased] and we have more than 40 million reported cases [41,593,179 cases, as of September 16, according to official CDC data].
"We have an average of 53% of the U.S. population vaccinated, although there is geographic, state-by-state variation. But we can't let our guard down," added the head of the Atlanta CDC's coordination with state health departments.
Concern for children Doctors Honein, Friedman, Layden and Chatham-Stevens expressed their deepest concern for the children, who started school at the beginning of the month. The return of the youngest children to school can pose a high risk, according to these four specialists, to their health and that of their families.
Peggy Honein and pediatrician Kevin Chatham-Stevens agreed in pointing out that although there are more and more pandemic mitigation measures, in reference to vaccines, "the important thing is that everyone, children and adults, should keep their face masks on. These represent the main barrier to the spread of the Covid virus, in the same way that they can prevent the spread of influenza, which we fear will be particularly offensive this year."
More recently (Sept. 17), Dr. Jacqueline Korpics, medical director of the Cook County (Illinois, Chicago) Department of Public Health, told The Seattle Times. "Last year, influenza reached record low levels in the United States, primarily because of masking and social distancing protocols in the midst of the pandemic," she has said. "But that means that many people were not exposed to influenza last season and did not have the opportunity to build up their immunity. At the same time, some pandemic restrictions have been loosened or removed and Covid is still circulating." Dr. Korpics warns, as do experts at the CDC in Atlanta, of the danger of a "twindemic."
Alaska on high alert When asked by the SOL DE MEDIANOCHE, Dr. Peggy Honein commented that Alaska has had to face "the difficulty of the different communities to access vaccines," due to the geographical distribution of its population and the great distances of its localities from the distribution centers. "But little by little these distances have been bridged."
However, Alaska has gone from being an "exemplary" state in the fight against Covid to having one of the highest alert levels in terms of number of cases and risk of contagion.
According to official CDC data, this state is dangerously close to one hundred thousand affected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with an increase of almost 20% in new infections in just one week; nationally there are more than two thousand two hundred hospitalized and almost half a thousand dead. Anchorage is the Alaskan city with the highest risk of spreading Covid at present.
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