“For the first time since the pandemic began, Covid cases are down in all 50 states,” White House senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said in a Tuesday briefing. “We are winning the war on the virus, and we need you to help us finish the job.”
But among the messages of hope, officials are offering an important reminder: it’s not over just yet.
In the past week, the US has averaged around 31,200 new Covid-19 cases — the lowest average since last June and less than half what the average was just a month ago, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
And the country averaged 614 Covid-19 deaths daily over the last week — less than a third of the 1,988-per-day average seen three months ago, according to Johns Hopkins data.
“Cases are going down, deaths are going down, hospitalizations are going down, vaccinations are going up,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases professor at Vanderbilt University, told CNN on Tuesday. “If the vaccinations increased even more rapidly, you would see those other metrics, those Covid metrics, going down even more.”
“There’s still lots of people out there who haven’t come forward and rolled up their sleeves, we need them to do that,” he added. “Vaccine in the refrigerator cannot prevent disease.”
Roughly 47.7% of the US population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 37.5% of the population is fully vaccinated.
‘We must push further’
The pace of vaccinations has drastically slowed from just a few weeks ago and officials say it’s crucial to keep getting more shots into arms.
There are several reasons behind that slowing demand, including challenges with access and ongoing hesitancy, experts say.
“We need to continue to ensure vaccination coverage is uniform across the country,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during Tuesday’s White House briefing. “This will require us to meet people where they are, to listen to their concerns and to help people make informed decisions about vaccination.”
Such efforts are making a difference, White House Covid-19 Response Team senior adviser Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith said during the briefing.
These have included targeting resources to the highest-risk and hardest-hit communities, conducting federally run vaccination sites and setting up mobile vaccination clinics.
“To ensure we are truly reaching everyone who is unvaccinated, we will need to keep addressing structural barriers to access. We’ll need to focus even harder on meeting people where they are. And we’ll continue providing the public with the answers they need to get vaccinated,” Nunez-Smith said. “We know we must push further.”
In the same briefing, Slavitt appealed to younger Americans to get vaccinated, saying doing so will not only protect their own lives but those around them as well and help return the country to normalcy sooner.
“In many ways, your generation has shown us how you make the world a better place. And getting vaccinated is part of carrying the mantle of becoming the generation that changes things for the better,” he said.
“We need every eligible student, and the parents and guardians of every eligible student, to understand these vaccines are safe and will protect our young people from what can be a devastating illness with lifelong consequences,” Beshear said.
Fresh divisions on masks
But the sudden guidance change left many Americans confused and some state and local leaders at odds about the best way to move forward while a big part of the country remains unvaccinated.
Some local leaders disagreed with that move.
Turner called the governor’s order a “clear overreach” and added Abbott’s power is “not absolute.”
Some experts have warned that lifting mask mandates now could lead to some unvaccinated Americans shedding their masks too, and leave the country relying on a kind of honor system on who’s masking up.
“The problem and the issue is that we don’t have any way of knowing who is vaccinated and who is not vaccinated,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. “And I think that’s where the confusion arises.”
That’s why Fauci said it was “perfectly reasonable and understandable” for some business owners to keep mask mandates in place.
CNN’s Jen Christensen, Naomi Thomas, Ashley Killough, Raja Razek, Christina Walker and Stella Chan contributed to this report.