There is good news for the United States as people get ready for Memorial Day weekend.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is predicting that Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths will fall over the next four weeks. The CDC ensemble forecasts conclude that there will be a total of 596,000 to 606,000 Covid-19 deaths by June 19.
As of Friday, Covid-19 has killed at least 593,364 people and infected more than 33 million in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The improved outlook can be attributed to the continuing efforts by states to get people vaccinated. Already, 10 states have reached the Biden administration’s goal of vaccinating 70% of adults by July 4 with at least one dose.
So far, more than 50% of the US population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. And more than 40% of the population is fully vaccinated, that data shows.
Many states are now offering incentives for people to get the vaccine — but some officials remain concerned about ongoing hesitancy and lagging vaccination rates among those eligible.
CDC updates summer camp guidance
On Friday, the CDC put out new Covid-19 guidelines for summer camps, saying staff and campers who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial regulations, or if it’s a business or workplace policy.
Physical distancing is also no longer necessary for the fully vaccinated, the agency said.
Camps with unvaccinated campers or staff should use multiple prevention strategies to protect those who aren’t vaccinated, the agency said, adding that in those cases physical distancing will be one of the important tools to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
Grouping children together and creating small groups of campers that stay together throughout the day can help minimize exposure, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not. Masks will help protect the unvaccinated and are strongly encouraged indoors for those who are not fully vaccinated, the agency said.
In the guidance, the CDC encouraged everyone 12 years and older to get vaccinated against the virus and underscored the vaccines are safe and effective.
Recommendations to keep children safe
Children younger than 12, who aren’t yet eligible for a vaccine, should continue taking precautions, experts say.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending children aged 2 or older who are not fully vaccinated should wear a well-fitting face mask.
The updated guidance recommends children wear a mask at school, in child care programs, at camp, when playing with friends and playing indoor sports and outdoor sports with close contact. There are exceptions for sports where masks can be a hazard such as gymnastics.
Masks should be used outdoors if the child is in a large group setting, or when it is impossible to keep good physical distance from others, according to the AAP.
The AAP also recommended children wear one at home if they live with someone who is immunocompromised or at-risk for severe Covid-19.
“The COVID-19 vaccines are remarkably effective, but we must stay vigilant,” AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers said in a statement.
To help teens and adults who have moderate or worse cases of Covid-19, the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the monoclonal antibody therapy sotrovimab for ages 12 and older at risk for severe disease or death.
Many states offering vaccine incentive programs
California, Minnesota and New Jersey are the latest states offering new incentives for people to get vaccinated.
California is offering gift cards and cash prizes, including a $15 million grand prize to be split among ten Californians who have been vaccinated. It will include every resident who has already been vaccinated, and those who receive a shot before the state fully reopens on June 15, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.
The next two million residents vaccinated will be eligible for $100 million in gift cards, doled out in $50 increments as a prepaid Visa or grocery store gift card.
About 50% of eligible Californians are already fully vaccinated and another 12% have received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, but another 12 million residents are eligible but have not yet been inoculated, according to state officials.
In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz kicked off the “Your Shot to Summer” campaign under which 100,000 Minnesotans who get vaccinated between Memorial Day weekend and the end of June will be eligible to choose from a range of incentives, including state park passes and fishing licenses as well as state fair and regional amusement park tickets.
“We wanted to match a program that we thought matched Minnesota,” Walz told reporters. “We think it’s a great way to kick off summer.”
“I think especially these dealing with the outdoors was very Minnesota, we do want to encourage people to get out there, we hope that these are lifelong. This might be some people’s first fishing license, we hope they buy one every year after that,” he said.
Minnesota’s Covid-19 restrictions on businesses, sporting events and social gatherings end Friday.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the “Shots at the Shore” program Friday to encourage more people to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
The program will help administer vaccines to people who visit Monmouth County beaches over Memorial Day weekend, and there will be available vaccination locations at the Grande Arcade on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, the Gateway National Recreational Area in Sandy Hook and the gazebo at Pier Village in Long Branch, the governor said.
“Through our ‘Shots at the Shore’ program, we’re giving New Jerseyans yet another reason to visit our beautiful beaches this Memorial Day Weekend,” Murphy said in a statement.
‘Get vaccinated, hit the beach’
New York City has its own plan to get everyone vaccinated. The city will provide vaccination buses at beaches and parks to offer free vaccines during the weekend.
“We’re going to go the extra mile, whatever it takes,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “You’re going to see our vaccine buses out all over New York City the next few days.”
He added: “Go, get vaccinated, hit the beach. Real simple.”
De Blasio also announced that the city has vaccinated over 9,000 home-bound individuals and will expand the program to include disabled people and those 75 and older. As of today, the city has administered a total of 8,130,889 vaccine doses.
Vaccine boosters will be needed at some point
Experts say vaccine booster shots will likely be needed at some point.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said that while what’s currently known points to the fact that we’ll need boosters, just when that will be is still uncertain.
“The exact timing of when boosters will be required will probably be a combination of two things,” he said. “One, how fast that immune response falls off, but also it may depend on what variants of Covid-19 are circulating.”
Participants in original vaccine trials are currently being followed so that their immune response can be looked at over time and there is some evidence that it does “fall off somewhat” over time, Marks said during a Covid-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project webinar.
That’s because certain levels of immunity are sufficient to prevent Covid-19 with the original strain of the virus, but it may not be good enough for other variants, he said.
“We’ll have to see where this all interacts. Is it possible we’re going to need a booster at some point? Yes. Is it probable? Yes. Do we know exactly when? No,” Marks said.
“But if I had to look at my crystal ball, it’s probably not sooner hopefully than a year after being vaccinated for the aver/age adult,” he added.
However, he thinks it may be different for immuno-compromised or older adults who may need a booster shot sooner.
“The good news is it may turn out that the immunity lasts longer,” Marks added.