Biden’s Covid chief says states reopening are ‘playing with fire’

U.S. governors are ‘playing with fire’ if they reopen their states too soon, warned President Biden’s senior coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt on Tuesday. 

Average daily coronavirus infections are up by 12 percent compared to last week, rising to more than 67,000 new cases every 24 hours, according to a DailyMail.com analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. 

On Tuesday, 875 Americans died of COVID-19, marking the third day in a row of rising fatalities in the U.S.  

It comes after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr Rochelle Walensky said Monday she had a ‘feeling of impending doom’ as Covid metrics trend the wrong direction. 

But the impassioned pleas of Biden’s advisers have not stopped states from relaxing restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Spring Breakers are partying on in fully opened Florida, where cases have risen 12 percent in the past two weeks, and Arkansas became the latest state to drop virtually all of its restrictions immediately yesterday, with the exception of its mass mandate that will remain in effect just until the end of March. 

The state joins Oklahoma, Wyoming, Texas, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and Iowa, which have all lifted their remaining COVID-19 restrictions. Even historically cautious states like New York and New Jersey are now allowing bars, restaurants and other businesses to expand indoor occupancy. 

Impatience is rising as the U.S. vaccination campaign gains speed. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. seniors are now vaccinated, 2.8 million shots are being given a day, on average, and all but one state (Wyoming) have either opened vaccination to all adults or announced plans to do so before Biden’s May 1 deadline.  

But only 16 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated – a long way away from the 75 percent needed for herd immunity – and Slavitt, a former Obama adviser, warned it is too soon to reopen without triggering a fourth wave of Covid.  

He did give a rare glimpse of hope on the horizon, however: ‘If we were talking about six weeks, it would be a completely different story,’ Slavitt said during a Tuesday MSNBC interview. 

Average daily coronavirus infections are up by 12 percent compared to last week, rising to more than 67,000 new cases every 24 hours

Average daily coronavirus infections are up by 12 percent compared to last week, rising to more than 67,000 new cases every 24 hours

Average daily coronavirus infections are up by 12 percent compared to last week, rising to more than 67,000 new cases every 24 hours

On Tuesday, 875 Americans died of COVID-19, marking the third day in a row of rising fatalities in the U.S.

On Tuesday, 875 Americans died of COVID-19, marking the third day in a row of rising fatalities in the U.S.

On Tuesday, 875 Americans died of COVID-19, marking the third day in a row of rising fatalities in the U.S. 

U.S. governors are 'playing with fire' if they reopen their states too soon, warned President Biden's senior coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt on Tuesday during an MSNBC interview

U.S. governors are 'playing with fire' if they reopen their states too soon, warned President Biden's senior coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt on Tuesday during an MSNBC interview

U.S. governors are ‘playing with fire’ if they reopen their states too soon, warned President Biden’s senior coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt on Tuesday during an MSNBC interview 

Slavitt tempered his optimism with harsh words for governors who are rushing to reopen their economies. 

‘Telling people not to wear masks, gathering in large crowds, that’s the equivalent of playing with fire,’ Slavitt said.  

‘Why we’re doing it now…governors around the country, it’s as if they don’t want to have any role in the rescue of our country and our citizens.’ 

Slavitt admitted that he’s ‘happy’ for people who have gotten their vaccines, including more than 72 percent of seniors who have been forced to cloister themselves from family, friends and loved ones for the past year. 

And he acknowledged that states that are reopening aren’t jumping the gun by that much time, but warned that even a few weeks could mean tens of thousands more deaths. 

Spring Breakers are partying on in fully opened Florida, where cases have risen 12 percent in the past two weeks

Spring Breakers are partying on in fully opened Florida, where cases have risen 12 percent in the past two weeks

Spring Breakers are partying on in fully opened Florida, where cases have risen 12 percent in the past two weeks

‘Within three weeks, 90 percent of Americans will be within five miles of a vaccine clinic and 90 percent of Americans will be eligible [to get vaccinated],’ he said, hyping the Biden administration’s initiative to address pharmacy deserts and ease Americans’ access to shots. 

‘And by May 1, we’ll be 100 percent eligible.’ 

President Biden has said he will direct all states to expand vaccine eligibility to all adults on May 1. Most have handily beaten the president’s deadline, including many stats that have significantly relaxed their restrictions. 

Vaccine makers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have all ramped up production, providing enough supply for Biden to double his initially modest goal of 100 shots in the first 100 days of his term to 200 million shots in arms by the same point (in late-April). 

And the pace of vaccinations has picked up considerably, with 2.8 million shots being administered a day on average, despite just 1.8 million being given yesterday. 

Michigan has seen its daily new Covid cases rise by more than 70 percent over the past two weeks.

Michigan has seen its daily new Covid cases rise by more than 70 percent over the past two weeks.

Michigan has seen its daily new Covid cases rise by more than 70 percent over the past two weeks.

But the U.S. is a long way from vaccinating the 75 percent of its population it needs to inoculate to reach herd immunity. 

Nearly 23 percent of Americans have had at least a first dose of vaccine, but only 16.1 percent are fully vaccinated. 

At the current pace, it will take another four months for the U.S. to reach herd immunity, according to data from Bloomberg. 

‘We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that progres means we’re all done yet,’ said Slavitt. 

‘The virus uses us to find sicker people, older people,’ to whom COVID-19 poses a life-threatening danger, he added.  

‘We’re not out of this pandemic yet, we still have an accelerating threat.’  

New York's new infections have increased by nearly 37 percent in the past 14 days, and New Jersey's rose by 15 percent

New York's new infections have increased by nearly 37 percent in the past 14 days, and New Jersey's rose by 15 percent

New York’s new infections have increased by nearly 37 percent in the past 14 days, and New Jersey’s rose by 15 percent

New Jersey's new daily Covid infection rose by 15 percent over the past two weeks

New Jersey's new daily Covid infection rose by 15 percent over the past two weeks

New Jersey’s new daily Covid infection rose by 15 percent over the past two weeks 

Cases are rising in half of U.S. states, with the most significant increases in Michigan – which relaxed restrictions to allow restaurants to seat people indoors at 50 percent capacity, up from 25 percent – New York, and New Jersey. 

Michigan has seen its daily new Covid cases rise by more than 70 percent over the past two weeks. 

New York’s new infections have increased by nearly 37 percent in the past 14 days, and New Jersey’s rose by 15 percent.  

The two East Coast states also expanded indoor dining capacity on March 10 as well.   

Fully reopened states do not have the case trends that suggest they can reopen. The 14-day trend in North Dakota for example, is a rise of nearly 50 percent.  

Arkansas, the most recent to drop restrictions, is the exception, with cases falling by 27 percent in the past two weeks, according to DataUSA.io – but its daily infection rate still remains high.  

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