- This story is regularly updated for relevance. Last updated: April 6, 2021
As vaccine distribution ramps up and COVID-19 infection rates stall across the United States, states have begun to lift restrictions and mask mandates causing some health experts to wonder if America is reopening too quickly.
At the beginning of March 2021, a steady stream of state officials lifted restrictions and mandates across the country. According to Forbes, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Ohio, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Wyoming, and North Carolina all eased up on COVID-19 precautions, including ending evening curfews, lifting capacity restrictions, and reopening more businesses like bars.
Even hard-hit New York reopened large event venues and amusement parks, while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared the state 100% open for business (without masks) only a few minutes before Mississippi did the same (Matthew McConaughey did NOT agree with that decision).
But it makes CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky awfully uncomfortable. On March 29, as cases around the country began creeping up, she said, “I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared.”
All of these easements on COVID-19 restrictions come as the country rolls out three vaccines and experiences a plateau in infections.
In late February, the number of vaccine doses administered surged to more than 2.3 million, with hopes that it will average 3 million a day by the end of March (in early April, the U.S. vaccinated more than 4 million people for the first time).
Earlier in March, Walensky said during a White House news briefing that she was “really worried” about states rolling back public health measures. She apparently believes that America potentially is reopening too quickly.
“Seventy thousand cases a day seems good compared to where we were just a few months ago,” Walensky said. “Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed that concern during a news briefing, as well. The nation’s most recognizable infectious diseases expert said that there was a low risk of transmission for small groups of fully vaccinated people to gather indoors. But beyond that, he said to follow CDC guidance.
Walensky urged that Americans practice patience and not rush to get life back to normal when there’s still a chance of another surge in cases.
“I know people are tired; they want to get back to life, to normal,” Walensky said. “But we’re not there yet.”