(CNN)A dangerous coronavirus variant is wreaking havoc in other parts of the world, so the US must stick with safety measures over the next few months to prevent that kind of damage as the variant takes more of a hold stateside, an expert says.

The B.1.1.7 variant, first spotted in the UK, is more contagious, may cause more severe disease and is rapidly infecting younger populations, epidemiologist Michael Osterholm told CNN on Tuesday night. Recent research suggests the strain may also be more deadly. “If we can just hold out, if we can just get enough vaccine between now and the summer, we can actually beat this one,” Osterholm said.Pfizer/BioNTech says its Covid-19 vaccine is 100% effective and well tolerated in adolescents Pfizer/BioNTech says its Covid-19 vaccine is 100% effective and well tolerated in adolescents Pfizer/BioNTech says its Covid-19 vaccine is 100% effective and well tolerated in adolescents That advice comes as Pfizer and BioNTech release news that could impact inoculations later this year: Their Covid-19 vaccine was 100% effective and well tolerated in youths ages 12-15 in a clinical trial, the companies said Wednesday.Pfizer/BioNTech said they intend to submit the data as soon as possible for expanded emergency use authorization of their two-dose vaccine for those ages to the US Food and Drug Administration. Currently, no Covid-19 vaccine is authorized for anyone under 16 in the US.Read MoreAs for the B.1.1.7 variant, it has fueled dangerous increases in other countries.In France, where health officials warned last month the variant was rapidly spreading, more than 5,000 Covid-19 patients are now in ICUs — for the first time since last April. Turkish officials reported the highest daily case counts since the pandemic’s start, with most of those infections caused by the B.1.1.7 variant. In Canada, officials say the strain has led to more infections and hospitalizations, with rising numbers of severe illnesses, including in younger patients.Health leaders worry the US could be headed in a similar direction, because a big part of the population remains vulnerable the virus. The three vaccines authorized in the US appear to work well against B.1.1.7, but only about 16.1% of the US population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's possible to reach herd immunity, then lose it. Repeatedly. Here's what you can do to help prevent that from happeningIt's possible to reach herd immunity, then lose it. Repeatedly. Here's what you can do to help prevent that from happeningIt's possible to reach herd immunity, then lose it. Repeatedly. Here's what you can do to help prevent that from happening“The trajectory of the pandemic in the United States looks similar to many other countries in Europe, including Germany, Italy and France looked like just a few weeks ago,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday. But it doesn’t have to get that bad. “In the United States it’s going to be totally up to how much are we going to open,” said Osterholm, who noted the US is the only country that is easing safety measures while the B.1.1.7 variant is spreading. “In a sense, we’re creating the perfect storm.”That, Osterholm said, could mean more lives lost. His warning comes as new coronavirus cases have spiked in the US over the past week.The US has averaged more than 66,870 new Covid-19 cases a day over the last week as of Monday — a 24.6% jump over the week prior, when the average had fallen to its lowest point of 2021, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Michigan governor says she thinks variant is driving surge thereMichigan has seen one of the highest Covid-19 case increases over the last week by percentage — 52%, according to Johns Hopkins — and its governor said Wednesday she believes B.1.1.7 is one of the reasons.The latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccinesThe latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccinesThe latest on the coronavirus pandemic and vaccinesIts current seven-day average, 5,409 cases a day, is Michigan’s highest since mid-December.”We haven’t abandoned our protocols; it’s just that we’ve got a higher proportion of variants,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told CNN’s “New Day.” “And part of that is people getting tired, there’s fatigue, and there’s variants and there’s more travel.”Michigan has the country’s second-highest total of reported B.1.1.7 cases in the country, according to the CDC. The count represents only B.1.1.7 cases caught in surveillance analysis of positive samples, and so the variant’s actual presence is likely higher than reported.The state has a mask mandate and restrictions on restaurant and gym capacity, though capacity restrictions were recently eased. She said there are always robust discussions about whether to enact further restrictions, but “what we need to do is double down on our masking and get more people vaccinated.” A governor says ‘no thank you’ to mask mandateEarlier this week, President Joe Biden made a plea to the nation’s leaders to reinstate mask mandates, adding, “this is not politics.” Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, who lifted all county mask mandates earlier this month, responded through Twitter. “Let me get this straight — POTUS Biden wants Mississippi to reverse course and reinstate a mask mandate because cases are going up in New York and New Jersey,” Reeves wrote. “No thank you, Mr. President,” he added. lso on Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced he was lifting a statewide mask mandate, adding that businesses were free to require customers to wear masks. “I’ve talked to a number of restaurant owners who will continue requiring masks within their restaurant for the safety of their employees and patrons,” the governor said. “Please be respectful and mindful that, while the mask mandate has been lifted, many businesses will continue to require it.”Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will also move ahead with her plan to end the state’s mask mandate next week, a spokesperson for the governor told CNN this week. People wearing masks on a subway car on March 29, 2021 in New York CityPeople wearing masks on a subway car on March 29, 2021 in New York CityPeople wearing masks on a subway car on March 29, 2021 in New York CityMore leaders ease restrictions More leaders also announced they were easing restrictions. In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Tuesday that some restrictions — including strict occupancy limits for bars and restaurants — will be eased this week. The state’s mask mandate will remain in place, the governor said, adding that one region of Louisiana has seen an increase in cases and hospitalizations, likely because of the B.1.1.7 variant.”While Covid-19 and its variants remain a major public health risk, using the tools of vaccination, masking and distancing, we can keep ourselves and our loved ones safe,” Edwards said. In California, 13 counties are moving to a less restrictive tier, state health officials said Tuesday. The state has set up a tier system that helps determine how open a county can be based on several metrics, including case rates and positivity rates. Among those moving to a less restrictive tier are Los Angeles and Orange counties, which will now be designated as having a moderate risk level. Los Angeles County health officials announced Tuesday that starting April 5, and assuming case numbers don’t go up, several restrictions will be eased. Bars that don’t provide meals will be allowed to open outdoors with certain safety measures, restaurants will be allowed to increase indoor-dining capacity and movie theaters, retail stores and personal care services can also all increase capacity. About half of US seniors fully vaccinatedExperts urge vigilance until enough people can be vaccinated and protected against the virus to suppress its spread. About 96 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine — roughly 28.9% of the US population — and about 53.4 million are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows. All 50 states now have expanded or will expand Covid vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and upAll 50 states now have expanded or will expand Covid vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and upAll 50 states now have expanded or will expand Covid vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and upTrack Covid-19 vaccinations Just under half of the country’s 65 and older population — 49.8% — are fully vaccinated and more than seven out of 10 seniors in the US have received at least one dose, the data shows. As for Pfizer’s trial reportedly showing 100% efficacy of its vaccine in children ages 12-15, a vaccine expert said that assuming the FDA authorizes expanded use, he could see that age range begin to get vaccinated this year.”I think there is some urgency to try to do this by the fall (for school reopenings), and so I think over the summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing adolescents get vaccinated,” Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, told CNN Wednesday.Older, higher-risk groups initially were prioritized in the vaccine rollout nationwide. But now, more than a dozen states have opened vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older, and every other state has announced plans to do so by at least May 1.Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is the only one available for people 16 and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are restricted to people 18 and older.Pfizer is conducting a Phase 1/2/3 study of its vaccine in children ages 6 months to 11 years, and results are expected by the end of the year.Moderna also is testing its Covid-19 vaccine in adolescents and children: One trial in children ages 12-17, and another for 6 months to 11 years.

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https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/31/health/us-coronavirus-wednesday/index.html

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