May 7, 2021 -- The CDC said computer modeling shows “a sharp decline” in the number of new COVID-19 cases could occur by July.
But that scenario could be upended by a slowdown in vaccinations, relaxation of safety measures, and a rise in variants, the agency said.
“Data from six models indicate that with high vaccination coverage and moderate NPI adherence, hospitalizations and deaths will likely remain low nationally, with a sharp decline in cases projected by July 2021,” the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
NPI stands for nonpharmaceutical interventions and means safety measures such as masking and social distancing.
The CDC said lower levels of masking and social distancing “could lead to substantial increases in severe COVID-19 outcomes, even with improved vaccination coverage.”
COVID infections increased in March and early April despite the rollout of the vaccination program, the CDC said, noting the increases coincided with the spread of variants and the relaxation of safety measures.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, discussed the MMWR report and repeated the warning on Wednesday at a White House briefing.
“Although we are seeing progress in terms of decreased cases, hospitalizations and deaths, variants are a wild card that could reverse this progress that we have made and could set us back," she said.
Walensky cited encouraging statistics in the fight against the virus that has infected 32.5 million people and killed 578,000 in the United States.
She said the seven-day average of new COVID cases is about 48,000 per day, a drop of about 12% from the previous 7-day average. The 7-day average of hospital admissions is around 3,900, a drop of almost 10% from the prior 7-day period. The 7-day average of daily deaths is down to 400 per day, she said.
But the government has also noted a drop in demand for COVID vaccinations. The administration has announced a three-part plan to increase vaccinations by vaccinating children 12-15 years old, making vaccinations easier to get, and combatting vaccine hesitancy.
Walensky urged Americans not to let down their guard.
"Something I'm often asked is, when will this pandemic be over and when can we go back to normal? The reality is, it all depends on the actions we take now," she said.