“We’re talking about some form of protective immunity in about 55% of the population,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “There’s enough of a backstop here that I don’t think you’re going to see a fourth surge.”
“I think what you could see is a plateauing for a period of time before we continue on a downward decline — in large part because (the UK variant) is becoming more prevalent, in large part because we’re pulling back too quickly, with respect to taking off our masks and lifting the mitigation,” he said.
Gottlieb also warned that the emergence of virus variants could change the nation’s trajectory.
“The only thing that can be a real game changer here is if you have a variant that pierces prior immunity, meaning it reinfects people who’ve either already been infected or who have been vaccinated,” he said.
Gottlieb’s comments come as the number of US Covid-19 cases has plateaued at about 50,000 new cases per day over the last seven days. Several experts have warned of another surge as the US races to vaccinate and stay ahead of the variant.
“This is crunch time,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN on Saturday. “This is going to be our most difficult period right now in terms of seeing who wins out.”
“If we can hang on another month, another six weeks, that’s going to make a huge difference,” Hotez added.
Michigan cases and hospitalizations climbing
Case rates have been increasing for the past month, Khaldun said, and increased 77% since mid-February.
The state’s percent of Covid-19 tests that are positive have also jumped 177% since mid-February, Khaldun said. And hospitalization rates have also been climbing for the past two weeks, Khaldun added.
“It’s immensely concerning,” Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician in the state, told CNN Saturday. “We know in the past, cases went up, then hospitalizations, then deaths followed.”
Davidson told CNN he’s even more worried now that variants are circulating, and hopes the state can make enough headway to protect residents.
“It remains to be seen,” Davidson said. “We just would rather not wait and find out. We’d rather get people to mask up, keep distancing and get those numbers down.”
Political divide in vaccinations
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson said Friday that while he encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and thinks it’s the right thing to do, he knows there will be a “certain amount of people” who are not going to take the vaccine, “and they have every right to do that.”
“We got to do a better job of making sure everybody understands the importance of the vaccine, and yet maintain the respect of people that don’t want to take a vaccine, and it is going to be a challenge to see how many people we can get done, but we’re going to do everything we can,” the governor said.
A recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS, showed that while 92% of Democrats say they have gotten a dose of the vaccine or plan to get one, that falls to 50% among Republicans.
The former head of Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui, said he is very concerned by vaccine hesitancy fueled by politics.
“I’m very concerned that, for political motivation, people decide to actually place themselves and the people around them in harm’s way by refusing to be vaccinated,” Slaoui said in an interview broadcast Sunday on Face the Nation.
Slaoui also pushed back against President Joe Biden’s criticism of the Trump Administration’s vaccine plans, defending Operation Warp Speed’s efforts last year.
“I do think that we had plans, and in fact, 90% of what’s happening now is the plan that we had,” Slaoui said.
“We contracted specifically 100 million doses of vaccine, but also built into the contract options to acquire more vaccines, once we knew they are effective. The plan was to order more vaccines when we knew they are more effective,” he said. “What’s happening is, frankly, what was the plan — substantially, what was the plan.”
CNN’s Pete Muntean, Carma Hassan, Mirna Alsharif and Alec Snyder contributed to this report.