Models predict steep drop in COVID-19 cases in US by July, if vaccinations keep pace

As the US COVID-19 vaccine roll-out slows, the Biden administration is focusing on a new goal: getting at least 70% of American adults at least one shot by July Fourth.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says this summer could be a tipping point in the pandemic.

"Something I'm often asked about, is, 'When will this pandemic end and when can we get back to normal,'" Walensky says.  "The reality is it depends on the actions we take now."

To try to convince the 43% of American adults still unvaccinated to roll up their sleeves, the Biden Administration is promising to easier to get the vaccine.

White House COVID-19 advisors say the U.S. will shift from mass vaccination sites to smaller, more flexible vaccine drives, using mobile vaccination units, pop-up sites, and rural community health centers.

They say the US will also move away from requiring vaccine appointments.

"Yesterday, the President directed all our pharmacies to begin offering walk-in vaccinations, as the supply allows," Andy Slavitt, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator. "That means Americans will be able to get vaccinated without an appointment at the many of our nearly 40,000 pharmacy locations nationwide."

So, what could happen next in the pandemic? 

A new CDC report published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report looks at four projection models, which based on the level of vaccinations and safety measures in place going forward.

"In good news, the models project a sharp decline in cases by July 2021 and even faster decline if more people get vaccinated sooner," Dr. Walensky says. "The results remind us that we have a path out of this, and the models, once projecting really grim news, now offer reasons to be quite hopeful for what the summer may bring."

Still, Dr. Walenky cautions, new, much more contagious SARS-CoV-2 variants, such as the B. 1.1.7. or UK variant, could complicate the next few months.

"Although we're seeing progress in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, variants are a wildcard that could reverse the progress we've made and set us back," Walensky says.

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