The COVID-19 Pandemic: Where Are We Now, and Where Are We Going?

This time last year, many Americans were forced to forgo the signature parades, fireworks displays and parties that characterize the Fourth of July holiday; this year, there is an opportunity for things to be different. This year, Fourth of July may mark the total opening of the country since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, meaning a return to some semblance of normalcy. Millions of Americans are set to celebrate with, as of May 2021, over 130 million people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States, making the holiday an occasion of re-entering into society from social distancing isolation. President Biden on May 4, 2021 announced that the US has set a goal of 70% of American adults to have received at least one vaccine shot, and 160 million adults to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4, 2021. 

Where are we now?

As of May 2021, nearly half of Americans have received at least one vaccine shot, leaving approximately 20% of Americans to go to meet the Biden Administration’s goal of at least 70% partially vaccinated Americans by July 4. Today, there are 130 million Americans fully vaccinated for COVID-19. On May 10, 2021 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents age 12-15 years old, adding almost 17 million more people to the eligible vaccination pool. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at least half of US states have fully vaccinated at least half of their adult populations and as a result, new COVID-19 cases have dipped dramatically. 

Where are we going?

Today, COVID-19 vaccines can be readily accessed at many local doctors’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics in the US, and will soon be available in many pediatricians’ offices. Many partner organizations continue to collaborate with providers to ensure that older Americans and Americans with disabilities receive equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. And, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Rural Health Association, community-focused organizations and many more organizations are working and collaborating to ensure equitable vaccine accessibility to rural U.S. communities.

As we know, a strong sense of confidence in COVID-19 vaccines within communities leads to more persons getting vaccinated, which leads to less COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. To strengthen this confidence, the CDC has launched a Vaccinate with Confidence campaign to protect communities, empower families, and stop myths. Even you can play a part in this important campaign by following the CDC’s six ways to help build COVID-19 vaccine confidence

COVID-19 safety tips for summer celebrations

This upcoming Memorial Day Weekend will be a telling test of whether or not the country can avoid the sharp spikes in infections that occurred after the 2020 winter holidays. Some tips to stay COVID-safe during summer celebrations include:

  • Holding festivities outside rather than inside, unless spaces are properly ventilated by opening doors and windows.
  • Continuing to wear a mask if you are not fully vaccinated, when indoors, when interacting with persons at high risk to COVID-19 complications, and when interacting with persons who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Consider continuing to maintain social distancing of six feet if you are not fully vaccinated, when indoors, when interacting with persons at high risk to COVID-19 complications, and when interacting with persons who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Avoid sharing food and beverages with persons outside of your household.
  • When serving food and beverages, use disposable plates, platters, utensils and cups (try your best to recycle these materials when possible).
  • Continue to avoid large crowds and mass gatherings, and pay attention to local announcements that may cancel some of the country’s major celebrations. 
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces as frequently as possible.
  • Wash your hands frequently, or if this is not available, frequently use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Stay home if you feel sick or display any symptoms of COVID-19.

The introduction of COVID-19 vaccines widely available to the public has drastically changed the pandemic landscape in the United States. As of May 10, 2021 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded the current Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 years old. This means that 12-15 year old adolescents, an extra 17 million people, can safely receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and are encouraged to do so.