While tens of thousands of Americans are infected with the coronavirus each day and more research suggests variants threaten another surge, some state leaders are loosening CCOVID-19 restrictions against the recommendations of health experts.
The decision to rollback measures is "inexplicable," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"I understand the need to want to get back to normality, but you're only going to set yourself back if you just completely push aside the public health guidelines — particularly when we're dealing with anywhere from 55 to 70,000 infections per day in the United States," Fauci told CNN's Erin Burnett.
The governors of Texas and Mississippi said Tuesday they were lifting mandates and allowing businesses to operate at full capacity, announcements that came in the midst of health experts warning that the spread of more transmissible variants risks sending infection rates soaring once again.
Texas and Mississippi's announcements brought to 13 the number of states without statewide mask mandates, including Missouri.
Of particular concern to health experts is the B.1.1.7 variant which was first identified in the UK and has now been found in 44 US states as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.
Researchers the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine published evidence Wednesday that a person with that variant can infect 43-90% more people than the older versions of the virus.
In a statement, the Infectious Diseases Society of America said the US must continue to use masks, social distancing, hand washing and the avoidance of large gatherings.
"We can't forget the lessons this pandemic has taught us, or its terrible toll, and we must not relinquish the ground we've gained," said Dr. Barbara Alexander, the president of ISDA.
Meanwhile, experts have estimated that vaccines will be available to all US adults by May, but the question of when children can be vaccinated isn't clear.
"Right now, we project that the clinical trials will give us information that by the time we get to the fall, high school students will be able to be vaccinated," Fauci said Wednesday. "I'm not sure if it's going to be by the first day of school, but sometime in the fall."
Their younger siblings will have to hold out a little bit longer, he explained, during a livestreamed town hall event with members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
"The way the program is now scheduled, children who are elementary school, 6 to 12, that group of individuals ... those individuals will not be able to be vaccinated until their trials are finished, which will likely be at the earliest, the end of this year," Fauci said. "More likely the first quarter of 2022." — CNN