Easing of public health guidelines signals big progress in quelling pandemic

axioscovidmay152021-289x300Let’s say “WoW” for those coronavirus vaccines.

Federal officials have given emergency approval for their use now in kids as young as 12. And parents are racing to get their youngsters vaccinated, not only against Covid but also other infectious diseases that put children at risk.

The steady increase in vaccinations — which 59% of Americans older than 18 have now gotten at least one dose of (as of May 14) — also has led federal experts to ease guidelines on face covering and distancing.

The fully vaccinated can mostly skip wearing masks and need not be as concerned with distancing from others. Sort of, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised.

The “buts” in this advisory created some concern and confusion.

Federal officials said even the fully vaccinated still should cover their faces in crowded, indoor settings.

Travelers still must follow federal rules requiring masks on planes, trains, buses, and other means of public transportation.

States and local governments scrambled to determine if they would ease their public health safeguards — and not all did so. (Virginia and Maryland lifted face covering mandates).

Businesses also struggled with decisions on masks and distancing, including whether, again, to put low-paid, “essential workers” in the fraught position of enforcers of public health measures that might be more stringent than customers would experience in a store next door or down the street.

President Biden, surprising many with his announcement of the easing of public health guidelines, said Americans deserved credit for their hard work and commitment to battling the pandemic, including for so many their hurrying to get vaccinated. The prospect of going without masks and being near to others should be cause for celebration, Biden said.

He also emphasized the importance of pressing forward with getting even more people fully vaccinated.

Hesitancy and access issues have declined steadily, especially as officials try novel incentives — including $1-million state lotteries for the vaccinated — to get more shots in people’s arms.

But the country also may have hit a barrier, with those reluctant and outright resistant balking at getting their shots.

Experts said that the relaxation of public health measures might be a powerful incentive to the un-vaccinated to get in line for shots so they, too, can live more freely.

To be clear, even if the unvaccinated don’t get the shots and go out without masks, they bear the risks — not the vaccinated, experts say.

Still, the easing of existing public health measures also may leave big swaths of people at heightened risk of contracting a disease that can be lethal or can be debilitating for long periods. This also could encourage the spread of risky coronavirus variants, which existing vaccines seem effective against. The CDC reported as of May 14 that the coronavirus has killed ~582,000 Americans and infected ~33 million.

Still, the trend lines about which experts obsess have all turned in good directions (see graphic above), as the Washington Post reported:

“For more than a year, everyone has wondered when this dreadful pandemic will end. The answer has always been ‘not for a long time.’ That answer, however, has been overtaken by events — at least in the United States. The end of the pandemic may not be near, exactly, but it’s no longer rash, impolitic or scientifically dubious to broach the topic.  New coronavirus infections in the United States have dropped to their lowest rate since mid-September and, if trends continue, will within days be lower than they have been in nearly 11 months. The numbers are good across the coronavirus data dashboard. More than half of adults have had at least one shot of vaccine, and the shots are remarkably effective at preventing severe illness and death. The federal government has looked at those trends and …revised the guidelines for vaccinated people, telling them they can stop wearing masks under most circumstances, indoors as well as outdoors. Coast to coast, communities are flinging wide-open the doors to their restaurants, businesses, and stadiums.”

Fingers crossed, folks.

In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the damages that can be inflicted on them by an array of awful circumstances and things, including:

In these cases, a crowd of problem people and institutions — these can include doctors, hospitals, insurers, regulators, and politicians — may press victims to move on, settle up, and they fast forget the lonely agony of the suffering. It can, however, take a long time for patients to recover from terrible illness or injury. Harms can last a lifetime. Patients may need medical services, as well as financial and other support for months or years. They also need closure and justice for wrongs done, as well as the sense that they may be able to help others avoid the problems that afflicted them.

We are not done with the coronavirus and the huge trauma it has inflicted on us all. Please get vaccinated. All medical interventions carry risk. But vaccines’ benefits long have been shown to far outweigh their harms. Consult your doctor if you have concerns. Don’t hesitate to talk with loved ones and people you respect if you have doubts.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
Washingtonian Top Lawyer 2011
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