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States reopening too soon raises risk of dangerous COVID-19 variants: doctor

·Anchor
·2 min read

As the medical community warns about highly transmissible mutations of COVID-19, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Illinois and Massachusetts are among states rolling back pandemic-related restrictions.

Those decisions are being met by criticism from some health experts. Dr. Rishi Desai, chief medical officer at Osmosis and former CDC epidemic intelligence officer, told Yahoo Finance Live that states are easing restrictions “too soon” and people are getting “too complacent.”

Here’s why: three fast-spreading coronavirus mutations originating in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Brazil could cause another surge in cases, and key COVID-19 metrics, although trending lower, still remain “pretty high in most parts of the country,” therefore raising the risk of future dangerous variants.

“These variants happen because the virus is replicating in people,” Desai said. “The more cases you have, the higher chances for a new variant to pop up. With these high, high levels of disease, it's a double whammy because you have the disease leading to hospitalizations and deaths and you have a higher chance for a variant and that’s going to throw everything off.”

Registered nurse Diane Miller pulls on gloves and other protective equipment as she prepares to enter patient rooms in the COVID acute care unit at UW Medical Center-Montlake, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Seattle. King County, where the hospital is located, has been on a downward trend of COVID-19 cases after two-and-a-half straight months of increases. But the current lull could be, and some experts believe will be, upended as more contagious variants of the virus spread throughout United States. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Registered nurse Diane Miller pulls on gloves and other protective equipment as she prepares to enter patient rooms in the COVID acute care unit at UW Medical Center-Montlake, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Seattle. King County, where the hospital is located, has been on a downward trend of COVID-19 cases after two-and-a-half straight months of increases. But the current lull could be, and some experts believe will be, upended as more contagious variants of the virus spread throughout United States. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Newly reported infections are declining with the seven-day moving average falling about 30% from two weeks ago. While that’s certainly an improvement, it’s all relative. According to Johns Hopkins data, more than 122,000 people were diagnosed with coronavirus in the U.S. on Thursday alone, a level that wasn’t seen until November.

Desai said two things need to happen before states relax restrictions: a significant drop in daily confirmed cases and a vaccination rate of 3 million a day.

“[The United States] is averaging roughly 1.3 million shots per day. We're not halfway to where we need to be,” said Desai. “We also need to watch our daily case graph… when that dips down to a quarter of where it is today, that’s when we start laying off in terms of the restrictions. Until then, I don’t think we should be doing that.”

Seana Smith anchors Yahoo Finance Live’s 3-5 p.m. ET program. Follow her on Twitter @SeanaNSmith

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