On Jan. 7, 2021, the U.S. hit another grim milestone, for the first time recording over 300,000 new cases of COVID-19 and over 4,000 deaths from the infection in one day. Across the country, hospitals and intensive care units are now under enormous strain trying to treat so many sick people. And if a new, more transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2 , the virus that causes COVID-19, were to take hold in the U.S. as it has in the U.K., as seems plausible, our health system could pass its breaking point. It’s all too easy to become numb to the toll and accept these daily figures as a new normal while waiting for the vaccine rollout to have an impact. Since the first vaccines were approved in Dec. 2020, we seem to have stopped talking about the rising cases and deaths. But we must not just accept this level of infection, suffering, and devastation for months on end while we wait until we reach vaccine herd immunity sometime in the summer or fall.
COVID-19 is a preventable illness. Many countries, like Australia, China, New Zealand and Taiwan, have practically ended community transmission of the virus and returned to a near-normal life, and they did so without using a vaccine. If we continue to see rising transmission, it will make it all the more challenging for vaccines to act as a tool that ends the U.S. pandemic.
There are five key actions we can—and should—take urgently to drive down viral transmission. First, we need to get every American a high-filtration mask
Widespread mask wearing across the community is linked with lower transmission rates; […]