- President Joe Biden warned against COVID-19 complacency in the face of new variants.
- Biden said that getting back to normal "depends on all of us."
- COVID-19 cases are on the decline, and vaccinations are ramping up in a race against the variants.
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President Joe Biden warned Americans against getting complacent about COVID-19 as the threat of new variants complicated the rush to end the pandemic through vaccinations.
After a devastating winter surge of coronavirus infections, the rates of new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are now on the decline. New cases have decreased by 35%, hospitalizations are down by 30%, and deaths are down by 16% over the past 14 days, according to The New York Times.
The decrease in infections is likely because of a number of factors, including Americans being more vigilant about COVID-19 precautions, some partial immunity in communities where a substantial proportion of people have been infected, a ramp-up of vaccinations, and some seasonality-related factors, The Atlantic recently reported.
But at an event to mark 50 million vaccinations during his term, Biden said that even with the weather getting warmer, it was not the time for Americans to let their guard down.
"In five weeks, America's administered the most shots of any country in the world, with among the highest percentage fully vaccinated," Biden said. "It's also true that while COVID-19 vaccinations are up, COVID cases and hospitalizations are coming down. But I need to be honest with you: Cases and hospitalizations are going up as new variants emerge."
He added: "I want to make something really very clear: This is not a time to relax. We must keep washing our hands, stay socially distanced, and for God's sake, for God's sake, wear a mask ... the worst thing we could do now is let our guard down."
The US is in a race to vaccinate its population as the rise of more contagious and potentially more deadly variants threaten to roll back much of the progress the country has made so far.
"The question I'm asked most often is, 'When will things get back to normal?" Biden said. "My answer is always honest and straightforward: I can't give you a date. I can only promise that we'll work as hard we can to make that day come as soon as possible. ... This is not a victory lap. Everything is not fixed. We have a long way to go. And that day, when everything is back to normal, depends on all of us."
There are two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the US from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna, with over 68 million vaccine shots administered and 6.6% of the population fully vaccinated as of Thursday.
The pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson released promising data with high levels of efficacy against illness and death for its single-shot vaccine candidate, which is widely expected to receive emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
In his remarks, Biden predicted the supply of vaccines would surpass demand in "60 to 90" days and that rates of vaccine hesitancy, particularly in underserved and hard-to-reach communities, would go down as vaccine rates rose.
"I think when more people see other people getting the shots, it's going to build confidence," Biden said.
While some vaccines may have lower efficacy against certain variants, particularly the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, they are still highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death on the whole.
Pfizer, which developed one of the two vaccines approved for use in the US, has a third shot in development to protect against variants, and Moderna, which developed its vaccine in coordination with the National Institutes of Health, is also starting trials for a booster.