March 1, 2021

Here's the bad news: The lifting of restrictions in many states is likely to lead to another major surge.

John Berman asked public health expert Dr. Leana Wen how much of a concern that is.

"I think it's a major concern, John," Wen said. "And it's because we've seen this playbook before. We've seen what happens when there is a major surge. What happens is that restrictions are placed. People change behaviors when hospitals are overwhelmed and you see that peak come down. but every time we have plateaued at an ever-higher level, and we're at the same level we were prior to that awful surge around Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's. If we started to plateau now and then the more contagious variants come along, we could see a fourth surge that is pretty catastrophic.

"So I think that there's a way for us to prevent that from happening, the same as before, which is most importantly, don't get rid of mask mandates. The governors that are doing this, I think it's super counterproductive, because if we want to be keeping our schools open, if we want businesses to come back, we should see masks as the way that allows us to do that. and so don't remove common sense science-based restrictions like mask mandates."

Alysin Camerota asked if the vaccines can outrun the variants in the next month.

"I don't think that any of us can possibly know that," Wen said.

"We have the optimistic direction, which is, we get a lot of vaccines out, there is a lot of immunity in the community already, and the weather is getting warmer, maybe we could beat this next surge, but we don't know whether these more contagious variants could outpace the speed of the vaccine rollout.

"We also don't know, there are vaccines or variants, rather, that may render the vaccines less effective and we don't know the extent to what that may occur. As it has been throughout the rest of the pandemic, let's be humble about what we know and don't know, but takes matters into our own hands as much as possible, but make common sense decisions."

Wen said the CDC needs to provide better guidance to people about what happens after they're fully vaccinated.

"It's just not realistic to tell people, you have to do exactly the same thing that you did pre-vaccine. That's going to dissuade people from actually getting the vaccine. And frankly, it's not correct. People are less likely to be carriers after they get vaccinated. so we should start telling people, here are the benefits of getting the vaccine. You can help everyone but also it helps you to restore a sense of normality. You can see your family for example, again," she said.

Berman asked what, exactly, you can do after you're vaccinated. And here's the good news.

"I think you should definitely be able to do the things that you were putting off before that are actually essential. If you were putting off your colonoscopy or your mammogram or elective surgeries, do that now. I think that two fully vaccinated couples, for example, can see one another indoors without masks, hug one another.

"And I also think that grandparents should now be able to plan their trips once the grandparents themselves are fully vaccinated. Yes, there's still a small chance that they could be carriers to the rest of their family, but if they're careful during the travel and continue to wear masks, there are families that can be reunited together and that will go a long way to restore some sense of normality in our everyday lives."

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