Several US states are easing COVID-19 restrictions too early, says GlobalData

Texas and several other states such as Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan rescinding previous executive orders that were intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 could cause an emergence of more transmissible variants, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Walter Gabriel, MPH, Epidemiologist at GlobalData, comments: “The decision to ease restrictions comes in the wake of a decline in new COVID-19 cases since early January. However, daily new cases have remained in the 50,000 range in the US in March. Easing restrictions may prove premature as it will make it easier to contract and spread the virus across the country as people will be able travel freely between states.”

Texas has the second-most cases in the US after California. Daily confirmed cases in Texas remain high, with a seven-day average of over 4,500 cases as of March 14. Michigan had a seven-day average of 2,223 daily cases on March 15.

Gabriel continues: “These numbers resemble the average daily incidence during late summer when restrictions were in place. Such a high prevalence of COVID-19 cases shows that Americans remain at a heightened risk of contracting the disease.”

Vaccines have also played a role in the decision to ease restrictions and are likely to mitigate the above-mentioned transmission risk. Currently, the US has administered over 92 million doses. While these efforts are admirable, the US remains short of reaching herd immunity, which is estimated to be around 60–70% of the population.

Gabriel adds: “There is a good deal of vaccine hesitancy in the US population, as well as logistical constraints on vaccinating the population by May 1, which is the Biden administration’s goal. Furthermore, the efficacy of the vaccines is not 100%. As such, relying on vaccines is a weak foundation to ease restrictions as it could have a lower effect on mitigating transmission than state lawmakers anticipate.”

The easing of restrictions could cause an emergence of more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants. In Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported several hundred cases of the B.1.17 variant and a few cases of the B.1.351 variant. Both variants are more transmissible and likely more deadly than the COVID-19 strain that shut these states down a year ago. Therefore, reducing restrictions now may result in further restrictions being introduced later and for longer than was originally intended.

More Media