“If there ever was a time to put on the mask, this is it,” Collins told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi on Saturday.

Collins’ comments to MSNBC come as encouraging signs — falling case counts, rising vaccinations — converge with public health experts’ concerns that more-transmissible variants are gaining ground.

That variant’s spread comes as states abandon social restrictions, including Maryland, which Friday lifted its capacity limits on businesses, and Oklahoma, whose governor announced this week he was ending restrictions on events.

Texas, meanwhile, has entered its first weekend since Gov. Greg Abbott removed a statewide mask mandate and limits to business capacities on Wednesday.

In Houston, a hospital leader told CNN that he’s worried about how he’s seen people respond.

“If you go outside the clubs, they are packed. I mean, people just congregating, no masks,” Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of staff at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, told CNN Saturday.

“I am sure we are going to have a surge” in cases, Varon said.

US air travel also is picking up as some colleges observe spring break. More than 1.3 million people were screened at airport checkpoints Friday — the highest figure since March 15, 2020, the Transportation Security Administration said.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said his Florida community is seeing “too much spring break activity.”

“We’ve got a problem with too many people coming here to let loose in ways that are just simply improper,” he told CNN Saturday.

With Covid-19, the high number of visitors and coronavirus variants, he said, “it’s almost a triple threat for my community, and we are concerned and it’s very challenging.”

Greater mobility is expected to play a factor in how many more people contract Covid-19 and die in the coming months, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said this week.

Accounting for variant spread in some locations and increasing vaccinations, the IHME projects daily death tallies to drop to 651 a day by May 1.

But if the country approaches pre-pandemic levels of mobility, daily deaths still would be above 1,200 by May 1, the IHME’s model projects.

The country has averaged more than 1,380 Covid-19 deaths a day over the last week, well below a mid-January peak of around 3,400 but still above the highest levels of the summer, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

And the pandemic as a whole already has taken a devastating toll: More than 532,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States, far more than the top estimate of 240,000 deaths that the former White House coronavirus task force gave when the pandemic started a year ago.You asked, were answering: our top questions about Covid-19 and vaccines here.

After a year of Covid-19, it’s unclear when all schools will reopen fully

Teachers and school staff want to return to the classroom with their students, education experts said. But after a year of the pandemic, managing Covid-19 still poses obstacles to in-person learning.”That’s how they were trained to teach, and work with them, and they miss them. They want to be back in person,” Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday. To make that return, Pringle said, it is important to be able to tell teachers, staff, parents and students that school is a safe place to be.

As of Monday, teachers and educators in all 50 states will be eligible to receive Covid-19 vaccinations. The eligibility comes as the US ramps up vaccination efforts in hopes of curbing the spread of coronavirus variants and setting a course toward some sense of normalcy again.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told Tapper that safely reopening the nation’s more than 14,000 public school districts for full, five-day-a-week classes is his top priority — but he can’t say yet when that will happen.

“This is unprecedented, I mean, we are in the middle of a pandemic. I do feel that (schools are) following the science and I do think that this is hard work. There is no playbook for this in any leadership course,” Cardona said.

“It’s a balance to make sure that we’re moving the needle in the right direction to get students in school every day, but we have to do so making sure we’re adhering to those mitigation strategies that have worked to keep our schools safe.”

More than 105 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered so far in the US, according to data published Saturday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 69 million people — about 1 in 5 Americans — have received at least one dose. About 36 million — or 11.1% of the population — had been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

Hopes of having enough vaccine for all US adults by the end of May

President Joe Biden said this week he wants states to open vaccinations to all adults by May 1. The US will have enough supplies to fully vaccinate 300 million people by the end of May, according to the Biden administration and projections provided by vaccine makers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

The US adult population is approximately 255 million people, according to Census data.

Maine’s governor on Friday said her state is planning to meet May 1 goal. Meanwhile, Michigan residents over 16 will be able to get their vaccines beginning April 5, ahead of the national schedule, state officials announced Friday.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a CNN medical analyst and medical professor at George Washington University, explained that fully vaccinated people can “start to do some of the things that none of us have really done in a year,” like going to restaurants or the gym.

“Of course, wearing a mask in all these venues,” he said, adding he feels the CDC should be more proactive in providing guidance for vaccinated individuals and what they can do.

“We should be cautiously opening our economy to people who have been fully vaccinated,” he said. “That’s not the same as saying that people who have not been vaccinated can go about their lives as if nothing has happened.”

Treatment shows ‘really dramatic’ results to fight Covid-19, Fauci says

As officials work to ramp up vaccinations, experts hope treatments of the coronavirus could mitigate its impacts. Experts are especially upbeat about monoclonal antibodies.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said while monoclonal antibodies are a “very fluid area of research,” many of these treatments show “really dramatic” results that help fight the disease.

Fauci, speaking Friday at the White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing, referenced a number of recent studies that showed how much help these treatments offer patients early in the course of their disease. They are some of the only treatments authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat non-hospitalized Covid-19 patients, and they are still underutilized.

“The reason why I point this out is that, recently, there has been a considerable amount of information regarding some of the monoclonal antibodies that are used in the prevention and treatment of Covid-19,” Fauci said.

Fauci added that the treatments work for now. There is some concern that the variants may make the treatments less effective, but the companies continue to work on several updated cocktail approaches that scientists believe will work against the variants.

CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Jen Christensen, Betsy Klein, Rebekah Riess, Elizabeth Stuart, Naomi Thomas, Ben Tinker and Greg Wallace contributed to this report.



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