As weather grows colder and children spend more time in school, a surge of COVID-19 cases like the one in the South could be in store for the Northeast — but it is not too late to get ahead of it, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
"It is within our power, and within our grasp, to prevent that from occurring," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Monday.
The way to do it, he said, is by utilizing mitigation measures like wearing masks indoors and in schools, as well as increasing vaccination rates.
The idea of vaccine mandates for schools and businesses has sparked debate through much of the country, but with the spread of the Delta variant, more leaders are adopting such methods.
And the evidence shows that vaccine mandates do get more people vaccinated, and the more vaccinated people there are in a community, the more protected the community is, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told ABC Monday.
Those mandates have been implemented by the federal government for its employees, and President Joe Biden stressed the importance of people getting vaccinated Monday while receiving his booster shot.
"This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. That's why I'm moving forward with vaccination requirements wherever I can," he said.
Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb estimated that the delta wave of the pandemic could run its course by Thanksgiving, and COVID-19 could eventually become more of a seasonal nuisance than a devastating pandemic. But Fauci said that is dependent on getting a lot more people vaccinated.
Currently, 55.4% of the country is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC — still far below the "vast majority" Fauci has said needs to be vaccinated to control the spread of the virus. And the daily pace of new vaccinations is the lowest it has been since the CDC started tracking it in mid-January, according to data from the agency.
And many places are still impacted by the spread.
North Carolina has received 25 Advanced Life Support ambulances as the state experiences "greatly increased" calls for service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ambulances each have a two-person crew of EMS providers, according to a Monday news release from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. The ambulances were provided in response to a request the state submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"These ambulances and crews will provide necessary relief to our extremely busy EMS systems," North Carolina Emergency Management Director Will Ray said. "While it's not the full complement we requested, we know medical resources are extremely limited across the nation right now, and we are grateful for this assistance from our federal partners."
Vaccine mandates argued in court
Both mask and vaccine mandates have drawn intense debates.
In Arizona, a state ban on mask mandates in public and charter schools was scheduled to become a law on Wednesday, according to an earlier report from CNN.
But, a Maricopa County judge ruled the ban unconstitutional Monday in a move Gov. Doug Ducey called "an example of judicial overreach."
The ruling was made because the COVID-19 measures were inserted into the state budget bill, and legislators are precluded from "combining unrelated provisions into one bill to garner votes," according to the court filing.
One of Tennessee's largest school districts plans to implement a mandatory mask mandate Tuesday ordered by a federal judge, and the school district is preparing for potential protests.
"Students who refuse to wear a mask will be allowed in the school building, but please know they will not be in their regular classroom," Superintendent for Knox County Schools, Bob Thomas, said. Parents will be allowed to take their child home for refusing to wear a mask, but the student's absence will be counted as unexcused, a message to families said.
Employees of New York City's public schools initially had until Monday to get vaccinated, but enforcement of the mandate was temporarily blocked by a judge ahead of the weekend.
The injunction was then dissolved by a federal appeals court Monday, allowing the city's schools to enforce vaccine mandates among educators once again. The cohort of teachers and paraprofessionals who requested the injunction lost their appeal, their attorneys said.
"With thousands of teachers not vaccinated, the City may regret what it wished for," attorney for the teachers and paraprofessionals who asked for the injunction, Mark Fonte, said in a statement to CNN. "Our children will be left with no teachers and no security in the schools."
The vaccine deadline for school employees has been extended to Friday, the city's Department of Education said after the ruling.
"Vaccinations are our strongest tool in the fight against COVID-19 — this ruling is on the right side of the law and will protect our students and staff," city education department spokeswoman Danielle Filson told CNN in a statement.
And in Massachusetts, vaccine mandates have motivated dozens of state troopers to submit resignation paperwork, State Police Association of Massachusetts' (SPAM) President Michael Cherven said in a statement.
SPAM had also filed a motion requesting to put the requirement on hold while the union negotiated terms of their member's employment, but Judge Jackie Corwin said the importance of protecting the citizens and officers outweighs the Union's right to bargain the terms and conditions of the employment of its members.
Access to boosters will likely expand, but for most people, there is no rush, experts say
Health experts have been discussing vaccine boosters as another way to increase protection against the virus, but they are not currently accessible to everyone.
Booster doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine are now available to people 65 and older and some adults with underlying medical conditions or those at increased risk for a breakthrough infection.
While boosters will likely become available to more people in the United States, not everyone will need one right away, Fauci said Monday.
Fauci told CNN that many people are still well protected from their initial COVID-19 vaccination, while certain categories of people, such as the elderly and those in long-term care facilities, may be ready for a boost six months after their initial vaccination.
"If you're a person who ultimately might get a booster that will make you optimally protected, you don't necessarily need to get it tomorrow," Fauci said.
And boosters for people who got a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be addressed with urgency, Walensky told ABC.
"I want to reiterate that this is a very slow wane. There is no urgency here to go and get your booster immediately. You know, walk don't run to your booster appointment," she said. "We will come and look at the data for Moderna and J&J in very short order."