The United States needs to remain vigilant as it approaches the turning point of the pandemic

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With the wide distribution of coronavirus vaccines and the implementation of rules for masks and social distancing, the United States has seen a significant decrease in coronavirus cases. This achievement brings hope to businesses and schools that are beginning to make plans to reopen and return to normal. 

Across the country, states and cities are gradually making a recovery. Los Angeles is projecting a more positive forecast for the upcoming spring — as businesses such as restaurants, nail salons and barber shops reopen with limited capacity — and colleges including USC and UCLA have announced plans to bring students back to campus for the upcoming fall semester. 

However, it has taken the country a significant amount of sacrifice to recover. As of Feb. 22, the coronavirus death toll has surpassed 500,000 in the U.S., which accounts for 20% of the world’s total coronavirus-related deaths. The rising number of deaths has caused people to treat the issue seriously and pushed local governments to enact stricter social distancing roles. However, as people are starting to see a slow down in thecoronavirus’s spread, there are still many reasons for people to keep vigilant about the pandemic.

Currently, health officials are suggesting people remain cautious about the pandemic. In a recent press conference, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, indicated that researchers have not collected enough data to confirm whether vaccinated individuals will spread the virus to unvaccinated people. As a result, people who have received their vaccinations should still avoid indoor dining or going to theaters and places where people congregate. 

People should also be wary of new variants of the coronavirus. Since vaccines may not be completely effective against these new strains, and vaccine companies still need to make adjustments, the variants actually pose a potential threat to people regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated. Different states have already reported discovery of coronavirus mutation. In Southern California, a coronavirus virus variant named CAL.20C may be drastically more infectious than the typical coronavirus strain . Moreover, researchers also discovered seven new coronavirus variants in the country and are worried that these variants will be more contagious than the previous ones. 

In the meantime, the coronavirus variants found in South Africa and the U.K. are also causing more infections in the United States and may lead to a potential rise in confirmed cases. The new variant from the U.K. is 50% more contagious than the previous ones and has been found in at least 20 states. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has projected that this new strain could constitute more than half of the new infections in the United States by March. 

Although the United States is striving to provide more vaccinations and adjust them to protect people from the new variants, it will take some time for the country’s vaccination program to cover the majority of its people. In this case, it is necessary for people, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to take sufficient precautions and protections. Face masks will continue to be the necessary personal protective equipment for everyone. Dr. Fauci has estimated that people may need to keep wearing masks until 2022. He also advised people to keep distanced seating during outdoor events such as sports. 

The CDC has also asked people to keep taking preventive measures against the coronavirus in its guidelines updated in February. The measures include washing hands with sanitizers regularly, avoiding direct contact with eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and covering coughs and sneezes. When people are in public places, they are advised to follow social distancing protocols, stay at least six feet apart (two arms length) from others and avoid crowds and places without sufficient ventilation. 

USC students must also keep wearing masks on campus, even after the school reopens for the fall semester. It is also necessary for students to limit the number of people attending indoor and outdoor partying and try to keep social distance from others at large gatherings.

The threats of the coronavirus are still imminent, and the United States has only just reached its turning point. The future course of the country depends on its people’s actions, so it is imperative for everyone to be vigilant about the coronavirus, continue taking precautions and protect themselves and those around them.