The optimistic turn in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths could end in another spike in infections, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday. But the US could still prevent that increase with higher vaccination rates.

“If we do not do very well in that regard, there is always the danger that there is enough virus circulating that can delay the decrease in the number of cases, and when that happens, as we have seen in the past, with other waves through which we have passed, there is a danger of a resurgence, “Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said on Fox News Sunday.

Although cases remain high, averaging about 85,000 new infections a day through Sunday, they have dropped by more than 8,000 from the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Deaths have dropped an average of more than 200 a day since the beginning of the month.

However, progress in numbers continues to be threatened by low vaccination rates. As of Sunday, 57% of the total population was fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ).

And while health experts don’t know exactly what proportion of the population needs to be protected to control the spread of the virus, Fauci has said that a vast majority will need to be vaccinated.

The good news is that Fauci doesn’t think another spike in cases is inevitable.

“It will be within our ability to prevent that from happening,” Fauci said. “The degree to which we continue to go down that slope will depend on how well we do it vaccinating more people.”

Vaccine mandates backfire, says the governor

Health experts have pointed to vaccine mandates as a key tool in reducing cases and easing hospital stress, but some officials strongly oppose the measures.

Fauci has been an advocate for the mandates, saying the data shows they work to get more people vaccinated. And while it would be preferable to convince people to choose to get vaccinated, that’s not always feasible, he said.

“I think when you are in a public health crisis, sometimes unusual situations require unusual actions,” Fauci told Fox News.

But Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said Sunday that he believes both federal and state mandates are counterproductive to increasing vaccination rates.

Hutchinson told NBC News that he believes mixed messages at the highest levels of government have “slowed down acceptance of the vaccine and increased resistance.”

“I would like to see us arrive, without the battle of the mandate, let’s just encourage the acceptance of the vaccine, build trust in it, and that is the direction we must take,” said the governor.

When asked specifically about the success of the Tyson Foods and Walmart vaccine mandates in Arkansas, the governor said this “absolutely” proves the mandates work.

“So yes, there is effectiveness there. So let me clarify that when I say that I don’t think we should get into mandates, I mean government mandates, be it a federal government mandate or a state government mandate,” he said.

Hutchinson noted that employers must navigate a nuanced reality and on the ground of some employees wanting a mandatory vaccine work environment to feel safe, while others do not. Hutchinson said that based on that situation, the choice of whether or not to order vaccination should be left to employers.

Emergency and Urgent Services in Minnesota Suspended Due to Nurse Strike

In many places, the burden of hospital strain from COVID-19 has fallen on nurses, and a strike in Minnesota has affected services.

Urgent and emergency care services have been temporarily suspended at Abbott Northwestern WestHealth in Plymouth, Minnesota, as about 50 nurses from the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) decided to strike, according to a statement from Allina Health.

Nurses are on strike to seek “a contract that provides fair wages and benefits to nurses on the front lines of the covid-19 pandemic,” the MNA said in a statement Thursday.

“MNA nurses have been negotiating a new contract for months, but Allina has refused to accept fair pay for vacation work or adequate benefits,” the MNA said in the statement. “Compensating nurses fairly for work on holidays is especially critical because understaffing from Allina and other hospital systems have required nurses to work longer days and hours, including overtime and holidays while continuing on the front lines of the covid-19 pandemic “.

The shutdown began Sunday morning and will last until 7:00 am local time on Wednesday, according to the statement.

“Allina Health and Abbott Northwestern WestHealth have negotiated with MNA 7 times. A contractual agreement was previously reached and was unanimously recommended by the union’s bargaining team. Unfortunately, MNA was unable to finalize that agreement,” says the Allina Health statement. “Throughout the negotiations, we have consistently offered proposals that demonstrate our commitment to our female employees, including an immediate pay increase to align salaries with other metropolitan hospitals and agreement with some of the union’s other priority issues.”

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