Public health experts warn against complacency; Michigan makes homeless people vaccine-eligible; 525K US deaths. Latest COVID-19 updates

The number of vaccines distributed will most likely match the number of cases in the United States sometime this week.

But public health experts are warning that the number of Americans getting tested for coronavirus has dropped significantly since January, possibly because Americans are growing complacent as the second year of COVID-19 marches on and millions get vaccinated every week.

Testing remains a staple of the effort to control COVID-19, along with wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowded indoor places and hand hygiene. Though officials are optimistic vaccines will offer protection, some warn the nation might be letting its guard down before enough Americans are protected from the virus.

“A lot of people are just kind of done with the pandemic,” said Mary Hayden, professor of internal medicine and pathology at Rush Medical College in Chicago.

But variants around the U.S. are rising, if trends are any indication: the country has doubled its known total of such coronavirus infections since Feb. 18. And more and more states have had case levels rise in the past week after a month of plateaus.

Also in the news:

►Dr. Anthony Fauci is projecting U.S. high school students will be able to get vaccinated early in the next school year and that elementary school students should be line for vaccinations in early 2022.

►Schools across England are reopening to all students Monday, part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as a plan to get the country to “start moving closer to a sense of normality.”

►A vaccination site in the Miami suburb of Florida City was overwhelmed Sunday after it drew so few eligible takers that is started inoculating any adult to avoid wasting vaccine. Word spread, and police had to calm the crowd when the site again enforced state eligibility rules: 65 and older; medical workers and police officers, teachers and firefighters over 50; and younger people with a physician’s note saying the virus would endanger their lives.

►Idaho State police Sunday were investigating a protest at the state Capitol in Boise during which scores of people burned masks to protest coronavirus public health recommendations they view as restrictions on freedom.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 28.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 525,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 116.8 million cases and 2.59 million deaths. More than 116.3 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 90.3 million have been administered, according to the CDC.

📘 What we’re reading: Public heath experts have been critical of Texas, Mississippi and other states that have tossed aside mask mandates. They also warn of another threat to the country’s hard-fought gains against COVID-19: The number of Americans getting tested for coronavirus has dropped significantly since January. Read the full story.

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Pharmacist Claudia Corona-Guevara draws a shot of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday at the National Jewish Hospital in Denver.

Variant cases have doubled in US since Feb. 18, CDC data shows

The U.S. added a record 380 new coronavirus variant cases Sunday, continuing a trend that has seen the country double its known total of such coronavirus infections since Feb. 18. Different versions of the virus that causes COVID-19 are spreading quickly even as the pace of new infections has generally been falling nationwide.

The variants can spread more easily, dodge some treatments and immunities or both, leaving them a threat even as more Americans get vaccinated. The U.S. has 3,133 known variant cases, up from the 2,753 reported Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control said Sunday.

Most of America’s known variant cases are of B.1.1.7, which was first seen in the United Kingdom, with 3,037. Vaccines have proven effective against it but the variant is considered at least 50% more infectious than the original strain, making fast, widespread vaccination imperative.

– Mike Stucka

Michigan makes homeless people eligible for COVID vaccines

People who are homeless will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan starting Monday.

“Our vulnerable populations are high priority for us right now,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said, according to the Lansing State Journal. “This opens the door to make sure that population is also vaccinated and we don’t continue to have outbreaks in shelters.”

The news comes as infection rates are dropping and vaccine campaigns are ramping up. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced the further loosening of the state’s coronavirus restrictions, easing capacity limits in restaurants and other businesses while also allowing for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to end mask mandate in April

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday that he will end a mask mandate next month if the state’s test positivity rate or hospitalizations are low. Hutchinson on Friday lifted most of the safety restrictions placed on businesses to curb transmission of the coronavirus. He said that it’s time to “rely upon common sense and good judgment” versus mandates that are crippling businesses.

Last week, President Joe Biden dismissed the decision by some Republican governors to end mask mandates as “Neanderthal thinking.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the comment as a “reflection of his frustration” about Americans refusing to follow public health guidance.

Hutchinson does not agree. “Just give us our freedom back and lift some of our mandates,” he said. “That’s not caveman thinking, that’s common sense.”

Contributing: Ken Alltucker, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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