‘We’re just about to enter a really big storm’: Ashish Jha warns against relaxing COVID-19 rules as cases fall

“I’m just asking people to hold on a little bit longer.”

Dr. Ashish Jha is urging officials and individuals to keep up efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 for “just a little bit longer” even with the falling number of cases seen nationwide. 

In an interview Tuesday with the “Today” show, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health said the drop in cases is “real” and not just the result of changes in testing. 

“Infections are clearly down, a good 50-60 percent,” Jha said. “Hospitalizations are down, death numbers haven’t moved that much … but I expect them to in the next couple weeks. And that of course is going to be good news.”


The doctor said he believes factors for the falling cases are the nation coming off the holiday peak and people being more diligent in practicing mask wearing and social distancing. Jha said he doesn’t expect the vaccination effort to begin reflecting in the national numbers for a couple of weeks.

But even with those positive indicators and trends, the researcher said he remains “pretty concerned” about the potential impacts the United States could see with the variant of the virus B.1.1.7, first detected in the United Kingdom, becoming more widespread. Experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are predicting the UK variant will become the dominant source for new infection this spring. 

Jha said he sees the variant as the last “big storm” facing the nation before the vaccines can pull the country out of the pandemic. 

“Unfortunately the experience of the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, other countries that have been experiencing this variant has been that they have seen a large spike in cases,” he said. “So that’s what we’re worried about and that’s why there’s such a rush to get all the elderly and high risk people vaccinated as quickly as possible.”


Now is not the time to relax COVID-19 restrictions, the doctor said. 

“I get the temptation to relax now that numbers are coming down, but we’re just about to enter a really big storm,” Jha said. “We will get through that storm and by the later spring, I think things will be much much easier to open. I’m just asking people to hold on a little bit longer.”

Vaccinated can still get COVID-19

Over the weekend, the health policy researcher also reminded the public that even as vaccinations ramp up, it isn’t a surprise that some people are still contracting COVID-19 after receiving their vaccine doses. 

“How common is this? Quick math says pretty common,” Jha wrote on Twitter. “Probably 60-100 fully vaccinated folks getting infected daily.”

What Jha said he is looking out for is the number of fully-vaccinated individuals ending up getting hospitalized from COVID-19 or dying from the illness. So far, he said he hasn’t heard much about hospitalizations or deaths among the millions of Americans who have been vaccinated. 

According to Jha, that suggests the vaccines are working “superbly” at preventing severe disease from COVID-19. 

“Bottom line, expect some vaccinated folks to get infected,” Jha wrote. “Let’s track how many end up hospitalized or even dead. Wouldn’t be surprised if some do because nothing in life is 100 percent. But so far, for preventing severe disease, these vaccines are pretty darn close.” 



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