Coronavirus

‘A lot of people are going to get infected and sick’: Dr. Ashish Jha says states are loosening COVID-19 restrictions too quickly

“We can avoid that by just holding on a little bit longer.”

Dr. Ashish Jha is predicting the United States will see an increase in COVID-19 cases as states relax coronavirus restrictions too quickly and spring break travelers seed new infections in the coming weeks. 

The dean of the Brown University School of Public Health appeared on the “Today” show Monday morning to weigh in on the state of the pandemic and the news that AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine was 79 percent effective at preventing symptomatic disease and 100 percent effective in protecting against severe disease and hospitalization. 

The doctor said the news was significant for a number of reasons. He said he doesn’t see the United States as necessarily needing more vaccines, but doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are the “best ticket” for global vaccination. 

Jha elaborated on Twitter about why the new vaccine holds the best chance for being used in large supply around the world. 

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“It’s relatively easy to store and make,” he wrote. “So if you were rooting for global vaccination, this is a good morning.”

While Jha said on “Today” that the U.S. is in good shape with its vaccination rollout, the doctor said he is worried about two things: spring break parties and states loosening coronavirus restrictions. 

Last year, the nation saw what happened when spring break crowds went home — the spread of infection across the whole country. 

“Even if young people themselves don’t get very sick, usually, they are very efficient spreaders of this disease,” Jha said. “So what’s going to happen is they’re going to take it home, they’re going to infect vulnerable people who have not yet been vaccinated, and that’s I think what we’re all worried about.”

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The U.S. is “so close” to providing protection to everyone at high risk of disease, likely in the next four weeks, he said. 

Jha said the situation is as if the U.S. is at the 10 yard line with the ball and has the opportunity to run into the end zone, but states are loosening restrictions too fast. 

“The cost of this is that a lot of people are going to get infected and sick when we can avoid that by just holding on a little bit longer,” he said. 

Massachusetts moved into its fourth and final stage of reopening on Monday, despite concerns raised by public health groups. 

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