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Covid Not Over, So Keep Guarded During Super Bowl and Beyond: Experts

Dr. Fauci gives nod to vaccine by Johnson & Johnson, saying it will come 'online,' as demand for shots so far outstrips supply.
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As key measures of the Covid-19 outbreak in the U.S. and elsewhere have been improving in recent weeks, several experts say it's too early to let down your guard -- especially as the Super Bowl on Sunday could give Americans another reason to gather.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's chief Rochelle Walensky has said she's particularly worried about Super Bowl Sunday.

"Please watch the Super Bowl safely," she said last week. 

Several experts said they have similar concerns, especially as variants continue to pop up globally, raising fears that some of the changes will lower the efficacy of vaccines.

"I’m always worried that people will become complacent, or just simply and quite understandably fatigued with public health measures," Zoë Hyde, an epidemiologist and biostatistician at the University of Western Australia told TheStreet in an email this weekend. "But if people let their guard down or if governments weaken the measures prematurely, then we will inevitably see a rebound in cases."

On Sunday the U.S. was fast approaching 27 million total known infections and nearly 463,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

But the increase in cases -- while still staggering -- has slowed. On Saturday, the nation clocked in 102,420 newly diagnosed infections. Just weeks ago, the U.S. had seen nearly triple that number

"I think compensatory risk behavior may explain at least some of this. It’s hard to know," said Dr. David N. Fisman, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto, in an email to TheStreet. "But we do know that epidemics have had accelerating control long before we knew what caused epidemics."

Fisman added that with the new variants now spreading globally and a potential relaxing of controls and social distancing, we’ll probably see a final winter wave peaking in March.

"We did actually predict this sort of oscillation in our initial model a year ago," said Fisman.

Hyde also sees the new variants of the novel coronavirus as a reason to remain vigilant.

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"The situation could get quite dangerous," she said. 

Vaccines Won't Shoot Down Covid Any Time Soon

Despite the continued rollout of vaccines by Moderna  (MRNA)  and Pfizer  (PFE)  and BioNTech  (BNTX) -- and the likely addition of a vaccine by Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ)  soon -- only a small number of Americans have gotten their shots so far. 

Only around 3% of Americans have gotten both shots and only around 10% have gotten at least one, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It takes two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be fully effective at preventing symptomatic disease.

"The demand clearly outstrips the supply right now" for the shots, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

"If you look at the escalation of availability of doses purely on the ability and the capability of manufacturing ... it's going to escalate and will continue to escalate as we go from February, to March, to April and beyond. So even though there's a clear, clear discrepancy between the demand and the supply, that will get better as we get through February and into March. But that is the limiting factor."

Fauci also said he expects the shot by Johnson and Johnson, which is seeking an emergency OK, to get rolled out soon.

"We're going to be getting J&J ... online. You heard last week about the favorable results. And that's a single-dose vaccine." 

The new vaccines and the year of experience gained from the pandemic could eventually help nations prevent new surges that are as bad as the one the U.S. just went through, said Fisman. 

"We know it's here, we have vaccines, the U.S. is in good hands again ... and we know what to do now, however reluctantly," said Fisman.

Still, experts also know that the longer the virus is spreading, it will continue mutating and new variants could develop.

"This is why governments really need to try to squash the virus for good," said Hyde, "rather than applying half-hearted measures that aren’t as effective as they could be, and which prolong economic and social hardship."