Hope and Fear: The Dangerous New COVID Phase, Explained

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Earlier this week, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky went off-script during a news conference to issue an emotional warning: a fourth coronavirus surge could be on its way. She described a “recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” saying that while there was “so much to look forward to,” the country was entering a dangerous new phase. “I’m scared,” she said.

Meanwhile, the country has seen week-on-week vaccination records tumble, and officials predict that half of Americans will be fully protected within the next two months. Nearly 150 million doses have been administered so far.

So Americans find themselves confronting yet another front in the war on COVID-19, in which hope and fear are colliding. Can we vaccinate fast enough to combat the threat of dangerous new variants? What’s the deal with the AstraZeneca vaccine drama? Why is the United States populations getting vaccinated at a much faster rate than the rest of the world? When—if ever—can we ditch the masks?

We try to answer some of those questions on this week’s episode of the Mother Jones Podcast, with Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist and the founding dean of the national school of tropical medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. He’s been leading a team at the Baylor College of Medicine that uses older vaccine technology to create a COVID-19 vaccine that would be cheaper to make and distribute.

“By the summer I think we could potentially vaccinate ourselves out of the epidemic,” Hotez tells Kiera Butler, our senior editor and public health reporter, during a taped livestream event last week. But that doesn’t mean we are out of the woods yet. Though coronavirus cases have dropped 80 percent from the latest surge, case numbers are at the same level that they were last summer and variants are spreading quickly. “We’re at a dangerous time right now.”

This interview was originally recorded for a Mother Jones livestream event on March 24, 2021. The full video can be found on www.motherjones.com or on Mother Jones’ Youtube and Facebook channels.

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