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COVID 'immunity passports' could help US get 'new normal', expert says

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 12/24/2020 Lauren Fruen For Dailymail.com and Associated Press
Tom Frieden wearing a suit and tie: MailOnline logo © Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

The former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday COVID-19 'immunity passports' for vaccinated Americans could be the solution to getting the United States 'back to a new normal'. 

Dr. Thomas Frieden told CBS that 'done right immunity passports could be one of a series of things that could help us get to a new normal as soon as possible'.    

An alarming new red wave map shows that the vast majority of the US is currently one huge COVID-19 hotspot.  The country on Wednesday recorded its second deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic with 3,400 deaths.    

Despite that, millions of Americans are traveling ahead of Christmas and New Year's, ignoring pleas from public health experts that they stay home to avoid fueling the raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 320,000 nationwide.   

Dr Frieden said: 'We don't know if this is going to happen, but fundamentally we're seeing companies and countries giving people a certificate of vaccination.

'The risk of this is it will make inequality even worse. If people have both susceptibility to the virus and less access to the vaccine, they'll have even more problems. 

'But done right, immunity passports could be one of a series of things that could help us get to a new normal as soon as possible.'   

Tom Frieden wearing a suit and tie: Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday COVID-19 'immunity passports' for vaccinated Americans could be the solution to getting the United States 'back to a new normal' © Provided by Daily Mail Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday COVID-19 'immunity passports' for vaccinated Americans could be the solution to getting the United States 'back to a new normal'

Dr Frieden, who was director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, warned Wednesday that for the immunity passports to be effective there would need to be 'absolute privacy'. 

He also said the vaccine drive should also be 'absolutely opt in' and there should be 'complete transparency about how they're being used'. 

Dr Frieden added: 'Fundamentally we're facing a very difficult few weeks and few months there's not enough vaccine yet and we're seeing the highest levels of cases, hospitalizations and deaths the U.S. has since the start of this pandemic.' 

In an op-ed published Monday in The Washington Post Dr Frieden wrote, alongside human rights attorney Aaron Schwid: 'As more and more people are vaccinated, it’s time to carefully design a system of “immunity passports".'

map: This map, which is included in the latest community report from the White House COVID-19 Task Force, tracks areas of concern on a county level across the country. The majority of counties currently fall into the 'sustained hotspot' category, which means they are communities that have a high number of cases and may be at an even higher risk of overwhelming their local hospitals © Provided by Daily Mail This map, which is included in the latest community report from the White House COVID-19 Task Force, tracks areas of concern on a county level across the country. The majority of counties currently fall into the 'sustained hotspot' category, which means they are communities that have a high number of cases and may be at an even higher risk of overwhelming their local hospitals

They add: 'These passports would serve as a form of proof of immunity, allowing people who have immunity to engage in some activities others cannot. 


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'That could make it possible to ratchet down protective measures, such as stay-at-home orders and business closures, without increasing health risks.'

The pair describe how a venue 'could finally reopen' under the plan, adding: 'Visitors could return more freely to nursing homes and prisons. International travel could increase.

'As universal vaccination becomes available, passports will help everyone, not just the lucky few, move from fear to freedom.'  

a man and a woman looking at the camera: Aspen Fire Chief Rick Balentine receives a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from family planning nurse Linda Vieira at the Community Health Services building in Aspen, Colo., Wednesday © Provided by Daily Mail Aspen Fire Chief Rick Balentine receives a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from family planning nurse Linda Vieira at the Community Health Services building in Aspen, Colo., Wednesday

More than 5 million people passed through the nation's airport security checkpoints between Friday and Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

That is down around 60% from the same time last year. 

But it amounts to around a million passengers per day, or about what the U.S. saw in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, when some Americans likewise disregarded warnings and ended up contributing to the nationwide surge. 

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams encouraged people to celebrate only with people in their households, but added that if they can't follow the guidance, they should take precautions, such as ensuring good home ventilation.

'We can't let fatigue cause us to make poor decisions this holiday season that end up making us backtrack, especially when we are so incredibly close to getting ourselves and everyone else across the finish line,' he said, referring to the start of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Overall, the AAA projected that about 85 million people will travel between Wednesday and Jan. 3, most of them by car. That would be a drop of nearly a one-third from a year ago but still a big number in the middle of a pandemic. 

chart, histogram © Provided by Daily Mail chart, histogram © Provided by Daily Mail

At least 3,401 Americans died on Tuesday, which is the second highest daily toll after December 16 when just 3,600 deaths were recorded. It marks the fifth time daily deaths have surpassed the 3,000 mark amid the pandemic with all five occurring this month alone. 

The nationwide seven-day average for daily deaths now stands at 2,702, which is the highest ever recorded. 

The number of people hospitalized with the virus has also hit a new record with 117,777 patients currently being treated across the country. Hospitalizations have exceeded 100,000 every day this month. 

Meanwhile, 195,033 new infections were recorded on Tuesday, bringing the seven-day rolling average for new cases to 214,000.  

More than 322,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic and there have been 18.2 million confirmed cases. 

The rising number of deaths and hospitalizations, as well as the threat of a new UK strain of COVID that is thought to be already in the US, came as Biden warned the worst could still be yet to come. 

'Here is the simple truth: Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us,' Biden said. 

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