People are absolutely right to be worried about the spread of more transmissible variants, some of which might also be better at evading vaccine-provided immunity. But, crucially, there’s no variant in our midst that’s been shown to completely escape the existing vaccines (which can be adjusted if needed). The B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the UK and the one considered most likely to become common in the U.S., doesn’t seem more able to circumvent vaccine-provided immunity than the classic strains we’ve been dealing with.
If this were early January, and B.1.1.7 or another troublesome variant were already widespread in the U.S. with over 200,000 cases a day, the risk of a variant-led peak might be almost certain. In mid-March, though, with cases still dropping and millions getting vaccinated every day, the chances are substantially lower. The same calculus should apply to discussions around reopening. Ideally, states like Texas or Connecticut would just wait a few more weeks to fully relax pandemic restrictions. But if factors like variants and indoor gatherings can be seen as weights on one end of the scale, the growing rate of vaccination will be a huge counterbalance that should spare us from another peak of mass death and illness.