The U.S. has made strides in clamping down on the country’s third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, as both new daily infections and the number of coronavirus patients being treated in hospitals has slumped to lows not seen in months—but experts warn the country is still not out of the woods as dangerous new mutations spread.
Elvin Toro, 26, a former army medic, organizes his syringes before giving out the doses to a local … [+] resident at Central Falls High School in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on Saturday.
AFP via Getty Images
Over the weekend, the U.S. seven-day rolling average for new confirmed coronavirus cases dropped below 100,000 for the first time since November, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.
Going back down to five-digit figures represents a huge drop for the U.S., which is battling the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak—just last month, the seven-day average rose to higher than 250,000 new infections.
Hospitalizations have also dropped to lows not seen since November, with just fewer than 70,000 people reported in coronavirus wards across the country on Saturday, compared to the more than 120,000 registered in late December and early January, according to data compiled by The COVID Tracking Project.
However, the number of new cases and rate of hospitalizations is still higher than previous spring and summer peaks, data show, and deaths attributed to coronavirus have yet to subside since increasing in early January.
Despite the hopeful milestones, the spread of new, more contagious and dangerous coronavirus mutations across the U.S. has caused experts to express concern, especially over the U.K. variant, which models indicate could be the dominant strain spreading in the U.S. by March.
“The big wild card in this is really the variants,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease official, told the New York Times Saturday. “If we don’t adhere to public health measures the way we should, that could take off on us. That’s the reason why I say I’m cautiously optimistic because we could turn around and go the opposite direction pretty quickly.”
52.8 million. That’s how many coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. However, that’s only roughly 11% of the U.S. population, not enough to account for the drop in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told CNN Sunday. “I don’t think … the vaccine is having much of an impact at all on case rates,” Frieden said. “It’s what we’re doing right: staying apart, wearing masks, not traveling, not mixing with others indoors.”
The drop in cases and hospitalizations has led governors of states like Iowa, North Dakota, Montana and Mississippi to withdraw masking orders in recent weeks, a move Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, slammed Sunday as irresponsible. “If we relax these mitigation strategies with increasing transmissible variants out there, we could be in a much more difficult spot,” Walensky said during an appearance on CBS’ Face The Nation. “Now is the time to not let up our guard. Now is the time to double down … we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. has counted more than 27 million confirmed coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, making up more than 25% of the world’s total known infections despite accounting for less than 5% of the global population.
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