After weeks of declines, U.S. Covid cases have leveled off at a high level: ‘The ERs are packed’

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  • New infections have averaged more than 74,000 per day over the past week, a 57% drop from the delta wave peak of 172,500 new cases per day on 13 September.
  • The downward trajectory in recent weeks has been bouncing between 70,000 and 75,000 new cases for nearly three weeks, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
  • According to Hopkins, the daily death toll remains high, with more than 1,200 people dying per day over the past week, up 1% from a week ago.

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After weeks of downplaying US Covid-19 cases, the decline in infections has stopped.

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New infections have averaged more than 74,000 per day over the past week, a 57% drop from the delta wave peak of 172,500 new cases per day on 13 September.

While this is certainly good news, the downward trajectory in recent weeks has been bouncing between 70,000 and 75,000 new cases for nearly three weeks, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, Covid hotspots across the US have moved away from much of the South.

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According to Hopkins, the daily death toll is still rising, with more than 1,200 deaths per day over the past week, up 1% from a week ago.

The most rapid decline in cases occurred in the south, where the delta wave hits first and hardest in summer, with the region falling about 84% below average daily infections peak levels and continuing to fall. The decline has been so rapid that Florida, where hospitals ran out as it battled one of the worst Covid outbreaks in the country this summer, is now reporting average daily new cases on a population-adjusted basis. The state with the least number of

Other southern states saw significant delta wave spikes, including Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, which rank in the bottom ten states as measured by daily new cases per capita.

Hospitalizations and deaths have also decreased in the South. The seven-day average of 112 Covid patients per 1 million residents in the region is the lowest in the country, according to a CNBC analysis of data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, said of her state's declining number of cases, "We came from a very high place, so we had a spike a while back." She noted that the generally cooler fall and winter temperatures in tropical climates make it easier for Floridians to spend time outdoors, where the virus doesn't spread as easily as it does indoors.

"I think we're really starting to see something seasonal—maybe not winter—spring as we see with the flu, but more when people are more indoors versus outdoors," she said. "In Florida, we were more indoors during the hot summer, and now we have the opportunity to be outside more."

Things are trending in the opposite direction outside the US South. Cases have risen 25% in the Midwest, 18% in the Northeast and 4% in the West in the past two weeks. Hospitalizations, which report infections, are down 9% in the Northeast over the same period, but largely flat in the Midwest and West.

The Midwest is now the region with the highest rate of daily new cases per capita, with recent increases driven by states such as Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Minnesota's current level of cases, averaging around 3,000 per day, is "the highest we've seen so far in 2021," according to one State Health Department's tweet on Tuesday, "Sadly, the pandemic is not over," the tweet read.

Population-adjusted cases are highest in the West, where New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona have seen increases of 15% or more over the past fourteen days.

The dean of the university's School of Public Health and the head of its COVID modeling group, Dr. According to Jonathan Samet, the University of Colorado hospital was beyond capacity last week, due to a combination of Covid and "all the reasons people go to hospitals."

"When I talk to my clinical colleagues, things are full, ERs are packed," Samet said, noting that his system can meet current demand, but beyond that point. There is very little room to expand. Colorado Gov. Emergency Order. Jared Polis allows hospitals to transfer patients to other facilities when needed, he said, "but hospital stores or beds are at a low point compared to our big boom a year ago."

Police issued an executive order on October 31, allowing the state's Department of Public Health and the Environment to require that hospitals stop new admissions at or near capacity and transfer patients to other medical centers. State health officials can also now order hospitals to accept transfers of patients.

According to HHS data, about 85% of staff intensive care unit beds in Colorado are being used statewide, the seventh highest of all states. Roughly 36 percent of these beds are being used for Kovid patients, which is in fourth place.

Samet said a combination of cold weather and low vaccination rates in some parts of the state is helping the recent flare-up.

"Like many states, vaccination is a patchwork," he said. "Our rural areas have low vaccination rates, and right now, they have the highest case and hospitalization rates."

Samet couldn't put his finger on why Colorado was going through a particularly bad Covid spike relative to other states. Population-adjusted cases are almost twice as many in Colorado as they are in neighboring Kansas, although other adjacent states such as Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico also have unusually poor outbreaks.

"Like many other places there are unaffiliated drivers, but, you know, we are no different from other states that are still unaffiliated and spreading the pandemic," Samet said. "We know the unconnected are important, but why doesn't it move us to Colorado at this particular moment."

Rasmussen, a University of Florida doctor, also cited low vaccination rates as reasons why Florida and surrounding states such as Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama are still at risk for future outbreaks — any immune residents. Despite being created by summer delta rise.

"Their vaccination rates are not high enough to make me feel comfortable that when people get together, especially in areas where vaccination rates are low, we will not see continued outbreaks."

Florida's 60.2% fully immunized residents are a few percentage points higher than the country's overall rate, although Rasmussen noted that there are many pockets of counties with lower rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana all have complete vaccination rates in the bottom ten states at 45.2%, 46.2%, and 48%, respectively.

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Further advances in treatment and vaccination could help the spread of what experts call an "endemic" virus, meaning it is not completely eradicated, but becomes more manageable and part of the respiratory virus causing the country Deals on an annual basis.

For example, the emergence of new antiviral COVID tablets from Merck & Pfizer could help prevent infections from leading to hospitalization or death. Pfizer's new treatment is no replacement for vaccination, said Pfizer board member and former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Friday, but it could provide greater protection for individuals at risk of serious COVID complications.

Gottlieb said, "When you have a therapeutic that's effective, it can be a backstop for people for whom vaccines don't work, people who have breakthrough infections -- pills are being studied in that setting." " "It's really a backstop against death and disease caused by this infection."

Pfizer released data on Friday on a COVID pill that reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 89% in high-risk adults, combining the drug with an HIV drug to work longer in the body. added. Merck & Ridgeback Therapeutics said in October that their antivirals reduced the chances of hospitalization and death by 50% in patients with mild or moderate COVID cases.

US vaccination rates could also get a boost with the introduction of President Joe Biden's workplace vaccine mandate enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. All businesses with at least 100 employees should ensure that their personnel are fully immunized against COVID by January 4, and any employees who refuse to comply should wear masks and regularly Should get tested.

OSHA's mandate will affect some 84 million private sector workers, although the new rules are already facing resistance in court.

Covid vaccines were also recently approved for children between the ages of 5 and 11. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Valensky authorized Pfizer's vaccine last week, paving the way for it to go into the arms of young children.

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