- Cases have been on a steady decline since the most recent peak of the country’s average daily infections of about 172,500 on September 13.
- It is the first time since early August that daily cases have dropped below 100,000.
- According to HHS, about 69,000 Americans are currently in hospital with Covid, down from about 104,000 as of September 1.
Average daily Covid cases in the US fell below 100,000 on Thursday as the pandemic shows signs of being fully immunized against the virus with more than 56% of the population – a distinct trend compared to the record-setting surge of the country last fall. was progressing.
Armed with the vaccine this fall, cases have been on a steady decline since the country’s most recent peak of nearly 172,500 average daily infections on September 13, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It is the first time that daily cases have fallen below 100,000 since early August, data shows, but health experts are urging caution despite positive signs in the numbers.
“I think right now, it looks like we are in for a relatively difficult decline with the continued transmission of COVID in our communities,” Dr. Barbara Taylor, an assistant dean and professor of infectious diseases at the Texas Health Science Center. in San Antonio. She said the still high infection rate meant the country was not out of the woods yet, though she said it was encouraging that cases were not rising again. “But I’m hesitant to say that we all know what it’s going to look like.”
While infections this time last year were less than half of today’s levels, they were rising rapidly and eventually reached the peak of a pandemic after the holiday season of more than 250,000 per day on January 11. After this the death toll was around 3,400. per day in early 2021.
Along with the decline in cases, there are encouraging signs in US hospitalizations and deaths. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about 69,000 Americans are currently in hospital with Covid, down from about 104,000 on September 1. The average daily death toll currently sits at 1,680, an 18% drop compared to the previous week. The most recent high of around 2,050 per day on September 22.
Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said while the decline in deaths is reassuring, the daily number of US deaths is still “substantial and tragic”.
“We’re so stunned by the numbers that something like 500 deaths per day this coming winter might be packaged as some kind of victory because it’s not 3,000 or more. How sad is that?” Faust, who is also an instructor at Harvard Medical School.
Cases, deaths and hospitalizations are all currently higher than they were a year ago and before the Delta version rolled out nationwide in the summer. The average case count was as low as 11,400 per day as recently as June.
Of course, the biggest difference in 2021 is the emergence of COVID vaccines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about two-thirds of the US population has received at least one vaccine dose and 56.2% are fully vaccinated.
“You can’t ignore the tremendous individual and population-level protection that vaccines have afforded the United States,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and professor at the University of Toronto.
Still, the latest outbreak, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, has escalated, even as US officials have vaccinated 216 million Americans with at least one vaccine dose in the past ten months. US officials have repeatedly stated that the vast majority of those currently hospitalized and dying from COVID have not been vaccinated. Experts say the drop in temperatures during the fall and winter could increase the risk as people tend to congregate in poorly ventilated areas, where COVID can spread more rapidly.
“It gets cold, everyone goes indoors, we close the windows, we have less air circulation, we have to live in places that are hot, and that can limit transmission under any circumstances.” is going to enhance,” Taylor said.
Challenges remain in some parts of the country. The Midwest is now the region with the highest rate of average daily new cases per capita, with a sharp drop in infections in southern states such as Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin make up four of the eight states that have reported a 5% or more increase in the number of cases in the past week.
Falling cases in the South are contributing heavily to the overall US decline, according to former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who said Delta is still working its way through parts of the country.
"It looks like it's getting better nationwide because it's driven by a sharp drop in cases in the South, but the situation in the West and the Middle West is very difficult right now," said Gottlieb, who sits on Pfizer's board of directors. said Wednesday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
In the Northeast, where the population-adjusted rate of new cases has been the lowest during the entire Delta boom, Gottlieb said he expects to see a pickup in cases, but nothing close to what the South or the Midwest have experienced.
Other health experts agreed. What the pandemic looks like in the US over the next few months will largely depend on how Americans behave during the holiday season. Bruce Farber, chief of infectious disease at Northwell Health in New York, said getting vaccinated, getting booster shots and avoiding large gatherings are key ways against outbreaks of success cases and holidays.
"People without vaccinations should never be invited to a party," Farber said.
He urged Americans to practice "common sense", adding that people should wear masks and social distance indoors or in crowded places, and especially around the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.
"When you have tens and millions of people who live without vaccinations, it's hard to believe that the worst is behind you," said infectious disease specialist Bogoch.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and a member of the board of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Etion and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean's "Healthy Sail Panel".