More than three months after the U.S. vaccination campaign began, many of the numbers paint an increasingly encouraging picture, with 70% of Americans 65 and older receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. and COVID-19 deaths fall below 1,000 per day on average for the first time since November.
Additionally, dozens of states have opened vaccines for all adults or plan to do so within weeks. And the White House said 27 million doses of the single-shot and two-shot vaccines will be distributed next week, more than three times the amount when President Joe Biden took office two months ago.
Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said Wednesday that he is not ready to declare victory.
“I am often asked, are we turning the corner?” Fauci said at a briefing at the White House. “My answer is really more like we are in the corner. Whether or not we’re going to turn that corner remains to be seen. ”
What gives Fauci pause, he said, is that new cases remain at a stubbornly high level, at more than 50,000 a day. The United States surpassed 30 million confirmed cases on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The death toll now stands at more than 545,000.
Nonetheless, the outlook in the US is in stark contrast to the deteriorating situation in places like Brazil, which reported more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day for the first time on Tuesday, and across Europe. , where it is leading another wave of infections. to new locks.
The sadness in Europe is compounded as the launch of the vaccine on the continent has been slowed by production delays and questions about the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca injection.
US public health experts take every opportunity to warn that relaxing social distancing and other preventative measures could easily lead to another surge.
Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Research Institute, sees red flags in states lifting mask mandates, air travel roaring back, and spring break crowds partying wildly in Florida.
“We are getting closer to the exit ramp,” Topol said. “All we’re doing by having reopens is jeopardizing our chance to finally get the virus contained for the first time in the American pandemic.
Across the country there are unmistakable signs of progress.
More than 43% of Americans 65 and older, the most vulnerable age group, which accounts for a huge portion of the more than 540,000 coronavirus deaths in the country, have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. The number of older adults visiting emergency rooms with COVID-19 has dropped significantly. Vaccines in general have increased from 2.5 to 3 million injections per day.
Deaths per day in the US from COVID-19 have dropped to an average of 940, down from an all-time high of more than 3,400 in mid-January.
Minnesota health officials reported Monday that there were no new deaths from COVID-19 for the first time in nearly a year. And in New Orleans, Touro Infirmary Hospital was not treating a single case for the first time since March 2020.
And Fauci cited two recent studies showing negligible levels of coronavirus infections among fully vaccinated healthcare workers in Texas and California.
“I stress that we have to hold out a little longer,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday. That’s because “the first data is really encouraging.”
Nationwide, new cases and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 have plummeted in the past two months, although Walensky remains concerned that such progress appears to have stalled in the past two weeks. New cases are running at more than 53,000 a day on average, down from the quarter-million peak in early January.
That’s uncomfortably close to the levels seen during last summer’s COVID-19 wave.
Biden has lobbied for states to make all adults eligible to be vaccinated by May 1. At least half a dozen states, including Texas, Arizona and Georgia, are opening vaccines to everyone 16 and older. At least 20 other states have pledged to do so. so in the next few weeks.
Microsoft, which employs more than 50,000 people at its global headquarters in suburban Seattle, has said it will begin bringing back workers on March 29 and will reopen facilities that have been closed for nearly a year.
New York City’s 80,000 municipal employees, who have been working remotely during the pandemic, will return to their offices starting May 3.
Still, experts see cause for concern as more Americans start traveling and socializing again.
The number of commuters at US airports has consistently exceeded one million over the past week and a half during spring break at many colleges.
Additionally, states like Michigan and New Jersey are seeing an increase in cases.
National numbers are an imperfect indicator. The favorable downward trend in some states may mask an increase in the number of cases in others, particularly smaller ones, said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.
And the most contagious variant that originated in Britain has now been identified in almost every state, he said.
AP reporters Terry Tang and Suman Naishadham contributed from Phoenix. Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed from Washington.