The overall COVID infection rate in the US has been on a promising trajectory over the past two months. After a record-breaking 300,000 new COVID infections on January 8, the US is now seeing an average of about 63,000 new infections per day, a figure that’s about on par with what we saw back in late October.
Coupled with a more aggressive vaccination rollout, some health experts believe we might see the US achieve herd immunity before summer. To this end, President Joe Biden earlier this week said that the US will have enough vaccine doses for every adult in the country by the end of May. And while Biden’s claim is certainly ambitious, efforts from Pfizer and Moderna to increase their vaccine supply over the next few weeks certainly make it plausible.
In the face of this encouraging news, Dr. Fauci and other health experts have warned that it’s important not to get complacent. Especially with more contagious COVID variants from the UK and South Africa now in the US, a relaxation of COVID safety guidelines could easily spur another round of COVID outbreaks across the country.
Put simply, there’s no guarantee that a declining rate of COVID infections will be permanent. In fact, recent data from The New York Times shows that the COVID infection rate is either holding steady or starting to climb ever so slightly in about 15 areas, a list that includes New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Vermont, Alaska, Washington D.C., South Dakota, and Idaho.
In New York, for example, the COVID infection rate dropped steeply from January 8 through mid-February. But since then, the infection rate in the state has remained steady at around 7,500 new cases per day.
And in Colorado, the daily infection rate dropped down from 6,000 per day in early January to less than 900 per day in mid-February. Since then, the infection rate has slowly crept back up and now stands at about 1,200 per day.
The larger takeaway here is that while the overall COVID situation across the country is encouraging, following coronavirus safety rules is as crucial as ever. This means that everyone should still wear masks when out in public, practice proper hand hygiene, follow social distancing guidelines, and avoid indoor gatherings and meeting places that lack proper ventilation.
Over the past few weeks, Dr. Fauci has urged Americans to avoid going to restaurants, bars, gyms, sporting events, and household gatherings. Indoor gatherings, remember, are disproportionately responsible for COVID outbreaks due to the virus being able to spread rapidly in confined spaces with poor air circulation. To this end, Dr. Fauci earlier this year suggested that buying a HEPA filter can help reduce the likelihood of infection.
“I think good airflow and HEPA filters can work,” Fauci articulated. “It’s not a big deal to make investments in some industrial-sized HEPA filters for theaters. I bought a couple for my own house, you know it was like $49 on Amazon. You know it wasn’t a big deal.”