When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the US, many people naively assumed that we’d move past it in 1-2 months. The reality, however, was far more severe. Over the course of the last 12 months, 29 million Americans came down with COVID-19 and nearly 525,000 Americans died as a direct result. And all of this says nothing of the immense economic damage caused by the coronavirus.
The good news, though, is that the US may finally be starting to turn a corner. Over the past few weeks, the COVID infection rate has dropped substantially. In early January, the US was seeing nearly 260,000 new COVID infections per day, a figure that has since gone down to 58,000 infections per day. On Sunday, the daily number of new COVID infections — 40,300 — was lower than it’s been since late September.
Coupled with an increasingly aggressive and efficient vaccination effort, there’s a good chance that life in the US will return to normal sometime this summer.
So while there’s good reason to be optimistic, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky just a few days ago said that coronavirus variants from the UK and South Africa could lead to another COVID surge if safety precautions aren’t followed. Recall that both the UK and South Africa COVID strains are 50% more contagious than the original. Additionally, the South African strain is said to be a bit more resistant to existing COVID vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Walensky also cautioned that the COVID infection rate in some areas hasn’t gone down but has remained steady.
“I remain deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic,” Walensky said. “The latest CDC data continue to suggest that recent declines in cases have leveled off at a very high number.”
Walensky’s remarks certainly ring truer in some states than in others. The COVID infection rate in New York, for example, hasn’t dropped below the 7,000/day threshold since December. In stark contrast, the COVID infection rate in Wisconsin — which was a hotspot just a few months ago — hasn’t been this low since June of last year.
“We have the ability to stop a potential fourth surge of cases in this country,” Walensky went on to say. “Please stay strong in your conviction. Continue wearing your well-fitted mask and taking the other public health prevention acts that we know work. Ultimately, vaccination is what will bring us out of this pandemic. To get there, we need to vaccinate many more people.”
On the vaccination front, things are looking incredibly promising. According to Bloomberg’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker, 60 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose. Further, the vaccination rate in the US currently stands at about 2.2 million doses per day. Looking ahead, this figure is poised to jump higher as Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson all boost their supply of vaccine doses over the next few weeks.
So again, there’s reason to be optimistic that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is finally behind us. That notwithstanding, it’s important for people — and especially anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated yet — to stay vigilant when it comes to mask-wearing and social distancing.