This time a year ago, we were all just starting to come to terms with the severity of the novel coronavirus outbreak. It would not be long before lockdowns were implemented around the world in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus — a virus which has now taken the lives of more than 525,000 Americans. We might never be rid of COVID-19, but in recent weeks, there have been signs that the pandemic might finally be coming to an end.
According to Bloomberg, the latest data from Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg shows that coronavirus cases rose 1.5% in the US over the last week. That’s still a staggering 420,285 cases in seven days, but it’s also the slowest increase in cases since Bloomberg began tracking COVID-19 infections last January.
One of the reasons that the new cases are increasing at a slower rate is because the vaccine rollout has picked up pace. The Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker reveals that 92.1 million doses have been administered as of Tuesday, March 9th, and the US is now averaging 2.17 million doses per day. At this rate, it will take an estimated six months to cover 75% of the population with two-dose vaccines, but the rate has been growing every week, and now that the FDA has issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, it should continue to improve.
Furthermore, when it comes to vaccine distribution, at-risk populations have been prioritized, which means that fewer people who get infected end up in the hospital. The New York Times reports that while new coronavirus cases have dropped by 12% over the last 14 days, hospitalizations have in turn gone down by 32%.
As a result of the progress that the United States has made, the CDC has released updated guidelines for Americans that have been fully vaccinated (two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson). On Monday, the CDC said that vaccinated people can gather indoors without wearing masks. Also, even if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you don’t need to get tested unless you develop symptoms.
This is the good news we’ve been waiting twelve months to hear, but it’s important to balance our relief with a healthy dose of caution. Many states and cities have begun to lift restrictions on dining, entertainment, and business that have helped keep the numbers this low. If we move too quickly, we could spark a fourth wave of infections before we get a chance to achieve herd immunity, even with the vaccination campaign well ahead of schedule.
This will be a difficult balancing act for the government, as Americans (and everyone else on the planet) are ready to get back to their pre-pandemic lives, but the key is to get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn. After all, despite these developments, well over 1,000 Americans are still dying of COVID-19 every week.