More than half of the U.S. states saw a significant drop in new coronavirus cases in the past two weeks as federal health officials warned that the virus’s trajectory was improving. However, the unequal vaccinations across the country point to the challenge of reaching those people who have not received any gunshots.
According to a New York Times database, the United States saw an average of 54,000 new cases per day on Tuesday, a 24 percent decrease from two weeks ago and comparable to the number of cases reported in mid-October before the deadly winter surge. Since the peak in January, cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the country have fallen dramatically.
In the past two weeks, case numbers have fallen 15 percent or more in 27 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 30 percent or more in 11 states. As of Tuesday, Oklahoma reported a 55 percent drop in the average number of new cases per day, while Michigan, which had one of the most severe recent outbreaks in the country, is now seeing a rapid improvement, with cases there falling nearly 40 percent.
In New York City, where the number of cases has been stubbornly high for months, the second wave is declining half a year after it began, the city’s health commissioner said.
Federal health officials have taken note. After Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had expressed a recurring sense of “impending doom” last month, and said on Wednesday that she was seeing the first signs of progress.
“The falls are starting to decline. We believe this is related to increased vaccination and increased caution among people, so I’m cautiously optimistic that we will go around the corner, ”she told Good Morning America.
However, she warned that “the virus is an opportunist” and could strike in communities with low vaccination rates. The vaccine’s ongoing hesitation remains a challenge, and the pace of vaccination will slow down amid supply and demand issues, officials said.
About 43 percent of people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 30 percent have been fully vaccinated. As of Wednesday, providers are administering an average of 2.67 million doses per day, a 21 percent decrease from the high of 3.38 million on April 13.
The CDC’s move to loosen up the outdoor mask guiding this week reflects the surge in the total number of vaccinations – and an incentive to get a shot, experts said.
“It’s another demonstration of what science has been telling us over the past few months: Vaccines are effective in preventing the Covid-19 virus from infecting us. And the more people who are vaccinated, the faster we can resume our activities, ”said Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, in an interview on Tuesday on CNN.
Speaking before a joint congressional session on Wednesday evening, President Biden set a date for July 4th, when the country should “bring life in America closer to normal.” However, public health experts have emphasized that the experience of the pandemic around the world is not universal. India, for example, is experiencing a catastrophic second wave that could have global repercussions.
“Pandemics require global collaboration and mutual support,” said Dr. Murthy. “If the virus spreads uncontrollably in any part of the world, it can create variants that over time can become resistant to vaccine protection, which could be a real problem for us here in the states.”