US COVID cases and deaths drop to lowest levels in nearly a year

By Christina Morales and Isabella Grullón Paz

The United States is adding fewer than 30,000 cases a day for the first time since June, and deaths are as low as they’ve been since summer. In much of the country, the virus outlook is improving.

Nearly 50% of Americans have received at least one vaccine shot, and although the pace has slowed, the share is still growing by about 2 percentage points per week.

“I think by June, we’re probably going to be at 1 infection per 100,000 people per day, which is a very low level,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday on the CBS show “Face the Nation.” The U.S. rate is currently 8 cases per 100,000.

The share of coronavirus tests coming back positive has fallen to below 3% for the first time since widespread testing began, and the number of hospitalized patients has fallen to its lowest point in 11 months, Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Translational Institute noted this past week. For the first time since March 5, 2020, San Francisco General Hospital had no COVID patients — “a truly momentous day,” Vivek Jain, an infectious-disease physician at the hospital, said Thursday.

Michigan, which reported one of the largest surges this spring, has rapidly improved. About 1,400 cases were identified Sunday, compared with about 7,800 cases a day in mid-April.

The virus remains dangerous in communities with low vaccination rates, and getting vaccines into these communities is crucial in continuing to curb the virus. As the virus continues to mutate, vaccines may need to be updated or boosters may need to be added.

The U.S. is reporting about 25,700 coronavirus cases daily, a 39% decrease from two weeks ago. Deaths are down 14% over the same period to an average of 578 per day.

Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance that said vaccinated people could forgo masks in most situations indoors and outside, states have followed suit.

Because of changing mask rules and guidance, people will need to rely on their own judgment in some circumstances, Gottlieb said Sunday. “We’re going to have to protect ourselves based on our own assessment of our risk and our own comfort,” he said.

For instance, he said, people who are unvaccinated or in an area where infections are still high will be at higher risk than others.

“So I think people may need to make individual assessments,” he said, adding that while unvaccinated children in crowded indoor situations might need to keep masks on, “I don’t think kids need to be wearing masks outside anymore.”

Although experts who spoke with The New York Times said they were optimistic, they cautioned that the virus won’t be eradicated in the United States but would probably instead become a manageable threat we learn to live with, like influenza.

Until then, Stacia Wyman, a senior genomics scientist at the University of California, Berkley, said Americans should remain concerned as long as the virus continues to spread and evolve in parts of the world that lack vaccines.

“I think that the world will be struggling with this,” she said. “As long as that is happening, the U.S. will be struggling with it as well.”

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