For the first time in nearly a year, the daily average of new coronavirus infections in the United States has fallen below 30,000 amid continuing signs that most communities across the nation are emerging from the worst of the pandemic.The seven-day average dipped to 27,815 on Friday, May 29th, the lowest since June 22 and less than a tenth of the infection rate during the winter surge, according to state health department data compiled by the media sources.
The pandemic map remains speckled with hot spots, including parts of the Deep South, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest. At the local level, progress against the contagion has not been uniform as some communities struggle with inequities in vaccine distribution and in the health impacts of the virus.But the vast bulk of the American landscape has turned pale green, the color-code for “low or moderate” viral burden, in a Covid-19 Community Profile Report released this week by the Biden administration. The report showed 694 counties still have “high” levels of transmission, less than half as many as in mid-April.
The big question now is whether the virus will be thoroughly squelched through mounting vaccinations — or whether it will smolder in areas with low immunization rates and potentially flare when colder weather returns, said David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which has been modeling the outbreak for more than a year.Rubin said the answer will depend in large measure on the individual choices of tens of millions of Americans, especially whether they get immunized. “If we’re continuing to have disease reservoirs and we have areas with low vaccinations, it’ll hang on until the fall and start to pick up pace again. It’ll find pockets where there are unvaccinated individuals, and have these sporadic outbreaks,” Rubin said.
The group’s latest blog post states that “the national decline in case incidence is likely to be slow with a long tail, attributed to smoldering transmission — most likely from decreased mask use in areas with poor vaccine uptake.”One prominent model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, forecasts fewer than 7,000 daily cases by mid-August and fewer than 120 deaths, which is about one-fifth the current number — levels not seen since March 2020, soon after the virus first seeded itself in the United States.
The same modelers believe the virus will have some form of resurgence in the colder months that follow, and people who had stopped wearing masks would need to resume wearing them to limit viral spread. Scientists remain concerned about virus variants, some of which have mutations that limit but do not completely block the protective effects of vaccines. “The rise in winter depends on what escape variants are circulating and how fast we pick up our masks and good behaviors,” Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist with IHME, was stated to have said.
More than 60 percent of adults have had at least one shot of a vaccine, putting the country on a path of reaching President’s Biden 70 percent target by July 4. Administration officials are increasingly confident the pandemic will be brought under control in the coming months, although infections will not plunge to zero and there remains the threat of mutated variants as the virus continues to circulate globally.Most modelers are wary of making projections about epidemics beyond about four weeks, because there are so many variables in the equations. Human behavior is prominent among them. Mokdad said he is worried that, as mask mandates and restrictions on gatherings are lifted, people will be more reckless about transmission: “We should not relax prematurely.”
“I’m sure that we can control it,” Anthony S. Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser on the pandemic, said. “Somewhere between control and elimination is where we’re going to wind up. Namely a very, very low level that isn’t a public health hazard that doesn’t disrupt society.”