A CSULB student receives a first dose of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine during a City of Long Beach Public Health Covid-19 mobile vaccination clinic on the California State University Long Beach (CSULB) campus on August 11, 2021 in Long Beach , California.
Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images
The number of Covid-19 cases in the US is showing signs of weakening from its recent highs, but remains elevated as the country moves into the fall season and colder weather.
The seven-day average of daily Covid cases is around 144,300 on September 12, according to Johns Hopkins University. That number is down 12% over the past week and down 14% from the recent high in case numbers on September 1, when the country reported an average of about 167,600 cases per day.
“This is good news,” said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, Chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It could mean that we have peaked and are now on our way down.”
In the United States, there have been several rashes in daily Covid cases since the pandemic began. Average daily cases peaked at around 32,000 in April 2020 before subsiding. They then soared, peaking at 67,000 by July 2020. The pace of new cases slowed after Labor Day 2020 before rising to a record high of 251,000 cases per day in January. There was also a steep drop after the holidays, followed by a further surge to about 71,000 cases per day last April.
“Every epidemic cycles and eventually subsides, and that happens when you have enough people who are resistant,” Casadevall said, explaining that the combination of vaccinations and high numbers of infections this summer could help the country, one To make a turn.
However, he warned that the virus was unpredictable. “I’d just be careful about explaining everything except a measure of optimism about the fact that the numbers are going down.”
There are also some promising signs of Covid hospital stays and death rates. The data on these tend to delay the case counts for a few weeks or more as it takes time for people to contract the virus and then get sick enough to need urgent help.
About 100,600 Americans are currently hospitalized with Covid, according to a seven-day average from the Department of Health and Human Services data. That is 2% less than a week ago.
Although current hospital admissions have not exceeded 100,000 since January before topping that level again in late August, the number of new Covid patients entering the hospital is now declining. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a 6.8% decrease in seven-day average hospital admissions for the week ended September 10 compared to the week before.
However, the daily death toll continues to rise. The country is reporting an average of more than 1,600 Covid deaths per day over the past week, according to Hopkins data. That’s a six month high. Daily deaths have increased 4% over the past week, but a more modest increase than the 26% weekly change reported two weeks ago.
Still, the U.S. is heading into the fall season, when students are back in school and the colder weather is approaching, which drives people into the home, where the virus is more likely to spread.
“I think it’s likely we’ve peaked, but I think the only thing we need to see before we know what the dates are like after the whole country starts school season,” said Dr. Bruce Farber, director of infectious diseases at Northwell Health in New York. With the school year just beginning in the Northeast, it can be weeks before potential classroom-related breakouts become apparent.
The pace of new infections is now falling in some of the states that saw the first effects of the Delta variant last summer.
In Missouri – where cases have seen a spike from early July – cases have fallen 10% over the past week to an average of about 2,100 per day, a 29% decrease from the last high in early August. Hospital admissions have been falling for weeks and the state’s daily death toll is showing signs of flattening. Missouri reports an average of 32 deaths every day, according to Hopkins data.
Trends are similar in Arkansas and Louisiana, which were at or near the top of the state rankings in population-adjusted case numbers during the summer. They are now in 19th and 21st place. Arkansas reports 1,600 average daily cases, compared to its most recent high of 2,351 per day on August 7th. Louisiana, on the other hand, had an average of 2,239 daily cases as of September 12. That’s a decrease from a pandemic high of 5,839 on August 13.
Hospital admissions are declining in both states, according to the CDC, although neither has seen a sustained decline in daily deaths.
Infection numbers have even dropped in Florida, where hospitals were overrun this summer as the state suffered one of the worst outbreaks in the U.S. period through Friday, compared to 129,202 the previous week and 151,760 the week before. The state reported 2,448 new deaths last week, but this is the highest weekly total from the pandemic.
The delta variant is still finding its way into other parts of the country.
The number of cases in West Virginia hit record highs, according to Hopkins data, reaching a daily average of nearly 1,800 per day. Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s Covid Tsar, said the recent surge has been more extreme and faster than any of the previous waves.
“We are very concerned about getting out of this particular part of the pandemic because our hospital systems and intensive care units have been challenged more than before,” he said.
Marsh said there were 852 West Virginians in hospital with Covid on Monday, up from 52 on July 5th. The number of patients in the intensive care unit has also risen sharply, from 17 to 267 in the same period and so on ventilators, from six to 162.
The majority of Covid ICU patients in his hospital system are unvaccinated and also younger than in earlier stages of the pandemic, Marsh said. While West Virginia was an early national leader in vaccination, the pace of vaccination has slowed since then. The state’s share of fully vaccinated residents – 39.9% – ranks last in the country, CDC data show.
Although Marsh is particularly interested in protecting the state’s under-12 population who are not yet eligible for a syringe, he said that 51 of the county’s 55 school districts and many of the state’s universities have put in place a mask policy. He hopes that a recent surge in vaccinations combined with likely high levels of population immunity to past infections will help the state avoid uncontrollable pressures on the hospital system.
Some projections show that West Virginia hospital admissions will continue to soar to new heights in the coming weeks, said Dr. Kathryn Moffett, an infectious disease specialist at WVU Medicine.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “We’re trying to prepare, but I don’t know how you can prepare to have more ventilators and more space.”
Kentucky is also setting records. Governor Andy Beshear said in a September 7 statement that from August 30 to September 5, the state reported a record number of 30,680 new cases.
“We continue to see more cases than is definitely safe,” said Beshear. “The bad news is that last week we had the worst week ever. Our hospitals continue to be marginalized. If we have a bad week, we can run out of intensive care beds very quickly.”
In Tennessee, too, cases have been rising steadily since July. Hopkins said Tennessee reported an average of more than 7,600 cases a day for the past week, compared to a pandemic high of 9,627 in December.
However, infectious disease experts say the country would be in much worse shape without access to Covid vaccines. According to CDC data, about 54% of Americans are fully vaccinated, although the current pace of daily vaccinations is well below the mid-April record high.
“If we hadn’t had the vaccine, you would have seen a lot more cases and a much higher mortality rate,” said Casadevall, Hopkins’ doctor. “It is very clear that people who have the vaccine can get it [Covid]but it is also clear that they are much less likely to become seriously ill, hospitalized, or die than if they were not vaccinated. So the vaccine is silent in the background, saving tens of thousands of lives. “