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March 11, 2021

One year later: Where America's coronavirus epidemic stands today

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    One year into America's novel coronavirus epidemic, the daily number of newly reported cases is declining but remains at dangerously high, prompting health officials to urge Americans to continue to follow public health measures intended to curb the virus's transmission.

    Good? Bad? Ugly? We've updated our take on what's next for the epidemic.

    Where America's coronavirus epidemic and vaccine rollout stand

    Recent data indicates America's coronavirus epidemic has improved since January's peak, with reported numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all declining—although they remain high. 

    According to data compiled by the New York Times, U.S. officials on Wednesday reported about 58,530 new cases of the novel coronavirus. As of Thursday morning, officials had reported about 29.2 million cases since the United States' epidemic began.

    According to the Times, the United States' average daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past week was 57,400—down by 16% compared with the average from two weeks ago.

    However, the Times' data showed that, as of Thursday morning, the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying high" in Washington, D.C., and 14 states that have reported a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those states are Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Vermont.

    In addition, the rate of newly reported coronavirus cases was "going up" as of Thursday morning in Puerto Rico, which has had comparatively lower case rates, the Times reports.

    According to the data, rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying low" or declining from previously higher rates in the remaining U.S. states and territories.

    Meanwhile, U.S. hospitalizations for Covid-19 have reached their lowest level since October 2020. According to data from the Times, there were 43,151 Americans with Covid-19 hospitalized for treatment on Wednesday—down by 33% compared with the average from two weeks ago.

    Further, data from the Times shows that U.S. officials reported about 1,477 new deaths linked to the coronavirus on Wednesday. As of Thursday morning, officials had reported about 528,829 U.S. deaths linked to the virus since the country's epidemic began.

    The recent declines in newly reported coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths come as America's coronavirus vaccine rollout continues to ramp up.

    CDC data shows that, as of Thursday morning, the federal government had distributed about 127.9 million doses of the country's authorized Covid-19 vaccines. Of those, about 95.7 million doses had been administered in the United States. That total includes about 62.5 million people who have received "at least one dose" of a vaccine and about 32.9 million who've been "fully vaccinated," the data shows.

    President Biden on Wednesday announced the federal government will order 100 million more doses of Johnson & Johnson's (J&J's) single-dose vaccine. The administration has not yet finalized the deal, which would bring the federal government's total vaccine order to 800 million doses split among J&J, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Moderna, Politico reports.

    'We are at a critical point in this pandemic'

    During a White House briefing on Wednesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the United States is "at a critical point in this pandemic and on the cusp of having enough vaccine to protect every adult" in the country.

    Walensky said the number of newly reported coronavirus cases appears to be declining again after plateauing at high level, but Americans "must continue to use proven prevention measures to slow the spread of Covid-19" because these precautions "are getting us closer to the end of this pandemic."

    Walensky said, "While these trends are starting to head in the right direction, the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths still remain too high and are somber reminders that we must remain vigilant as we work to scale up our vaccination efforts across this country."

    Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor for the White House's Covid-19 response, during a CNN interview on Wednesday similarly urged Americans to continue following public health measures to prevent another surge in the epidemic. 

    Fauci's comments came after Texas on Wednesday officially lifted its mask mandate—which makes it the largest state to do so—and allowed businesses to open at full capacity. Fauci during the interview called Texas's decision to loosen those restrictions a "concern."

    "We understand people's need to get back to normal, and we're going in that direction. But when you start doing things like completely putting aside all public health measures as if you're turning a light switch off, that's quite risky," Fauci said. "We don't want to see another surge, and that's inviting one when you do that" (Chen, Axios, 3/10; Owermohle/Cancryn, Politico, 3/10; Shammas et al., Washington Post, 3/10; Maxouris, CNN, 3/11; Williams, The Hill, 3/10; New York Times, 3/11).

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