Covid-19 cases have been dropping over the past two weeks in 49 states, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU), and hospitalizations are decreasing as well, leading many states to start scaling back indoor and school mask mandates.
Last week, JHU's data showed just over 330,000 new Covid-19 cases, marking a nearly 50% drop in cases from the two prior weeks. In addition, HHS data shows that, as of Feb. 7, 104,090 inpatient beds are in use for Covid-19, down from over 122,000 last week.
HHS data analyzed by the Wall Street Journal shows that 15 states and Washington, D.C. have seen confirmed or suspected Covid-19 hospitalizations counts that are 20% or more below previous peaks.
However, Covid-19 deaths are still high, averaging more than 2,400 per day and rising in at least 35 states, the Associated Press reports. On Friday, the U.S. Covid-19 death toll hit 900,000. According to AP, Covid-19 death rates tend to lag behind case and hospitalization rates.
Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said 900,000 people dead from Covid-19 is "an astronomically high number."
"If you had told most Americans two years ago as this pandemic was getting going that 900,000 Americans would die over the next few years, I think most people would not have believed it," he said. Jha added that the United States may hit 1 million Covid-19 deaths by April.
In response to Covid-19 cases dropping, many states have started rescinding or relaxing mask mandates. Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Thursday the county could end its outdoor mask mandate in a few weeks, and other health officials in California said the state's indoor mask mandate will be lifted after Feb. 15.
"Since California's peak during the omicron surge, the state has experienced a 65% decrease in case rates," the California Department of Public Health said in a statement.
Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced Monday that his state will be ending its school mask mandates. "We have to learn how to live with Covid as we move from a pandemic to an endemic phase of this virus," Murphy said.
In addition, Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) announced Monday the state will be ending its indoor mask mandate on Feb. 11 and its school mask mandate on March 31. "We're in a much better place than we were several weeks ago in the middle of the omicron surge of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations," Carney said.
"I want to be clear about this point—Covid is still circulating in our communities," Carney added. "And the virus still poses a risk of serious illness, particularly among those who are not up to date on their vaccinations. But we have the tools to keep ourselves and each other safe."
And Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced Monday his state will end its school mask mandate on Feb. 28, saying, "The biggest difference I can tell you is the fact that we now have the tools to keep ourselves safe." (Kennedy/Sweet, Associated Press, 2/4; Soucheray, CIDRAP News, 2/3; Kostov et al., Wall Street Journal, 2/3; Allen et al., Axios, 2/7; Saric, Axios, 2/7)
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