The deadliest month yet of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. drew to a close with signs of progress: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are plummeting, while vaccinations are picking up speed.
On Wednesday, 110,679 new infections were recorded, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, which is much lower than the 215,805 infections that were recorded just three weeks ago.
What’s more, the seven-day rolling average of new cases currently sits at 135,904, a 44 percent decline from the average three weeks weeks earlier, a DailyMail.com analysis shows.
Forty-four states are seeing a decline in cases, Johns Hopkins data reveals, with just Alabama, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, on the upswing.
In addition, as the calendar turned to February on Monday, the number of Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 fell below 100,000 for the first time in two months.
Currently, 92,880 patients are hospitalized with the virus, the lowest figure seen since November 29 and falling nearly 30 percent from a peak of 132,474 on January 6, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.
Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll has climbed past 446,000, with more than 95,000 lives lost in January alone. Deaths are running at about 3,150 per day on average, down slightly by about 200 from their peak in mid-January.
Fatalities are a lagging indicator because the people who died in January were mostly infected between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
However, most officials say that, with fewer than two percent of the population fully immunized against the virus, it is too soon to say that vaccines are causing the decline.
So the question remains: why are cases falling so fast in the U.S. and can the nation stay ahead of the fast-spreading mutations of the virus?
Public health experts believe that the decline in cases is likely a combination of a higher number of people who’ve had the virus than official counts suggest – meaning as many as 90 million people have antibodies against the virus – and fewer people traveling and holding gatherings than did over the winter holidays.
On Wednesday, 110,679 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the U.S., which is much lower than the 215,805 infections that were recorded just three weeks ago
The seven-day rolling average of new cases currently sits at 135,904, a 44% decline from the average three weeks weeks earlier and hospitalizations are down 30% from their peak on January 6
Currently, 44 states are seeing a decline in cases with just Alabama, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania trending upward, according to Johns Hopkins data
Deaths are running at about 3,150 per day on average, but are a lagging indicator because the people who died in January were mostly infected between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays
Dr Philip Landrigan, an epidemiologist at Boston College, told the Associated Press that vaccines are a factor in the sharp drop in cases, but are not the primary cause.
After a slow start, the vaccination drive that began in mid-December is picking up the pace. More than 52.6 million doses have been distributed and 32.7 million have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That is up from 16.5 million on January 20, Inauguration Day.
A total of 26.4 million people – about eight percent of the population – have received at least the first injection and six million – 1.8 percent – have been fully inoculated.
The number of shots dispensed in the week and a half since Biden’s inauguration has been running at around 1.3 million per day on average, more than the president’s original goal of one million per day but less than his new goal of 1.5 million per day.
But these numbers are nowhere near the at least 65 percent required for herd immunity.
Experts say the decline in cases is likely due to other reasons instead, such as a higher number of people with natural immunity.
So far, 26.4 million cases – eight percent of the population – have been reported, according to Johns Hopkins.
However, most experts believe this is a severe undercount and only presents a portion of the true number of infections in the country.
Recent CDC models estimate that between February and January 2020, there were closer to 83.1 million infections in the U.S. In addition, to the six million cases reported in January, that means 89.1 million people have contracted the virus since the pandemic began.
When combined with the number of people who have been vaccinated that comes out to a total of 121.8 million, roughly one-third of the U.S. population who may have some level of immunity against the virus. meaning the pathogen cannot spread as rapidly as it once did.
Officials also agree that the post-holiday surge is likely over, and is also responsible for the sharp decline.
People who were infected over Thanksgiving and Christmas reported their illnesses around early December and early January, when the U.S. saw peaks in total cases and hospitalizations.
With the winter holidays over, and no holidays with large spikes in travel expected until Memorial Day in May, public health experts expect that the general public is mostly staying home and not holding large gatherings, which is also driving down the trend.
In a press conference on Wednesday, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky called the declining numbers ‘a consistent downward trajectory for both cases and deaths’ and are at ‘pre-Thanksgiving levels,’ but warned that any gatherings with others will cause contagious variants to spread.
Health experts say COVID-19 vaccines are a factor in the sharp drop in cases but are not the primary cause with about 1.3 million per day on average
Only 8% of the population has received their first shot and less 2% are immunized, which are figured not high enough to achieve herd immunity
California’s 21,451 new confirmed cases on Tuesday are about one-third the mid-December peak of 54,000 and hospitalizations dropping below 15,000 represent a decline of more than 25% in two weeks
In California, one of the nation’s hotspots since the early days of the crisis, the rates of new infections and hospitalizations continue to fall.
The 21,451 new confirmed cases on Tuesday are about one-third the mid-December peak of 54,000.
Additionally, the state said the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 slipped below 15,000, which is a drop of more than 25 percent in two weeks.
The state said that the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 slipped below 14,850 – a drop of more than 25% in two weeks.
Deaths remain staggeringly high, however, with more than 3,800 in the last week.
It took six months for California to record its first 10,000 deaths, then four months to double to 20,000. In just five more weeks the state reached 30,000.
It then took only 20 days to get to 40,000. On Sunday deaths rose to 40,697, while total cases topped 3.2 million.
On Tuesday, New York reported 8,215 new infections and 8,067 hospitalizations. This is down from the record-high 19,942 new cases reported on January 15 and the more than 9,000 hospitalizations reported in mid-January
Meanwhile, in New York – the nation’s first epicenter – cases have fallen nearly 10 percent over the last week, an analysis of state and federal data reveals.
On Tuesday, the state reported 8,215 new infections with a 5.47 percent test positivity rate. This is down from the record-high 19,942 new cases and 6.14 percent positivity rate reported on January 15.
‘In the here and now, all the news is good. You look at all the trend lines, it’s good,’ Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference on Sunday.
The state had about 8,067 hospitalizations on Tuesday, which a decrease from the more than 9,000 that were reported in mid-January.
However, Cuomo warned New Yorkers that the new COVID-19 variants were still a threat and that people still had to follow mitigation measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.
‘For me, I have been through this a number of times, and I anticipate the probability of the future to be ready for it,’ he said.
Florida recorded 10,533 new cases and less than 7,000 hospitalizations on Tuesday, which is down from nearly 16,000 new cases a day and about 8,000 total hospitalizations early in January
Illinois’ 2,304 new cases and 2,550 hospitalizations reported on Tuesday are a marked drop for more than 15,000 infections and 6,100 hospitalizations reported in November
More states are reporting similar downward trends.
In Florida, which was was reporting as many as 16,000 new cases a day early in January, just 10,533 cases were recorded on Tuesday.
Additionally, fewer than 7,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, in the state, down from almost 8,000 earlier in January, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
The statewide positivity rate decreased to 10.77 percent.
And Illinois, health officials reported 2,304 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19,a steep drop from the record-high of more than 15,000 reported in November.
The seven-day rolling average test positivity rate, which sits at 3.9 percent, is the lowest figure seen sicne early October and has been cut by more than half from a month ago.
What’s more, with just about 2,500 hospitalized patients, it represents an 59 percent drop from the peak of 6,175 in mid-November