The end of the pandemic is nigh, or at least that’s how it seems. Infection rates are down 90 percent from their peak last month. Some officials are turning their attention to life after Covid.
The United States had an average of 84,000 new cases of coronavirus a day, according to Johns Hopkins University. Last month, that number was 800,000 at the peak of the omicron variant. Since then, infection and hospitalization rates have dropped across the country, CNBC reports. The death toll is also beginning to trend down. It fell from 2,600 a day on Feb. 1 to 2,000.
These are encouraging reports and track with what health experts had hoped. Though, they stress caution even as numbers fall.
“While we’re not where we all want to be yet, we’re encouraged by the dramatic declines we’re seeing in cases and hospitalizations nationwide,” said Jeff Zients, White House Covid response coordinator, last week.
Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, said that experts are watching a new subvariant of omicron that could be a problem. It’s more easily transmissible than omicron. Though, so far, the threat is minimal.
Even so, the United States is in a much better position than we were at the start of the pandemic because of the vaccines and other measures. But it’s not time to celebrate just yet.
“I think it’s probably reasonable not to get too cocky at this point,” Nuzzo told The Guardian. “I welcome the decline in cases that we are seeing in the US and a number of other countries, and I think you can both celebrate the sunshine while also keeping an umbrella close by for the possibility that rain could occur.”
CDC Considers Dropping Masks as Covid Numbers Improve
The Center for Disease Control currently recommends Americans wear masks indoors at public places. But as the Covid infections rate fall, the agency is reconsidering that policy.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters last week that the agency is looking at several factors and could change its recommendation soon.
“We are assessing the most important factors based on where we are in the pandemic, and we’ll soon put guidance in place that is relevant and encourages prevention measures when they are most needed to protect public health and our hospitals,” she said at the weekly White House COVID press conference. “We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when these metrics are better and then have the ability to reach for them again should things worsen,” she said.
But some experts think it’s too soon to lose the masks just yet. They want more data. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, is hopeful but cautious.
“Some governors think we are almost there are already – they are dropping mask mandates – and my response is: good luck to you,” he said. “My fingers are crossed on your behalf.”