Stick a fork in it? COVID U.S. Cases Continue to Plummet

Last week the number of COVID-19 cases dropped below 40,000 for the first time since mid-September. This past week, they’ve dropped below 30,000, about a 20% improvement in just 1 week.

People are still dying from COVID-19 in the United States; 857 deaths yesterday according to Johns Hopkins University. There are still some states where case counts remain higher than medical experts want to see: Texas (3092), Florida (2855), Pennsylvania (1641), Michigan (1535), and New York (1525). And a global pandemic must be viewed globally: India (267,334 new cases and the number is almost certainly much larger than that), Brazil (75, 345), Argentina (35, 543), France 17,223. Then, of course, there are the COVID-19 variants to consider.

All these factors and more must be weighed before any country—including the U.S.—can do a victory dance that spins them back to their old normal pre-COVID-19 lives. Still, the data look good. Last week the number of COVID-19 cases dropped below 40,000 for the first time since mid-September. This past week, they’ve dropped below 30,000 (27,851, according to Johns Hopkins). That’s about a 20% improvement in one week. Thirty-nine states saw an improvement in their caseloads over the past week.

All of this is happening because of the COVID-19 vaccine, agree most medical experts. Over 60% of the U.S. adult population has had at least one vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC released a study last week predicting that case counts in the U.S. will continue to plummet. “Data from six models indicate that with high vaccination coverage and moderate NPI [nonpharmaceutical interventions—such as making and social distancing] adherence, hospitalizations and deaths will likely remain low nationally, with a sharp decline in cases projected by July 2021,” the study states.

“Even moderate reductions in NPI adherence were shown to undermine vaccination-related gains…,” the study states. “[D]ecreased NPI adherence, in combination with increased transmissibility of some new variants, was projected to lead to surges in hospitalizations and deaths. Based on these findings, public health messaging to encourage vaccination and use of effective NPIs is essential to control the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent increases in COVID-19–related hospitalizations and deaths in the coming months.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic ends—a phrase that can be said with more certainty these days—the aftermath will arrive. The public health care system in the U.S. and globally will do some soul-searching. Why were we so caught off guard when experts have been warning us for years that a pandemic will emerge? How do we fix the racial disparities in access to health care that COVID-19 exploited? And what about long COVID?

As Kevin Kavanagh, MD, a member of Infection Control Today®’s Editorial Advisory Board, put it recently: “Those of you who advocate reopening at the peril of those who are vaccine hesitant—letting nature decide the fate of the ill-informed—need to remember that survival is not the same as recovery. Many will develop debilitating long COVID, enacting a societal legacy of disregard for humanity, which will impair our health care system for decades to come.”

And then, there’s the psychological toll: 42% of American experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to a CDC survey taken last September. To put that in context, only 11% of Americans reported experiencing those symptoms before the pandemic.

COVID-19 is endemic, a word associated with having to perhaps getting a booster shot every year. Health care experts are looking at other, more insidious aspects of that endemism.