Average daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline in the United States, an indicator that the omicron variant team has weakened across the country.
The total number of confirmed cases reported on Saturday exceeded nearly 100,000, a sharp drop from about 800,850 five weeks ago on January 16, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
In New York, the number of cases has dropped by more than 50% over the past two weeks.
“I think what obviously affects the decline is that omicron is starting to run out of people to infect,” says Dr. Thomas Russo, Professor and Head of Infectious Diseases at the University of Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
COVID-19 admissions have dropped from a national seven-day average of 146,534 on January 20 to 80,185 in the week ending February 13, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID data tracker.
Public health experts say they feel hope that more falls are ahead and that the country is shifting from being in a pandemic to an ‘endemic’ that is more consistent and predictable. However, many expressed concern that the vaccine increase in the US has still been below expectations, concerns exacerbated by the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.
Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine said Sunday that the decline in the number of cases and hospitalizations is encouraging. He agreed that it probably has a lot to do with herd immunity.
“There are two sides of the omicrons coin,” he said. “The bad thing is that it can spread to many people and make them more easily ill. The good thing is that it can spread to many people and make them more easily ill, because in doing so it has created a lot of natural immunity.”
Schaffner said, however, that it is far too early to “raise the banner for completed mission.” As a public health expert, he said he would be more comfortable if the decline continued for another month or two.
“If I have one concern, it is that removing the interventions, the restrictions, can happen with a little more enthusiasm and speed than it makes me comfortable,” he said. “My own little saying is, better to wear the mask for a month too long, than to take the mask off a month too soon and suddenly get a new wave.”
Officials in many states are cutting back on restrictions, saying they are moving away from treating the coronavirus pandemic as a public health crisis and instead shifting to a policy focused on prevention.
During a Friday news conference, Utah Governor Spencer Cox announced that the state would move to what he called a “steady state” model starting in April, when Utah will close mass test sites. basis and advise residents to make personal choices to deal with the risk of becoming infected with the virus.
“Now, let me be clear, this is not the end of COVID, but it is the end – or rather the beginning – of treating COVID as we do other seasonal respiratory viruses,” the Republican said.
Also on Friday, Boston revoked the city’s evidence of vaccine policy, which required guests and staff in indoor spaces to show evidence of vaccination.
“This news highlights the progress we have made in our fight against Covid-19 thanks to vaccines and boosters,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said via Twitter.
Dr. Amy Gordon Bono, a Nashville primary care physician, said now is not the time to reduce vaccination efforts, but to double them. In the spring of 2021, when vaccines became more readily available, the United States was “eager to declare COVID independence,” she said. Then came the delta and omicron climbs.
Bono, who attended medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans, said the United States should approach COVID-like hurricane season.
“You have to learn to live with COVID, and you have to learn from it,” she said.
One challenge is that each region has a unique landscape, she said. In the US southern states, for example, many restrictions have been lifted for some time or have never existed in the first place. Yet it is also a region with relatively lower vaccination rates.
“We have suffered so much, and if there is one way to help alleviate future suffering, it is to have a more vaccinated community,” she said.
In Buffalo, Russo said he sees two possible future results. In one, the United States is experiencing a fairly quiet spring and summer while immunity is still strong. He said in that scenario that immunity is likely to wane and that there will be a bump of new cases in the cooler months of the flu season, but hopefully not a serious increase.
In the second – the one relating to public health experts – a new variant is evolving and evading the wall of immunity built up by both omicron infections and vaccinations.
“Whether such a variant can develop is the big question, right?” he said. “That’s the concern we’ll have to figure out. Omicron was the first version of it, and there’s the kind of saying ‘well, over time viruses evolve to be less virulent’, but that’s not true. “Viruses are evolving to infect us.”