Jan 31, 2021 - Health

While US hospitalizations are falling, COVID-19 variants concern experts

Illustration of a hand holding a coronavirus cell.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. this week dropped below 100,000 for the first time since December, with sharp declines happening in almost all states, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Why it matters: CNN reports that while the decrease in hospitalizations is promising, experts are concerned that new variants of the virus will increase case rates to record heights if the national vaccine rollout faces challenges.

By the numbers: 97,000 Americans remain hospitalized with the virus, which is significantly less than the 132,400 on January 6, according to CNN.

  • While the current rate of infection is about the same as it was December 1, the last time hospitalizations were this low, the daily death rate is twice as high.
  • The average daily death rate over the past week remains above 3,000, yet there were 1,000 deaths per day in September and October.
  • The death rate could increase significantly if there is an outbreak of coronavirus variants discovered in U.K., Brazil or South Africa, which appear to be more transmissible.

Driving the news: Infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm said Sunday the U.S. needed to speed up vaccines or the next COVID-19 surge from variants could become a "category five" hurricane.

Where it stands: 29.5 million vaccine doses have been administered in the US so far, according to CDC data.

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