Mar 18, 2021 - Health

The coronavirus is holding steady as America gets vaccinated

Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The pace of new coronavirus infections in the U.S. has stabilized as vaccinations continue to ramp up.

The big picture: We could make the next phase of COVID-19 easier on ourselves if we’d do a better job containing the virus now. But a safe return to some version of normalcy, even if it’s not as complete as it could be, is still close at hand, thanks to the vaccines.

By the numbers: The U.S. is now adding about 55,000 new cases per day.

  • The pace of new infections got better over the past week in 13 states, got worse in another 13, and held steady everywhere else.
  • Michigan saw the biggest jump in new cases, at 53%.
  • The biggest improvements came in Alabama, Arizona, California and Georgia, each of which saw a decline of over 30% in new cases per day.
  • Nationwide, that averaged out to a 5% drop from the week before.

Between the lines: The way to hasten the end of this pandemic is to contain the spread of the virus and keep pumping out vaccines.

  • Ideally, we would contain it at a level below 55,000 new cases per day. That’s about the same rate of spread the U.S. was experiencing early last July, so we know from experience that 55,000 daily cases is a sufficient foundation for a major surge.
  • But where we are now is a whole lot better than the dark days of December and January, and it may be about as good as it gets. After bringing new cases down dramatically over the course of February, the U.S. has been holding steady in about this range for a few weeks now.
  • And the other half of the equation — vaccinations — is moving at lightning speed. The U.S. is now administering an average of almost 2.5 million shots per day.

What we’re watching: Containing the spread more tightly in the meantime would help minimize the threat posed by variants of the virus, which likely will keep circulating for years, causing new flare-ups and in some cases requiring vaccine booster shots.

  • But as long as Americans keep getting vaccinated in large numbers, the end of the pandemic, as we’ve experienced it over the past year, is well within reach.
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