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Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections continued their sharp decline over the past week, and are now back down to pre-Thanksgiving levels.

The big picture: Given the U.S.’ experience over the past year, it can be hard to trust anything that looks like good news, without fearing that another shoe is about to drop. But the U.S. really is doing something right lately. Cases are way down, vaccinations are way up, and that’s going to save a lot of lives.

By the numbers: On average, just under 65,000 Americans were diagnosed with coronavirus infections every day over the past week. That’s a 20% drop from the week before, and continues a steep downward trend that has lasted more than a month.

  • Caseloads got worse over the past week in four states — Idaho, New Hampshire, Washington and Wyoming — and improved in 34 states.
  • Hospitalizations were unchanged over the past week, but deaths fell by 24%. The coronavirus is now killing about 2,000 Americans per day.
  • The U.S. conducted an average of about 1.4 million coronavirus tests per day over the past week, and is administering about 1.4 million vaccine doses per day.

What’s next: It’s true that more contagious variants of COVID-19 could cause cases — and therefore hospitalizations and deaths — to spike again. But the best protection against that risk is to curb the virus’ spread and ramp up vaccinations — which we’re doing.

The bottom line: If we can keep this up, some form of post-pandemic life is within our reach.

Each week, Axios tracks the change in new infections in each state. We use a seven-day average to minimize the effects of day-to-day discrepancies in states’ reporting.

Go deeper

Feb 24, 2021 - Health

White House to send 25 million free masks to America's most vulnerable

Anthony Fauci wears a protective mask while listening to President Biden. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration announced Wednesday it will send more than 25 million masks to more than 1,300 community health centers and 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens in order to reach some Americans most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Why it matters: Many studies show wearing tightly fit masks, and even double-masking, is effective to curb the spread of COVID-19 when social distancing is not possible.

Updated Feb 24, 2021 - Health

FDA analysis finds Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is safe and effective

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration's staff released a briefing document on Wednesday endorsing Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine as safe and effective.

The latest: Assuming the FDA issues an emergency use authorization "without delay," meaning as soon as this weekend, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said J&J will have 3 million to 4 million ready for distribution next week.

Feb 24, 2021 - Health

Moderna says vaccine for South Africa COVID-19 variant ready for testing

A doctor drawing the Moderna vaccine into syringes in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on Feb. 13. Photo: Joseph Prezioso

Vaccine producer Moderna announced Wednesday it is sending doses of a new vaccine designed to better protect against the coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa to the National Institutes of Health for a Phase 1 clinical trial.

Why it matters: The trial is a major step toward producing and distributing a vaccine specifically designed for the South Africa variant, which may spread faster and more easily than the original coronavirus strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.