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Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, CSSE Johns Hopkins University, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Michelle McGhee/Axios

The U.S. has brought new coronavirus infections down to the lowest level since March 2020, when the pandemic began.

The big picture: Nearly every week for the past 56 weeks, Axios has tracked the change — more often than not, the increase — in new COVID-19 infections. Those case counts are now so low, the virus is so well contained, that this will be our final weekly map.

By the numbers: The U.S. averaged roughly 16,500 new cases per day over the past week, a 30% improvement over the week before. New cases declined in 43 states and held steady in the other seven.

  • The official case counts haven’t been this low since Americans went into lockdown in March last year — when the pandemic was still new, no one knew how long this would go on, and inadequate testing meant that cases were undercounted.

Overall, roughly 33 million Americans — about 10% of the population — have tested positive for COVID-19.

  • About 595,000 people have died from the virus in the U.S., making it deadlier for Americans than the past 80 years of wars and other armed military conflicts combined, including World War II.

The U.S. largely failed to contain the virus until the vaccines arrived.

  • Cities and businesses began shutting down last March. From there, the virus rolled into a second wave last summer, when cases climbed to over 65,000 per day, on average, and hospitals in many parts of the country said they were overwhelmed.
  • That failure was then eclipsed in the winter, when hundreds of thousands of people per day were contracting the virus and deaths climbed over 3,000 per day for about a month.

But now, the virus really is under control, nationwide and in every state, thanks almost entirely to the vaccines. Just over half of American adults are now fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

What’s next: Cases and deaths are still soaring around the world, especially in the developing world, and the Biden administration is facing consistently mounting pressure to export more vaccines, now that the U.S. has contained the virus.

  • The U.S. was never able to control the virus without vaccines, and it still can’t. The risk is still about as high as it’s ever been for unvaccinated people, as the Washington Post recently reported. An average of about 500 Americans per day are still dying from COVID-19, almost all of them unvaccinated.
  • There will still be some localized outbreaks in the U.S., especially in areas where relatively few people are vaccinated. But they will likely be small, and vaccinated people will be protected.
  • Over time, the immunity from vaccines will likely wane, which, together with new variants of the virus, will likely require booster shots to stay ahead of another outbreak.

For now, though, the U.S. has finally gotten the virus down to a level that just about every expert agrees is safe. Fewer than 20,000 cases per day, spread across the U.S. population of 331.5 million people, is a relatively low number of cases, and that number continues to improve across the board.

  • New York, which bore the brunt of the virus’ arrival in the U.S., is now averaging about 800 new cases per day, in a state of some 20 million people.
  • Washington, D.C. has about 28 new cases per day.
  • Florida has more total cases per day — about 1,800, on average — than any other state. But again, that’s spread over a state with over 20 million people, and its numbers are improving just like the rest of the country’s. Florida’s daily case counts fell by 25% just this week.

The bottom line: The vaccines work. They’ve brought cases to their lowest point yet, and because that improvement is the result of vaccines, there’s no reason to believe the virus will start gaining significant ground again any time soon.

  • Cases in the U.S. are low, and they’re likely to stay low — which is why, after 56 weeks, this will be the end of our weekly map. Thank you for reading.

Go deeper

Sep 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Former FDA chief: U.S. has to continue to "chip away" at new vaccinations

Screenshot: Axios

The U.S. will have to find new ways to get unvaccinated Americans inoculated against the coronavirus to curb the pandemic, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said during an Axios virtual event on Friday.

Why it matters: President Biden announced several efforts to boost new vaccinations, including requiring more than 80 million Americans working in the private sector to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or produce a negative test result at least once a week.

Sep 10, 2021 - Health

FDA "will follow the science" to approve COVID vaccine for kids under 12

A nurse gives a boy a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The FDA said on Friday that it is "working around the clock" to support the process of making the coronavirus vaccine available for children under the age of 12.

Why it matters: The number of children getting hospitalized due to the virus is increasing, with some infectious disease doctors worrying that the Delta variant could be causing more serious illness in kids.

Court reinstates DeSantis' mask mandate ban in Florida schools

Florida Governor DeSantis holds a news conference at the Florida Department of Health office in Viera, Florida. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The First District Court of Appeal on Friday granted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) approval to uphold an order banning mask mandates in schools, per court documents filed Friday.

Why it matters: The move reverses a decision from earlier this week that paused the state's ability to enforce a ban on strict mask mandates in schools. The state will be able to resume punishing school districts that enforce mandates, which up until this point has included withholding funds from schools.