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

Coronavirus infections in the U.S. are now at their lowest levels in seven months, thanks to the vaccines.

The big picture: The vaccines are turning the tide in America's battle with the coronavirus. Deaths and serious illnesses have dropped significantly, and now cases are falling too — an important piece of protection for the future, if we can keep it up.

By the numbers: The U.S. averaged about 48,000 new cases per day over the past week.

  • That’s a 13% improvement over the week before, and it’s the first time since October that average daily cases have dipped below 50,000.
  • 20 states saw fewer new cases over the past week than they did the week before, while outbreaks got bigger in 10 states.
  • New Jersey saw the biggest improvement over the past week, with a 40% drop in new cases, followed by Connecticut, at 30%.

Why it’s happening: Over half of all American adults have now gotten at least one shot of a vaccine, and 41% of adults are fully vaccinated.

Between the lines: It took a while for the U.S. vaccination drive to translate into a sustained decline in the number of new cases, and the virus is still surging worldwide.

  • Because the virus has already been able to spread so widely, it will likely stay in our lives for years to come, thanks to new variants that will continue to evolve.
  • Future variants may be deadlier, or more able to evade our existing vaccines. For now, though, the vaccines appear to be highly effective against nearly every common variant.

The bottom line: The vaccines are working. They are saving lives and beating back the virus right now, and they can minimize the virus’ presence in our lives in the future — if enough people get them.

Go deeper

Sep 17, 2021 - Health

CDC: Moderna vaccine most effective against hospitalization in U.S.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Overall healthy adults with the Moderna COVID vaccine had 93% vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization over five months compared to those with 88% protection with Pfizer and 71% from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a new report out Friday from the CDC shows.

Why it matters: The report comes as the Food and Drug Administrations meets Friday to consider whether to endorse a contentious plan for booster shots among the fully vaccinated.

Sep 18, 2021 - Health

Most Kentucky school boards vote in favor of mask mandates

Photo: Paul Bersebach, MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A majority of school boards in Kentucky voted in favor of mask mandates, according to the Kentucky School Board Association.

Why it matters: A week ago, Kentucky's Republican-dominated legislature voted to revoke a statewide mask mandate in public schools that was meant to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The decision on masks would instead be left up to individual districts.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Sep 17, 2021 - Health

Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A key FDA advisory committee is meeting today to discuss Pfizer's proposal for a COVID vaccine booster — but it will set the stage for the entire booster debate.

The big question: Not only whether experts believe there’s enough evidence to support boosters, but also whether they believe additional shots should be made available for everyone or limited to older Americans and the immunocompromised.