Average daily new coronavirus cases in the US have dipped below 100,000 for the first time in months, but experts cautioned on Sunday that infections remain high and precautions to slow the pandemic must remain in place.
The seven-day rolling average of new infections was well above 200,000 for much of December and went to roughly 250,000 in January, according to Johns Hopkins University. That average dropped below 100,000 on Friday for the first time since 4 November. It stayed below 100,000 on Saturday.
“We are still at about 100,000 cases a day,” Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told NBC’s Meet the Press. “We are still at around 1,500 to 3,500 deaths per day. The cases are more than two-and-a-half-fold times what we saw over the summer.
“It’s encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they’re coming down from an extraordinarily high place.”
She added that new variants, including one first detected in the UK that appears to be more transmissible and has already been recorded in more than 30 states, will probably lead to more cases and more deaths.
“We can’t let our guard down,” she said. “We have to continue wearing masks. We have to continue with our current mitigation measures. And we have to continue getting vaccinated as soon as that vaccine is available to us.”
The US has recorded more than 27.5m virus cases and more than 484,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins data.
With parents and political leaders eager to have children around the country back in school for in-person learning, it is important to observe precautions, Walensky said.
“We need to all take responsibility to decrease that community spread, including mask-wearing so that we can get our kids and our society back,” she said.
The CDC released guidance on Friday outlining mitigation strategies necessary to reopen schools or to keep them open. Some teachers have expressed concern about returning to the classroom without having been vaccinated, but the guidelines do not say that’s necessary.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease and chief medical adviser to Joe Biden, told ABC’s This Week it would be “optimal” if teachers were vaccinated but said other measures laid out in the 24-page document can lessen their risk.
“Practically speaking, when you balance the benefit of getting the children back to school with the fact that the risks are being mitigated, if you follow the recommendations and these new guidelines from the CDC, hopefully, I think that will alleviate the concerns on both sides,” he said.
The CDC said that as of Sunday morning, the US had administered 52,884,356 doses of Covid-19 vaccines and delivered 70,057,800.
The figures concerned both the Moderna and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the agency said, adding that 38,292,270 people had received one or more doses while 14,077,440 people had received a second. The CDC said 5,822,871 vaccine doses had been administered in long-term care facilities.