After two months of steadily increasing infection rates and deaths, the newest COVID-19 surge in parts of the United States appears to be declining. Still, experts warn that certain risks remain heading into the fall, particularly for not vaccinated people.
The number of COVID-19 cases last week has declined by 15 percent, as several southern states driving the significant surge in infections began to contain outbreaks. However, cases in many northern states are rising, although increased vaccination rates could help limit the damage. Deaths have leveled out in the previous week at a relatively high rate of around 2,000 per day, but those numbers are expected to recede if cases continue to decline. The total number of deaths linked to the pandemic in the United States is nearing 700,000, with more than 80,000 recorded in the last two months.
Dr. Mark Schleiss, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said, “I’m optimistic about that improvement. It means fewer people will die, and health care resources can be redirected to places that have been ignored, but there are a lot of caveats.”
However, trends vary significantly from state to state, and medical systems in many communities are still overwhelmed with COVID-19 infections. Cases among children, wherein many of whom are not yet vaccinated, remain to be alarmingly high.
Patterns of COVID-19 surge
The virus has followed a similar pattern throughout the pandemic, with cases increasing rapidly for a few months and then suddenly declining for reasons that remain unknown. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned Americans not to drop their guard simply because the figures are improving.
“We’ve seen this with all of our surges as they peak and come down… As these cases come down, the most important thing we can do is continue to practice the mitigation strategies we know work,” Walensky said in a White House briefing.
How to prevent future surges
Federal officials emphasized that vaccinating a significant portion of the population is still the most effective way to avoid future surges, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recent data confirming COVID-19 vaccines as an effective defense in preventing severe symptoms and death.
As of Thursday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported more than 75 percent of Americans aged 12 and above have received at least one dose of a vaccine, with almost 185 million fully vaccinated. Tens of millions more people are likely to have some natural immunity from a previous infection, but experts warn this is insufficient to achieve herd immunity.