Covid Surge Subsides, but Many in U.S. Remain Unvaccinated

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New coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths are falling as the United States begins to recover from a persistent summer surge that strained hospitals across the country and killed over 100,000 Americans in just three and a half months.

As of Tuesday night, virus cases in the United States had averaged more than 101,000 a day for the past week, a 24 percent decrease from two weeks ago. Reported new deaths are down 12 percent, to 1,829 a day. Hospitalizations have decreased 20 percent and are averaging below 75,000 a day for the first time since early August, according to a New York Times database.

Public health officials, however, said the pandemic remained a potent threat. Most of the Covid deaths in that span were people who were unvaccinated, and about 68 million eligible Americans have yet to be inoculated. That leaves the country vulnerable to continued surges.

“We’re not out of danger,” Ali Mokdad, a University of Washington epidemiologist who is a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist, said in an interview this week. “This virus is too opportunistic and has taught us one lesson after another.”

He worries about people dropping their use of masks and traveling more, as they have after earlier drops in new cases — actions that could help fuel a fresh surge in December and January.

The number of new daily cases in the United States has fallen 35 percent since Sept. 1, according to a New York Times database. The drop was especially stark in Southern states that had the highest infection rates during the Delta variant surge that started in June.

Florida, which averaged more than 20,000 new cases a day during much of August, is reporting fewer than 6,000 infections a day. Louisiana, which weeks ago was averaging more than 5,000 cases daily, has about 1,000 cases each day.

“This wave is petering out,” Edwin Michael, a professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida, in Tampa, said in an interview. “If there were waning immunity, then we should be at the beginning of another wave now.”

Only 57 percent of Floridians are fully vaccinated, and Dr. Michael said his biggest worry was the greater chance for the virus to genetically mutate while people remain unvaccinated across the country. Still, he said, “this might be the last wave, pending any new variants that arrive, and the boosters will help with that.”

While there are about 20,000 fewer Covid patients hospitalized nationwide than at the start of September, many hospitals in hard-hit parts of the country remain overstretched. That is especially true in Alaska, which leads the country by a wide margin in recent cases per person. The threat of flu season could worsen matters.

Newly reported cases in Montana and Wyoming, which had reported some of the worst outbreaks in recent weeks, appear to have stabilized. In both states, less than 50 percent of the population is inoculated against the coronavirus. Montana is at 49 percent fully vaccinated, and Wyoming 42 percent. Only West Virginia, at 40 percent, has a lower rate.

Nearly 2,000 Covid-related deaths are being reported nationally each day, and the United States surpassed 700,000 deaths on Friday. About 65 percent of the eligible U.S. population is fully vaccinated against the virus.