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Covid in the US isn’t over – hospitalisations increase again as new cases stay above 60k

Oliver O'Connell
·4-min read
New Yorkers arrive at the Javits Center Covid-19 vaccination center on 13 April 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
New Yorkers arrive at the Javits Center Covid-19 vaccination center on 13 April 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

Joe Biden has announced that the US has hit its target of 200 million Covid vaccine doses delivered, eight days ahead of the schedule he set of his 100th day in office.

“Today, we did it. Today we hit 200 million shots,” the president said, hailing it as an “incredible achievement for the nation”.

Noting that by Thursday more than 80 per cent of those over the age of 65 will have received at least one vaccine dose, Mr Biden spoke of the country entering a new phase in its vaccination efforts.

“We still have some work to do with our target groups,” he said, but “we have made remarkable progress.

“The time is now to open up a new phase of this historic vaccination effort. To put it simply, if you’ve been waiting for your turn, wait no longer,” the president said announcing that vaccinations were now open to everyone over the age of 16.

With millions of Americans receiving Covid-19 vaccinations daily and states continuing to ease restrictions on social and economic activity, you would be forgiven for thinking that the coronavirus pandemic is already a thing of the past in the US.

While there has been impressive progress in dealing with the winter surge in cases, new Covid infections remain stubbornly high, and hospitalisations even increased over the past two weeks.

So, what is going on?

An impressive 50 per cent of American adults have now received at least one dose of a vaccine, 33 per cent are fully vaccinated, and the pace of distribution is increasing.

As of Monday, all adults over the age of 16 are now eligible for the coronavirus shot, and in some states such as New York, older people who have yet to be vaccinated no longer need an appointment and can receive a shot on a walk-in basis.

Relaxed restrictions, both for the vaccinated and for the general population are now coming into effect. As of the beginning of April, fully vaccinated people are now permitted to travel domestically without testing, provided their destination does not require one. Masks and other precautions remain.

Even in cities that enforced some of the harsher restrictions, reduced capacity indoor dining, arts, and sporting events are back, shops are open, and footfall has dramatically increased.

The complication is that combined, the fast-paced vaccine rollout and drive to reopen the economy have created a perception that the pandemic is almost over.

People are letting their guard down and taking a more relaxed approach to simple precautions such as wearing a face mask, basic social distancing, and not gathering in large groups.

In states known for taking a more lax approach, such as Florida and Texas, images of packed bars and nightclubs have raised concerns among health officials.

Younger people, most of whom are yet to be vaccinated, appear to be driving new cases of the virus and more contagious variants are fuelling the surge.

On 18 April, there were more than 66,000 new cases of Covid-19 an increase of 14,000 from the previous low in mid-March when progress on tamping down infections appears to have stalled.

For context, this data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta shows the peak for new infections for the whole of the pandemic was 8 January at more than 300,000 in a single day.

The number of new cases per day is also currently 50 per cent more than when the virus first spread in initial hot spots such as New York City just over a year ago. It is approximately the same level as when Covid surged across large parts of the country in the summer of 2020.

Hospitalisations have risen over the month of April, with the seven-day rolling average of the number of patients with confirmed Covid-19 now standing at approximately 36,000, up about 3,000 from the end of March.

Deaths per day, which lag behind cases and hospitalisations, continue to trend down but did see a small increase beginning about a week ago. The seven-day moving average stood at 692 on 18 April. At its peak over the winter, it was just under 3,500 deaths per day.

Mapped out by average daily cases per 100,000 people by county, there are alarming surges in new cases across the whole of Michigan; Minnesota; northern Texas; and eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

There are smaller hot spots in eastern Oregon; Augusta, Maine; Nashville, Tennessee; Peoria, Illinois; and south Florida, centred on Miami.

Officially, the CDC has described the US as being at a “complicated stage” in the pandemic, and director Rochelle Walensky has pleaded with people to “hold on a little while longer” while vaccinations proceed.

In the 13 months since the virus was first identified in the US, there have been 31.5 million confirmed cases and 564,292 officially recorded deaths.

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