US sees COVID-19 cases decline, travel increase

People wearing masks at the airport
People wearing masks at the airport

Chad Davis/Flickr cc

COVID-19 is on the retreat, as the United States reports a significant reduction in daily cases—a signal that the country's largest vaccination push in decades is beginning to beat back the virus.

The United States reported 29,367 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 323 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total 32,454,484 million cases have been confirmed in the United States, including 577,384 deaths.

As of May 1, the 7-day average of new COVID-19 cases fell under 50,000 for the first time since October, and is down 17% from the prior week, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data. COVID-19 cases in Michigan, which has been the epicenter of US spring, have dropped 26% from a week ago and hospitalizations have fallen 17%, according to mlive. Seventy of the state's 83 counties saw a decline in cases last week.

Yesterday on "Face the Nation," former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said he believes the United States is on track for a quiet summer.

TSA tracks pre-pandemic numbers

Americans, who have avoided travel for the past 14 months, are once again on the move. The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it screened more than 1.62 million people at US airports yesterday, the most since the beginning of the pandemic, CNN reports. 

On Apr 30, the TSA issued updated guidance that extends the federal mask mandate for airports, commercial flights, and other public transportation through Sep 13, according to NPR. The mandate was set to expire on May 11.

In related news, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has extended the state's mask mandate for another 30 days but loosened requirements for those who are vaccinated, the Associated Press reports. 

Geographic differences in vaccination rates

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracker, 31.8% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 44% have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. But daily vaccination administration rates have dropped to 2.42 million per day, down from a high of 3.38 million on Apr 13.

States in the Northeast have the highest proportion of residents vaccinated: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine all have 55% or more of their population with at least one shot. Southern states, including Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, have the lowest vacation rates, with 31% to 33% of the population vaccinated.

The slowdown in daily vaccination rates and the unevenness across the country have led some experts to conclude that the United States will fail to reach herd immunity, achieved only when at least 70% to 80% of the population is immune to the virus.

If herd immunity is not reached, virus variants and susceptible people will still cause the disease to spread at low levels throughout the population. Current polls show 30% of Americans say they will not get vaccinated.

Other US developments

  • Public health officials in Los Angeles County reported no new COVID-19 deaths on Sunday, according to USA Today. County infection levels are at their lowest since the start of the pandemic.

  • Data from the CDC suggest Walgreens and CVS, the two pharmacy chains that are an integral part of the US COVID-19 vaccination campaign, have wasted more vaccine doses than states, US territories, and federal agencies combined, Kaiser Health News The CDC recorded 182,874 wasted doses as of late March, 60% of them Pfizer.

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