Last month, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted the U.S. coronavirus death toll to rise to more than 500,000 by mid-February.
Average daily new coronavirus cases in the United States dipped below 100,000 in recent days for the first time in months, but experts cautioned last weekend 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 data kept by Johns Hopkins University, as the pandemic came roaring back after it had been tamed in some places during the summer.
That average dropped below 100,000 on Feb. 12 for the first time since Nov. 4. It stayed below 100,000 on Feb. 13.
“We are still at about 100,000 cases a day. 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,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they’re coming down from an extraordinarily high place.”
This week’s winter storms that have disrupted social distancing precautions and thrown people from different households together have also undermined the nation’s vaccination drive, with tens of thousands of vaccine doses stranded and inoculations canceled. Public health experts are also worried that crowding people into shelters can contribute to the spread of COVID-19, but that there are ways to lower the risks, through masks and distancing.
“The ethics of the situation are simple enough,” said Dr. Stefan Kertesz, a University of Alabama at Birmingham professor of medicine and a homeless health researcher who runs a clinic for homeless veterans. “We can’t protect people tomorrow if they die today. Warming stations are needed.”
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday he is thinking of sending the National Guard into the South to bring back held-up shipments of vaccine earmarked for the state. He said the state can’t afford to go a week without getting any new doses.
North Carolina vaccine providers have yet to receive tens of thousands of doses the federal government was set to deliver this week, state officials said.
Grocery chains including Walmart and Publix have been forced to close some stores either because of lack of power or lack of workers. And at locations that remain open, customers complain of long lines outside and then empty shelves once brimming with water, bread and milk when they get inside. Texas grocery chain H-E-B, for example, closed some stores and is limiting customer purchases of items including brisket and propane tanks.