New coronavirus cases across the United States have tumbled to rates not seen in more than 11 months, sparking optimism that vaccination campaigns are stemming severe COVID-19 cases and the spread of the virus.
As the seven-day average for new cases dropped below 30,000 per day last week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky pointed out cases have not been this low since June 18, 2020. “As each week passes and as we continue to see progress, these data give me hope,” Walensky said Friday.
Health experts credit an efficient rollout of vaccines for the turnaround. But demand for vaccines has dropped across much of the country. President Joe Biden’s administration is trying to convince other Americans to sign up for shots, arguing vaccines offer a return to normal life.
White House health officials on Friday even waded into offering dating advice. They are teaming up with dating apps to offer a new reason to “swipe right” by featuring vaccination badges on profiles and in-app bonuses for people who have gotten their shots.
Ohio, New York, Oregon and other states are enticing people to get vaccinated through lottery prizes of up to $5 million.
A medical center in Louisiana reported Friday it has identified the state’s first two cases of a COVID-19 variant that has spread widely since being identified in India. The COVID-19 variant has been classified as a “variant of concern” by Britain and the World Health Organization, meaning there is some evidence that it spreads more easily between people, causes more severe disease, or might be less responsive to treatments and vaccines. The variant has also been reported in several other states, including Tennessee, Nebraska and Nevada.
Last week, the CDC said most people who have received the full course of shots and have no COVID-19 symptoms don’t need to be screened for the virus, even if exposed to someone infected.
The change represents a new phase in the epidemic after nearly a year in which testing was the primary weapon against the virus. Vaccines are now central to the response and have driven down hospitalizations and deaths dramatically.