Hospitalizations fall for 40 consecutive days; masks may be needed in 2022, Fauci says — 6 COVID-19 updates

Daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. have been declining for 40 days, or since Jan. 14, reports The COVID Tracking Project.  

The U.S. is seeing the lowest daily number of hospitalizations since Nov. 7, with 56,159 COVID-19 hospitalizations recorded Feb. 21. 

Experts have pointed to a variety of explanations for decreasing numbers, such as more widespread mask use and a growing number of people who have been vaccinated, reports The New York Times. However, some experts warn of a "fourth wave" if people become complacent, states lift restrictions too quickly or more contagious variants become dominant.

Five more updates: 

1. Americans may still need to wear face masks in 2022, Anthony Fauci, MD, said during a Feb. 21 interview on CNN's State of the Union. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said the U.S. may reach "a significant degree of normality" by the end of 2021, but did not rule out the possibility of masks being needed next year.

2. The FDA issued an alert about the accuracy of pulse oximeters Feb. 19. The agency said pulse oximeter readings can be affected by multiple factors, including skin pigmentation, skin thickness, poor circulation, skin temperature, tobacco use and fingernail polish. 

3. House Democrats Feb. 19 released the full 591-page text of their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which includes funds to extend vaccine distribution, support the Defense Production Act and grants for rural health. The legislation closely resembles President Joe Biden's rescue plan, outlined by the president in a Jan. 14 speech. Read more here

4. The White House will hold a candle-lighting ceremony and moment of silence at sundown to mark 500,000 COVID-19 deaths, a milestone the nation is expected to pass today, reports The Washington Post. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the ceremony. 

5. Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines were 88.7 percent effective at preventing infection 36 days after the first dose, according to preliminary research from Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic. The finding is based on data from 31,069 healthcare workers and long-term care residents vaccinated between Dec. 1, 2020, and Feb. 8. The research has not been peer reviewed and was published in the medical preprint server medRXiv.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in U.S.

Cases: 28,135,045

Deaths: 499,056

Americans receiving at least one vaccine dose: 43,628,092

Counts reflect Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 data from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University and the CDC.

More articles on public health:
Headaches, fatigue among most common vaccine side effects, latest CDC report finds
COVID-19 death rates by state: Feb. 22
States ranked by percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered 


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