Variants stalling pandemic progress in US: 8 notes

After months of progress, COVID-19 cases are rising in most states, according to an analysis of data from lab testing company Helix cited by The New York Times. Many experts believe the rapid spread of coronavirus variants are fueling the increase. 

Case count
Nationwide, daily COVID-19 cases fell by almost 80 percent from mid-January through the end of March. However, the U.S. is now averaging more than 64,000 new cases per day, an 18 percent increase from two weeks prior.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are slowly increasing nationwide, with a recent increase in virus admissions among adults under 50. Hospitalizations among the oldest age groups, who are more likely to have been vaccinated, continue to decrease.

U.S. COVID-19 deaths are at the lowest level since November, averaging around 800 deaths per day.

Vaccine rollout
The U.S. vaccine rollout has sped up since December, recently hitting a rolling average of more than 3 million doses given every day, reports the Times. Nearly 62.4 million people — about 19 percent of Americans — have been fully vaccinated as of April 5, reports the CDC. All states but two — Oregon and Hawaii — have or will open up vaccine eligibility earlier than President Joe Biden's original May 1 deadline.

To break it down even further…

The coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, first identified in the United Kingdom, may now account for around 70 percent of all of Michigan's new cases, according to Helix data cited by the Times.

Michigan reported a record number of daily COVID-19 cases April 5 — more than 11,000 new infections. Surpassing the 8,413 new COVID-19 cases reported April 3, the state's previous daily record was 10,140 cases recorded Nov. 20, according to The Hill. New cases across the state have increased 112 percent and hospitalizations have increased 108 percent over the last two weeks, according to the Times.  

On April 5, the state opened vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16. 

New York
Both the B.1.1.7 variant and large shares of another variant, B.1.526, have been identified in New York. The B.1.526 variant, which was first detected in New York City in samples from November, accounts for more than 40 percent of sequenced cases in New York City as of mid-March.   

Studies have indicated the variants B.1.427 and B.1.429, both first discovered in California, may also be more transmissible than earlier forms of the virus, but don't appear to spread as quickly as B.1.1.7. The CDC has listed both as "variants of concern." The variants were identified in more than half of samples tested in Los Angeles in mid-January, suggesting that they may have fueled the state's winter surge.

Final thought
Ultimately, experts believe the vaccines are effective and an end may be in sight, though the variants underscore a renewed need for caution right now, according to the Times.


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