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U.S. Covid Cases Drop 22%, Raising Hopes The Worst May Be Over

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At the end of the summer, Wayne Bright worked day and night to bury the victims of the deadly wave of Covid-19 that swept the United States, so much so that his funeral home ran out of coffins.

But in recent weeks, the number of people who have died from the virus in his close-knit community in Tampa, Florida has declined with death rates falling nationwide. It has raised hope among those on the front lines of the crisis that the United States may finally chart a course out of a pandemic that has so far claimed 710,000 Americans.

“If we continue on the path we are now on, I think the worst may be over,” said Bright, who buried 55 people last month, including close friends.

Low vaccination rates, disorderly compliance with social distancing rules and confusing political messages have marred the US response to the pandemic. Just over one in 500 Americans has succumbed to the virus – one of the highest death rates in the world in a country with abundant access to vaccines.

But there are tentative signs that Delta’s surge could run out of steam with the number of new reported Covid-19 cases down 22% in the past two weeks and hospitalizations down by a fifth. The rate of deaths has also slowed. In Florida, where deaths from Covid-19 reached a historic daily high of 418 on September 13, they have since fallen to around 200 a day.

Despite rising infection rates and deaths in some Midwestern and Northeastern states, some health experts are predicting the United States could win the battle against the Delta strain. Strict vaccine mandates, the rollout of boosters and the development of an antiviral pill to treat Covid-19 are essential tools that could tame the virus, they say.

“I think this Delta wave is probably the last major wave of Sars-Cov-2 infection that we have in the United States, unless something unexpected happens,” said Scott Gottlieb, director of Pfizer Board of Directors and author of Uncontroled Spread, a book on the US Response to Covid-19.

The rollout of vaccines for children and regulatory approval of Merck’s antiviral pill could end the pandemic in the United States and usher in an endemic phase of Covid-19 – where the virus continues to circulate but does not represent the risk extreme he is doing now, he told US media last week.

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Most epidemiologists say there is little chance of eliminating Covid-19 and that it will need to be managed the same as the flu with a mix of vaccines, treatments and natural immunity over time. time. But there is a vigorous debate as to when this can be achieved and whether the recent slowdown is a decisive downtrend or a temporary hang-up.

“We may have come to the worst, but there will be flare-ups because there are still 65 million Americans unvaccinated – so that’s a lot of human wood for this coronavirus wildfire,” Osterholm said. , director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

He warned that many experts had wrongly predicted that last summer would provide a respite from the pandemic just weeks before the Delta variant began to spread across the country. Raising vaccination rates in the United States is critical to ending the pandemic, Osterholm told the Financial Times.

“What the Delta variant has shown is that if you are not vaccinated, this virus will find you,” he added.

Health experts hope the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate and the authorization of vaccines for children aged 5 to 12 will raise vaccination rates of 56% of the population to levels seen in others. developed nations. Rolling out booster doses to combat declining immunity is another tool to prevent the virus from spreading when people move indoors during the winter months, they say.

“We have all the ingredients to do much better this winter and in the months to come. But it’s up to us to lose – I would never underestimate this virus, ”said Ali Mokdad, professor of global health at the University of Washington.

He warns that there is a danger that people will let their guard down again as the number of cases drops by not wearing masks. The policy has hampered the US response to the pandemic and could do so again, Mokdad added.

Several Republican governors oppose the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate, which would cover two-thirds of private sector employees. They are threatening legal action to block a policy that would require workers at companies with more than 100 employees to get vaccinated or undergo weekly tests.

Two-thirds of company directors support immunization mandates, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Conference Board, a think tank. But more than half of those polled said it would be difficult to implement because it could alienate some workers.

Lori Esposito Murray, chair of the Conference Board’s Economic Development Committee, said if the mandate’s guidelines were clear and effectively implemented, they could reach a critical part of the unvaccinated population.

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“The end of the pandemic and the return to normalcy are within reach and we just need to come together as a nation to make it happen,” she said.

But even if Covid-19 becomes endemic in the United States in the coming months, experts warn that the pandemic will continue to rage in the developing world due to low vaccination rates. And that increases the chances of the emergence of a new, more transmissible or deadly variant of the virus that could plunge the United States back into crisis.

“Right now, Delta is king of the hill. But the question is whether something could develop that would be more transmissible. God forbid, this should never happen, ”Osterholm said.

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