Covid cases in the U.S. are continuing to fall, down to 510,871 per day as of Monday morning, but it could still be some time until America joins some of its European peers in dropping all Covid related restrictions and fully returning to a pre-pandemic ‘normal.
Cases in the U.S. have dropped 28 percent over the past week, from 710,000 a week ago. Deaths, a metric that often lags a few weeks behind cases, are still rising, up 15 percent over the past week to 2,389 per day from 2,075.
The falling case levels in the U.S. have increased calls to end the remaining pandemic-related measures in the country. A precedent has been set as well, with some of the countries that were struck hardest by the Omicron variant already laying out plans for post-pandemic life.
Earlier this month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the end of all pandemic related restrictions, including the end of mask mandates, some capacity restrictions, and work from home orders. Testing requirements for Britons to return to the nation will be dropped in the coming weeks as well. This comes after a miraculous turnaround for the nation that was struck early by the variant, and was struck so hard some officials feared the nation’s hospital system would be overwhelmed.
The UK is averaging just under 90,000 Covid cases per day as of Monday morning, a far fall from the peak of over 180,000 cases earlier this month.
Denmark was among the hardest hit nations in the world by Omicron in December as well. Cases in the country are still steadily rising, up to 45,000 per day, they are clearly cresting and deaths have remained low for the Nordic country throughout the pandemic.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced last week that Covid was no longer a ‘socially critical sickness’ and that the country will end all pandemic-related restrictions on February 1.
With cases starting to recede in the U.S., especially along the east coast, many are hopeful America would follow as well. The CDC is still hesitant to declare America as past Covid, though.
‘We know there is still much to be done to stop the spread of COVID-19 and end the pandemic. We are still seeing far too many new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,’ a CDC spokesperson told CNN last week.
‘As we look forward to the spring, it’s important to continue practicing prevention measures that we know work – vaccinating, wearing a mask in public, indoor settings, staying home when you are sick, and washing your hands frequently.’
While cases are trending in the right direction in America, the 500,000 cases being averaged daily is still double the pre-Omicron record set in early 2021. The near 2,400 cases being averaged every day is also the most since last February, the tail-end of the nation’s deadliest Covid surge.
Dr Scott Gottlieb, former director of the Food and Drug Administration and current board member at Pfizer, blamed the increase in deaths despite the relatively mild nature of Omicron to the sheer number of infections suffered in the country.
‘The reason why we are seeing such big waves of hospitalizations and deaths – is because the sheer number of people that are being infected,’ Gottlieb told CNBC’s The Sqauwk Box on Monday.
‘There is no modern proxy for what has happened here with the scope of the spread of this infection.’
According to CDC data, 99.75% of counties in the U.S. are considered to be of ‘high’ Covid transmission (red)
U.S. health officials are still weary, though the decentralized nature of the country makes it so different areas have vastly different restrictions. In New York City, for example, there is an indoor mask or vaccine mandate, while in places like Florida nearly all restrictions have been dropped all together.
The CDC still deems 99.75 percent of U.S. counties – 3,214 out of 3,220 – as an area of ‘high’ transmission. Moving from high down to ‘moderate’ or ‘low’ transmission might be necessary for some local health officials to feel comfortable enough to lift mask mandates and the use of vaccine passports.
For some areas, specifically states along the east coast, that could be soon. Cases are dropping sharply in states that were hit the hardest and fastest during the early stages of the Omicron surge last month. New York, for example, became a global hotspot for the variant. The Empire state is now recording a 75 percent decline in daily cases over the past two weeks.
Just week over week, cases are down more than 50 percent, as the state approaches a post-Omicron Covid phase.
Other nearby states that were struck early by the variant, like neighboring New Jersey (72 percent decline in daily cases over the past two weeks), Maryland (73 percent) and Delaware (66 percent) are all seeing cases dramatically decline after a big jump last month.
States in New England have been among those hardest hit this winter as well, despite leading the nation in vaccination rate. Vermont leads the nation, having fully vaccinated 79 percent of its population as of Monday morning. The state experienced a large surge of cases in December when the vaccine-resistant Omicron variant first became entrenched in the country late last year.
Nearby Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts – all with vaccination rates upwards of 75 percent – also experienced large Covid surges last month. Rhode Island even had the worst infection rate in America for a large portion or early to mid-January.
Each of these states are seeing cases decline by around 60 percent over the past two weeks now, though, as the highly infectious Omicron variant is starting to run out of steam.
The trend of declining cases has spread nationwide, though, with 41 states now recording declining cases over the past two weeks. Of the nine states that are still recording an increase of cases, none are along the east coast, and almost all are either plains states or in the Midwest.
Montana is recording the largest increase in cases over the past two weeks, with the lowly populated, less dense, state recording an 79 percent jump in cases over the past two weeks. Nearby states like Washington (55 percent increase), Idaho (46 percent), Wyoming (39 percent) and Minnesota (25 percent). Oklahoma has also recorded a 23 percent jump, along with Kentucky (32 percent) and Tennessee (11 percent).
Alaska, where cases are up 28 percent over the past two weeks, is the national leader in infection rate, as the variant has finally taken hold in the state 1,600 miles from the U.S. mainland. On average, 332 of every 100,000 residents are testing positive for the virus every day.
Washington is the only other state with an infection rate over 300 per every 100,000, up to 322 after cases began to trend upwards in recent days.
Deaths in the U.S. are still trending upwards, though, and a handful of states are still recording worrying Covid mortality figures. Nine states are recording more than one daily Covid death for every 100,000 residents.
Ohio is still the leader in Covid mortality rate, with 1.32 residents dying every day per every 100,000 residents. Other midwestern states like Indiana (1.17) and Illinois (1.12) are among the leaders as well. While Covid cases are declining across the east coast, deaths are lagging behind in some states. Connecticut (1.21), Pennsylvania (1.14), New Jersey (1.05) are among leaders in Covid mortality as well.
Across the pond, the UK is continuing to see its Covid situation better. Cases have dropped seven percent over the past week, from 95,787 last Monday to 89,176 new daily infections to start this week. Deaths and hospitalizations continued rising for a time after cases began to drop, but they have started to drop as well.
Daily deaths in the UK have fallen 3.8 percent over the past week, from 288 to 277 per day. The number of Covid hospitalizations have fallen as well, to 1,732 from 1,974, a 12.3 percent fall.
Cases are starting to drop all across the nation, and London, once a global Omicron hotspot, has largely returned to the same Covid situation from before variant’s arrival.
The nation will soon receive nearly three million courses of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral Covid pill that is one of the most valuable treatments for the virus available. The pill is highly effective at preventing hospitalization or death from the virus, though it has been in short supply across the world. The large purchase by the UK confirms that it will be available in the country, at least for the time being.