The wave of Covid-19 in the U.S. fueled by the hyper infectious delta variant continues to subside, with new infections and hospitalizations down dramatically from their peaks in September—though many states are still battling severe crises with the winter season fast approaching.
There are now an average of 70,291 new cases each day in the U.S., a 60% decrease from the peak 7-day average of 175,822 reached September 13, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
Hospitalizations have also dropped with similar speed from just over 103,000 admitted daily as of September 4 to an average of 53,222 daily hospitalizations, boosted by a 19% drop in the past two weeks alone.
The states whose healthcare systems were most overwhelmed during the delta wave—including Georgia, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama—have all seen significant improvements in recent weeks.
These states all had at least 45% of their ICU beds filled by Covid-19 patients in mid-September (Alabama’s overall ICU capacity was over 100%), but now all have less than a quarter of their ICU beds occupied by infected people, data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows.
That’s not to say the Covid-19 crisis is no longer severe in the U.S. The country is still reporting an average of 1,441 deaths per day, which is higher than at most other points during the pandemic. Deaths have been slower to decline and are only about 30% lower than in September. Furthermore, many states are still battling serious outbreaks, such as Idaho, which had the highest rate of Covid-19 usage in September, with about 60.8% of its beds occupied by coronavirus patients. That number is just 10% lower today, according to HHS data. Wyoming and Montana both also have over 50% of their ICU beds filled with virus patients as they battle high death rates of 1.70 and 1.03 per 100,000 residents, respectively.
A brutal third wave of the virus beginning in July began a steep downwards trajectory in late September. Experts haven’t pinpointed exactly why infections began to decline, but the national vaccination rate has been slowly rising, with 80% of Americans at least partially vaccinated and 69% fully inoculated. Vaccines are becoming even more widespread with the recent approval of booster shots for millions of Americans and the possible approval of the vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11.
What To Watch For
The impact of the winter season, which brought about the deadliest phase of the pandemic last year. Experts seem to be predicting the winter won’t be as severe this time around. Justin Lessler, who helps run the University of North Carolina’s Covid-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, told Axios he would be “very surprised if we saw surges to the level of last winter.” But top infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci said it will depend on vaccination levels.
It’s within the U.S.’s “capability to prevent” another surge in the winter, Fauci told “Fox News Sunday” earlier this month, noting that metrics like hospitalizations and deaths are moving “in the right direction.” However, “the degree to which we continue to come down in that slope will depend on how well we do about getting more people vaccinated,” he said.