News Coronavirus Hope gains a foothold as COVID numbers plunge in latest US stats
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Hope gains a foothold as COVID numbers plunge in latest US stats

No masks and no fear for these youngsters enjoying the fun of a parade in Mobile, Alabama. Photo: AP
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Can the world dare to hope that the coronavirus is waning?

That’s one gleam of optimism being read into the latest figures for deaths in the US, now witnessing rates not seen in more than 11 months.

The decline is being attributed to the vaccination campaigns stemming both severe COVID-19 cases and the spread of the virus.

As cases, hospitalisations and deaths steadily dropped this week, pre-pandemic life in America returned almost to pre-pandemic normality.

Hugs and unmasked crowds returned to the White House, a Mardi Gras-style parade marched through Alabama’s port city of Mobile, and even states that have stuck to pandemic-related restrictions readied to drop them.

The threat remains

However, health experts also cautioned that not enough Americans have been vaccinated to completely extinguish the virus, leaving the potential for new variants that could extend the pandemic.

As the seven-day average for new cases dropped below 30,000 per day this week, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed out cases have not been this low since June 18, 2020.

The average number of deaths over the last seven days also dropped to 552 – a rate not seen since July last year. It’s a dramatic drop since the pandemic hit a devastating crescendo in January.

“As each week passes and as we continue to see progress, these data give me hope,” Walensky said Friday at a news conference.

Health experts credit an efficient rollout of vaccines for the turnaround. More than 60 per cent of people over 18 have received at least one shot, and almost half are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

But demand for vaccines has dropped across much of the country.

President Joe Biden’s administration is trying to convince his fellow Americans to sign up for shots, using an upbeat message that vaccines offer a return to normal life.

Health experts worry that areas with low vaccination rates could give rise to new virus variants that are more resistant to vaccinations.

Many states have largely dropped orders to wear masks and stay distanced from other people. Meanwhile, even places such as California – the first state to issue a statewide shutdown as the virus emerged in March 2020 – prepared to remove restrictions on social distancing and business capacity next month.

– with AAP