US COVID cases fall

Friday, October 1, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A decline in COVID-19 cases across the United States over the past several weeks has given overwhelmed hospitals some relief, but administrators are bracing for yet another possible surge as cold weather drives people indoors.

Health experts say the fourth wave of the pandemic has peaked overall in the U.S., particularly in the Deep South, where hospitals were stretched to the limit weeks ago. But many Northern states are still struggling with rising cases, and what’s ahead for winter is far less clear.

Unknowns include how flu season may strain already depleted hospital staffs and whether those who have refused to get vaccinated will change their minds.

An estimated 70 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, providing kindling for the highly contagious delta variant.

“If you’re not vaccinated or have protection from natural infection, this virus will find you,” warned Dr. Mike Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

Nationwide, the number of people now in the hospital with COVID-19 has dropped to somewhere around 75,000, from over 93,000 in early September. New cases are on the downswing at about 112,000 per day on average, a drop of about one-third over the past 2 1/2 weeks.

Deaths, too, appear to be declining, averaging about 1,900 a day versus more than 2,000 about a week ago, though the U.S. closed in Friday on the heartbreaking milestone of 700,000 dead overall since the pandemic began.

The easing of the summer surge has been attributed to more mask wearing and more people getting vaccinated. The decrease in case numbers could also be due to the virus having burned through susceptible people and running out of fuel in some places.

In another promising development, Merck said Friday its experimental pill for people sick with COVID-19 reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half. If it wins authorization from regulators, it will be the first pill for treating COVID-19 — and an important, easy-to-use new weapon in the arsenal against the pandemic.

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