Exactly one year after the U.S. passed 1 million coronavirus cases, the nation on Wednesday has reported a total of more than 32 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
More than 500,000 Americans have died in the last year.
The U.S. crisis, however, appears to be ebbing. Potential surges may have collapsed in nearly all states, a USA TODAY analysis of the data shows. National case-count leaders New York, Michigan and now Florida all have reported falling case counts. But the threat has also fallen in most states with smaller populations.
“We should be mostly heading down toward a new normal,” tweeted Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University’s school of public health, noting that most U.S. adults are now at least partially vaccinated. Clinical trials are underway for vaccinating children as young as 6 months in age.
Florida, which still leads the nation in new cases, has seen those case counts fall 12% from the previous week. It only became the leader because counts in Michigan have plunged more than 36% from earlier this month.
Still, three states seem to be struggling with persistently rising cases: Colorado and Washington, where cases have more than doubled since their lulls in March, and Oregon, where cases are nearly 3 1/2 times higher than they were in March. Deaths have been increasing in those states, too, with 135 deaths reported in the week ending Tuesday compared with 78 deaths in the week ending March 27.
Those increases and the states’ populations are too small to keep national tallies high. The United States is now reporting fewer deaths than it did before the fall surge started, averaging fewer than 700 deaths per day. The United States is still reporting about 376,000 cases per week, but that number has fallen about 24.5% in less than two weeks.
– Mike Stucka
Also in the news:
►Children as young a 6 months old are now taking part in trials studying the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, ABC News reports. Dr. Zinaida Good, a research fellow at the Stanford cancer center, enrolled both her sons in Stanford Hospital’s Pfizer trial. Her son Soren, 7 months old, received his first shot last week and is doing well, she said.
►Veteran Hawaii State Sen. Kalani English said Tuesday that he will retire on May 1 after being diagnosed with long-term effects of COVID-19.
►Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said rising COVID-19 hospitalizations threaten to overwhelm doctors and she is taking steps that will impose restrictions in 15 counties, including a ban on indoor restaurant dining.
►A child who traveled to Hawaii with his vaccinated parents has died after contracting COVID-19. The Hawaii Department of Health said the boy was younger than 11 and had a known underlying medical condition before being infected.
►A Southwest Airlines flight attendant has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the airline, alleging that lax COVID protocols during mandatory training last summer and slack contact tracing after an attendee tested positive led to her husband’s death from the virus.
►As the federal government works to make COVID-19 vaccines available to all Americans, lawmakers in more than 40 states have introduced legislation that would forbid mandates requiring people to get vaccinated.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 573,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 148 million cases and 3.1 million deaths. More than 297.5 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 232.4 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Have a loved one who doesn’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Here’s how to talk to them.
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‘Cuomo chips’ may be passing into history
Lawmakers in New York state say they will ease some of the COVID restrictions ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Among the is the “Cuomo chips” rule that mandates food purchases with alcohol at bars and restaurants.
“As more New Yorkers continue to get vaccinated, and our infection rates continue to decline, it is time to begin removing certain restrictions and regulations that are no longer necessary,” Democratic State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement.
India surpasses 200,000 coronavirus deaths
India surpassed 200,000 deaths Wednesday as a devastating surge of new infections tears through dense cities and rural areas alike and overwhelms health care systems on the brink of collapse. The health ministry reported a single-day record 3,293 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing India’s total fatalities to 201,187, as the world’s second most populous country endures its darkest pandemic chapter yet.
The country also reported 362,757 new infections, a new global record, which raised the overall total past 17.9 million. The previous high of 350,000 on Monday had capped a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day increases in any country throughout the pandemic.
India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, is the fourth to cross 200,000 deaths, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico. And as in many nations, experts believe the coronavirus infections and fatalities in India are severe undercounts.
CDC updates masking guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans
New masking guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear a mask outside. Public health officials said Tuesday that fully vaccinated Americans can unmask while walking, running, hiking or biking outdoors alone or with members of their household.
Vaccinated people also don’t need to wear a mask during small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated family and friends, or at gatherings with a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated people, they said. In addition, fully vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear a mask at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households, the guidance said.
The CDC still recommends fully vaccinated people wear a mask in indoor public settings and at outdoor public settings or venues where masks are required.
“The bottom line is clear, if you’re vaccinated you can do more things more safely both outdoors as well as indoors,” President Joe Biden said in a later White House briefing Tuesday. “For those who haven’t gotten their vaccination yet, especially if you’re younger or thinking you don’t need it, this is another great reason to go and get vaccinated now.”
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Government to allocate 765K doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine
The federal government plans to allocate about 765,500 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine after two weeks without, bringing the nation back to about 9.6 million first-doses next week, Department of Health and Human Services data released late Tuesday shows. Pfizer and Moderna first doses will remain almost identical to this week’s allocations: About 5.1 million Pfizer first doses and nearly 3.8 million Moderna first doses allocated for the week beginning Monday.
The current week’s allocation was about 8.8 million first doses, all of Pfizer and Moderna, federal worksheets show. The federal government removed a pause on Friday night from use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, linked to a small number of unusual clotting disorders. Government advisers said the J&J vaccine would save far more lives than it would risk.
– Mike Stucka
Chicago has plans for vaccine passports, official says
Chicago’s top epidemiologist said the city plans to announce a form of vaccine passport next month that would give vaccinated residents access to certain events.
“We’re interested in thinking about ways to try to incentivize people,” Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said in a briefing Tuesday afternoon. “Younger people in particular may be excited about the idea of getting into events, for example, that might be limited to people who are vaccinated.”
Arwady said the city was working with club organizers and planning concerts and other events through its “Vax Pass” program. She said the city will also be releasing more details about its “Vax and Relax” program with barbershops and beauty and nail salons, where residents who get vaccinated may receive a free haircut or manicure.
“We’re not going to bribe Chicagoans to get vaccinated, but we are going to do everything we can to build the confidence, to build the convenience, and then to make this fun,” she said.
– Grace Hauck
Largest firefighting plane may be sold for COVID response
As Western states prepare for this year’s wildfire season, the world’s largest firefighting plane has been grounded and could be converted to help fight against another crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic.
After investing tens of millions into upgrading the Global SuperTanker and its technology, the revenue coming mostly from contracts with the U.S. government and California did not produce enough profit for the company to continue funding the tanker, said Roger Miller, managing director at Alterna Capital Partners LLC, the investment company that owns the plane.
The Connecticut-based firm has received several offers to buy the SuperTanker and turn it into a freight carrier aircraft, Miller said. The investment firm is open to potential investors who want to continue using the SuperTanker for wildfire response, but if freight companies present a more attractive offer, the firm will sell it to them, Miller said.
“The COVID crisis has led to a huge boom in the aircraft freighter market flying around PPE, flying around vaccines, just all the stuff that you can’t afford to put on a ship and wait 45 days to get,” Miller said.
Contributing: The Associated Press.