It has been 15 months since the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Washington State. The U.S. count of confirmed cases has just risen above 30 million. It increased by 58,026 to 30,884,407 in the past day. Deaths have reached 560,220, after rising by 704 in the past day. Unfortunately, these daily numbers, which had dropped over the past three months, have started to rise at an alarming rate again.
Public health officials and epidemiologists worry America is about to hit the fourth wave in the spread of the disease. The vaccination rate in the United States is among the defenses against this. Some states are performing much better than others.
Vaccination rates have risen quickly in the past three weeks. The Biden administration says it has enough vaccine for all Americans to be given shots by summer, and it is running ahead of that timetable. At this point, 31% of Americans have received at least one dose and 18% have been fully vaccinated. Nationwide, 207,866,645 doses have been delivered and 161,688,422 shots have been given.
There are two challenges to further slowing the spread of the disease. The first is disease variants, some of which may spread faster than the version that infected most people from last January until recently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks three of these for the public: the B.1.1.7, the B.1.351 and the P.1 variants. These variants have been found in all 50 states, and epidemiologists believe that there are many more variants than these three. Public health offices believe that as many as 30% of new cases in the United States are from the B.1.1.7 variant.
The other challenge is the opening up of parts of the United States. Texas, the second-largest state by population, is a case in point. The governor has dropped the state’s mask mandate, allowed a renewal of social gatherings and opened businesses. Public health officials worry this may cause a fourth wave of the disease.
In fact, daily confirmed case rates and daily fatal cases have started to rise again in some states and counties. Recently, officials in Miami shut down college student parties which were covered by almost every news outlet in the country. People on Spring Break were running superspreader events. States, led by Michigan, have begun to see sharp spikes in cases.
The CDC keeps track of the variants which it believes are the most widespread in a section of its website labeled “US COVID-19 Cases Caused by Variants.”
According to the most recent CDC data, the B.1.1.7 variant is present in all 50 states and reported cases number 12,505. The B.1.351 variant is present in 31 states and there are 323 reported cases. There are 224 reported cases of the P.1 variant across 22 states. Most epidemiologists believe that figures for each variant are actually much higher, probably running into the tens if not hundreds of thousands.
The state with the most variants is Florida with 2,422 reported cases. Of these 2,351 are B.1.1.7, 55 are P.1, and 16 are B.1.351.