The pace of the spread of COVID-19 had slowed across America. Increases in daily fatal and confirmed cases are still about half what they were seven weeks ago. Nevertheless, 561,775 Americans have died, which is about 20% of the world’s total. Confirmed cases have reached 31,056,277, or about 23% of the global number. Hospitalizations, which were over 100,000 a day during the peak wave, dropped into the thousands. However, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports they have begun to rise again in more than half the states. By one commonly used measure, almost half the new cases are in just five states.
The pace of the spread of the disease remains in part a race between vaccinations and the rising number of potentially dangerous variants. So far, 33% of the adult population has received at least one dose of vaccine and 19% are fully vaccinated. While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots, the one from Johnson & Johnson requires just a single dose. According to The New York Times, 219,194,215 doses have been delivered in the United States and 168,592,075 of them have been administered. Almost four out of five people in a critical group now have been vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Variants of the disease are among the dangers epidemiologist and public health officials worry about. At least one, first identified in the United Kingdom, could soon account for most new U.S. cases. This variant also could be more deadly. The CDC currently tracks three variants for the public. They have been found in all 50 states, and a number of other variants have emerged that the CDC does not report on to the public.
Additionally, much of the country has “opened up,” which has caused worries that there will be a fourth wave of the disease. Just two weeks ago, the nation’s newspapers were filled with reports of large college parties in Florida with hundreds of people in close proximity without masks. More people flew over the Easter weekend than any other weekend since the start of the pandemic. This kind of activity has led to public health officials predicting that fourth wave.
The CDC announced on Tuesday, “Nearly 80 percent of Pre-K-12 teachers, school staff, and childcare workers received at least their first shot of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March, according to the CDC’s latest estimates and survey data.”
The groups are critical because of a core need to reopen the nation’s schools. Many have been closed for one or even two semesters. Millions of children have been working from home and participating in classes online, usually via video conferencing. Experts worry that remote learning is less effective than work done in class. The most extreme concern is that some American children have fallen a year behind in their educations.
Another issue is that many teachers have refused to return to schools due to worries about COVID-19 vaccinations. This has created a hurdle to school systems that want to reopen. It also has created, in some cases, tremendous friction among teachers, parents and school districts. Perhaps progress like that announced by the CDC will lessen those conflicts.