The pace at which COVID-19 has spread across the U.S. has slowed. The U.S. is reporting a fraction of the daily confirmed and fatal cases compared to less than two months ago, when there were over 200,000 new cases a day and as many as 4,000 deaths. Nevertheless, the toll has been brutal.
More than 530,000 Americans have died, accounting for 20% of the reported world total. Confirmed cases have reached 29,337,446, or about a quarter of the global number. Many scientists believe the U.S. case figure is far too low because of poor testing across much of the nation.
Vaccinations have joined mask wearing and social distancing as primary weapons against the spread of the disease. Three vaccines are now available in the U.S., from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer. The Biden administration aims to have enough vaccines for all Americans by the end of May. Almost 18% of Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine. About 9.5% have received two doses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 116,378,615 doses have been delivered, and 92,089,852 doses have been administered.
One of the primary causes, if not the primary cause, of concern among epidemiologists is the rise of variants, which appear to be the main driver of new infections. The CDC tracks three variants, identified as the B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1 variants. One or more of these has been found in 49 states.
So far, according to the CDC, there are 3,037 reported cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, 81 reported cases of B.1.351 variant and 15 reported cases of the P.1 variant. These figures are misleading, as The New York Times reports: “As U.S. coronavirus cases remain at a low not seen since October, a more contagious variant first reported in the United Kingdom has likely grown to account for more than 20 percent of new U.S. cases as of this week, according to an analysis of data from Helix, a lab testing company.” The variant first identified in the U.K. is the one known as B.1.1.7. The reason these figures likely underestimate the variant cases is that not all tests are sequenced to find if they are a variant of concern.
To determine the only state with zero variants, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the number of COVID-19 cases caused by variants of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. States were ranked based on the total number of cases caused by the B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1 variants as of March 11, 2021, ordered from the most reported cases to the fewest. Supplemental data on total COVID-19 cases, deaths, and vaccines administered came from various state and local health departments and were adjusted for population using one-year data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
Only one state — Vermont — has no reported cases of the three variants tracked by the CDC. The cases are most common in Florida (753 reported variant cases), Michigan (617), Massachusetts (381), California (346), and Colorado (311).
The other extent to which the CDC data is misleading is other variants that have been discovered nationwide but that the CDC is not tracking. Also, testing for the variants is not consistent across the country, and sequencing has been occurring at different rates in different states.
The Mercury News says of these homegrown variants:
There is also another variant of concern in California, what appears to be a homegrown variant known as B.1.427 and B.1.429. This variant is now spreading widely in California, and research out of UCSF suggests it may make people sicker and it may be more contagious than the earlier coronavirus.