The rate of the spread of COVID-19 has slowed across America. The country reported its lowest number of new infections in nearly a year for the week of May 17, representing a drop of 26% from the previous seven days.
Nevertheless, as of May 24, some 589,517 Americans had died of the disease, which is about 17% of the world’s total (a staggering 3.47 million). Reported cases have reached 33,137,938 in the U.S., but hospitalizations, which were over 100,000 a day during the peak wave, are less than a third of that today. (As of the end of 2020, these were the US cities with the highest COVID-19 death rates.)
Variants have become a large part of the conversation among public health officials and epidemiologists. One variant, first identified in the United Kingdom and known as B.1.1.7, is more transmissible than the strain that was dominant in the United States over most of the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also officially tracks these other variants: B.1.351, P.1, B.1.427 and B.1.429. Worries are that some may be more deadly than others and that vaccines may not protect against one or more variants. Scientists believe that new variants will continue to appear, some of which may originate in America and others that may come from overseas. The most recent one to be discovered, dubbed B.1.617.2, now dominant in India, may prove to be more transmissible even than B.1.1.7, the one that spurred the deadly surge in the UK this winter.
The good news on our shores is that, at this point, according to The New York Times on May 24, some 49% of Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 39% are fully vaccinated. There has been a debate among scientists and doctors, however, about if and when people will need additional doses. Some of this has to do with how effective vaccines prove to be against the variants. Another major issue, of course, is that many Americans are still saying no to vaccination. (These are the states where the most people are refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.)