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Sharp Decline in COVID Cases Seems to Have Stopped

There's fear of a '4th wave,' but also 'cautious optimism' across the US
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2021 1:08 PM CST

(Newser) – In assessing the state of the pandemic in the US, the Christian Science Monitor finds that something new is emerging around the country: "a sense of cautious optimism." That's mostly because of a sharp decline in cases in recent weeks, though there's plenty of potential trouble on the horizon as well—including signs that the decline in cases has stopped and fears of what the New York Times calls a "fourth wave." Coverage:

  • The decline: The US saw about 250,000 new cases a day in early January, and the figure had dropped to about 54,000 in late February, per the CSM. The Times notes a 35% drop in cases this month, plus a 31% decline in hospitalizations. Deaths were dropping as well, though not as fast (16%), with 3,210 recorded on Wednesday.
  • Which means? Those stats lead Apoorva Mandavilli of the Times to write: "Is this it, then? Is this the beginning of the end? After a year of being pummeled by grim statistics and scolded for wanting human contact, many Americans feel a long-promised deliverance is at hand." Mandavilli interviewed 21 scientists, and most thought the worst was behind us. "This summer, they said, life may begin to seem normal again."

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  • A big qualifier: In his New York Times newsletter, David Leonhardt calls attention to a potentially troubling trend: The number of new cases has stopped declining in the US and the world in recent days. Jim Edwards of Insider also takes note. "Big question: Are the new fast-moving variants (UK, CA, and NY) moving faster than the vaccines?" he wonders.
  • Fourth wave: Those fast-emerging variants are a big reason why most of the scientists interviewed by Mandavilli predict a "fourth wave" of the virus. "We're essentially facing a pandemic within a pandemic," says Adam Kucharski of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. However, they stressed that the wave can be prevented or at least muted if Americans—and American officials—don't get complacent about the usual safety protocols.
  • Another good sign: Weekly COVID cases in US nursing homes have dropped a staggering 89% since December because of vaccinations, reports USA Today. That outpaces the national decline by a wide margin.
  • Summing up: "Just hang in there a little bit longer," Dr. Ashleigh Tuite of the University of Toronto tells the Times. "There's a lot of optimism and hope, but I think we need to be prepared for the fact that the next several months are likely to continue to be difficult." Or as Raemecca Evans, who lost her restaurant job in Cincinnati because of the pandemic, puts it to the CSM: "I mean, it's gotten better." But "it's kind of touch-and-go, to me."
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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