Pandemic in Retreat – The New York Instances
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Good Morning. We are offering our latest testimonial about the virus – and a recap of the second day of the impeachment process.
The number of new coronavirus cases continues to decline, as does the number of Americans who have been hospitalized with symptoms. Deaths have also decreased. And the number of daily vaccinations has almost tripled in the last month.
It has been a long time since the virus news was as encouraging as it is now.
The overall situation is still bad. The virus is spreading faster in the US than almost any other large country, and more than 2,500 Americans die every day. Newly contagious variants can lead to future outbreaks. It’s getting better right now, though – and a combination of vaccinations, wearing masks, and social distancing has the potential to sustain recent advances.
Here’s the latest virus report from The Morning with the help of five charts – and with a focus on what’s going to happen over the next few weeks.
The drop is real
The recent decline in new virus cases is greater than the decline last year:
Since peaking on Jan. 8 – related to holiday gatherings – the number of confirmed new daily cases has dropped nearly 60 percent. The decrease in actual cases is likely to be a little less as the test volume has also decreased in recent weeks. Fewer tests result in fewer reported cases.
However, most of the decline in the graph above is real. We know this because the percentage of tests that returned positive has also dropped sharply (from 14 percent on January 8 to 7 percent). The number of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 symptoms is also falling:
Most importantly, the deaths gradually decrease:
And deaths are likely to continue to decline. Death trends are typically about three weeks behind the trends in diagnosed cases – meaning the sharp decline in cases in recent times is only now beginning to impact death rates. In the next two weeks, the number of daily deaths is likely to drop below 2,000, predicts Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health, and she could drop below 1,000 by next month.
We are slowly building immunity
The main cause of the decline appears to be that a significant proportion of people now have at least some immunity to the virus. This also explains the global decline in newly diagnosed cases:
In the United States, 110 million people (including unconfirmed cases) likely had the virus, researchers say. Another 33 million have received at least one vaccine.
Together, these two groups make up about 43 percent of all Americans, which is enough to slow the spread. “Although it’s difficult to know for sure,” Andrew Brouwer, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan told the Wall Street Journal, “we may be getting closer to herd protection.”
However, this protection does not guarantee a sustained decline in cases. Most Americans still haven’t had the virus.
Are we getting complacent?
The first thing to see in the days to come is whether Super Bowl parties turned into superspreader events that caused new outbreaks.
The next question will be whether the recent decline is causing Americans to become sloppy again, as it did last summer and fall. New York, Massachusetts, and other states have begun lifting some restrictions, and many public experts fear the policy will go too far in that direction. Doing this in the coming weeks would be particularly dangerous as more and more contagious virus variants are spreading.
“These contagious new varieties really increase the risk,” said Apoorva Mandavilli, a science reporter for the Times. “The good news is we know what to do: wear a mask or two, stay as far away from others as possible, only meet people outside, or at least open your windows and wash your hands often . ” Failure to observe this advice can be more damaging for the variants than for the original version of the virus.
The risk is increased by the possibility that some people who have already had the virus may still be susceptible to being re-infected by either variant. If this turns out to be the case – as early research shows – vaccination becomes even more important.
The vaccination acceleration
The US vaccination campaign got off to a bad start. The Trump administration promised to shoot 20 million people by the end of 2020 – and hit fewer than three million. But the pace has accelerated in the last few weeks of the government, and the Biden government has accelerated it further:
The bottom line: The pandemic is on the decline. What happens next mainly depends on three factors: 1) How many Americans wear masks and remain socially aloof? 2) how contagious the new variants are; and 3) how quickly the vaccines – which virtually got rid of the worst of Covid symptoms – get into people’s arms.
Further virus developments:
THE LATEST NEWS
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From the opinion: Aliens are almost certainly out there. Let’s look for them, says Farhad Manjoo.
Lived life: Although an injury hampered her career before she could reach the Olympics, Dianne Durham became a frontrunner among black gymnasts by winning the 1983 national championship. She died at the age of 52.
Larry Flynt, the pornographer and self-promoted free speech advocate, was a high school dropout who built an empire of publications, strip clubs, and “adult” shops around his sexually explicit magazine, Hustler. Flynt died at the age of 78.
ART AND IDEAS
Why didn’t Amazon win the game?
Amazon dominates retail and is a growing force in streaming. But there is one large industry where their efforts have repeatedly failed: video games. Despite roughly a decade of investments, the company hasn’t made a single hit game, as both Wired magazine and Bloomberg News recently documented.
Among the possible reasons, Amazon’s bureaucratic, data-driven approach is hindering the creativity that game development requires. The original head of Amazon Game Studios was an executive who had never made a video game. (In contrast, Amazon Studios director Jennifer Salke had spent seven years at NBC.)
So far, Amazon’s significant success in gaming has been its 2014 acquisition of Twitch, a popular live streaming platform that also provides a powerful marketing channel for Amazon products.
Still, the company’s efforts are a warning to other tech companies interested in the gaming market. “Successful video games are a combination of art, entertainment, technology and very large budgets,” write Jason Schreier and Priya Anand in Bloomberg. “Big tech companies have only really figured out the last two.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
The nightly hosts grew serious.
Now is the time to play
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee scratched. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play online.
Here’s today’s mini crossword and a clue: Emmy or Grammy (five letters).
If you feel like playing more, all of our games can be found here.
Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. Until tomorrow. – David
PS Jia Lynn Yang, assistant national editor at The Times, who previously covered economics, politics and national security for the Washington Post, will become the Times’ next national editor.
You can find today’s print homepage here.
Today’s episode of “The Daily” deals with allegations of abuse against the head of a network of homeless shelters. On the latest “Sway”, Fran Lebowitz discusses her resistance to technology.
Lalena Fisher, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at [email protected]
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