Globally, more than 103 million coronavirus cases have been reported, resulting in 2.2 million deaths. The U.S. continues leading the world in the number of cases — 26.2 million — and deaths, with more than 442,000.
Last month, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that estimated the U.S. coronavirus death toll to rise to more than 500,000 by the middle of February. The CDC’s national forecast predicted 17,000 to 29,300 new deaths will likely be reported in the week ending Feb. 13. The national ensemble predicts between 465,000 to 508,000 COVID-19 deaths will have been reported by then.
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But as the calendar turned to February on Monday, the number of Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 fell below 100,000 for the first time in two months. New cases of infection are averaging about 148,000 a day, down from almost a quarter-million in mid-January. And cases are trending downward in all 50 states.
“While the recent decline in cases and hospital admissions are encouraging, they are counterbalanced by the stark reality that in January we recorded the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in any month since the pandemic began,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director.
After a slow start, the vaccination drive that began in mid-December is picking up the pace. More than 31.1 million doses have been administered in the U.S., according to the CDC. That is up from 16.5 million on the day President Joe Biden took office, Jan. 20.
The number of shots dispensed in the week and a half since Biden’s inauguration has been running at close to 1.5 million per day on average, well over the president’s oft-stated goal of 1 million per day. More than 5.6 million Americans have received the required two doses, the CDC said.
Three mutated variants of the virus from Britain, South Africa and Brazil have been detected in the U.S. The British one spreads more easily and is believed to be deadlier, but the South Africa one is prompting even more concern because of early indications that vaccines may not be as protective against it.
The more the virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to mutate.
Walensky urged Americans to get vaccinated as soon as shots become available to them and stressed it’s no time to relax basic precautions such as wearing masks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.