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The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. may be tapering off as cases drop for the first time in 3 months, according to the latest update from the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
The 7-day average of new daily cases has fallen below 120,000 and appears to be on a sustained decline, the center reported. During the past week, new cases fell 20% and hospitalizations fell about 9%.
The drop in cases during the past week marks the longest sustained decline since June 23, when cases were down before the more contagious Delta variant took over, according to NBC News. The latest wave likely peaked in mid-September, when daily cases hit nearly 167,000.
"There's pretty decent agreement that we're at the peak in cases nationally," Shaun Truelove, PhD, an assistant scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NBC News. "There's quite a bit of variability between states, but as a whole, it seems that we're at or near the peak of this thing."
Based on projections at Johns Hopkins, cases will continue to decline through at least January 2022, which is the current endpoint for the forecast.
"Barring any rapid new change to the virus, that's kind of the direction we're going to continue to go -- downward," he said.
Though cases and hospitalizations seem to be declining, deaths will likely peak in the coming weeks, the center reported. The U.S. is reporting more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths per day, which is increasing about 12%, according to the New York Timesdata tracker.
The fall in COVID-19 numbers during the coming months will likely be a "slow burn" decline, NBC News reported. Cases may still increase in some areas with low vaccination rates, and the holidays could lead to a jump in infections as people travel, but overall, fewer people will contract the coronavirus across the country.
Forecasters are also calculating for other things, like immunity from vaccines, FDA approval of vaccines for kids, and emerging variants that could be as contagious as the Delta variant.
"That's just the nature of this pandemic," Truelove said. "It just keeps throwing us curveballs that we wouldn't have expected, and they continue to challenge us."
University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy: "US COVID-19 cases drop for first time in 3 months."
NBC News: "Has the spread of Covid-19 peaked in the U.S.? What future Covid spread could look like."
The New York Times: "Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count."
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Cite this: US COVID-19 Cases Drop for First Time in 3 Months - Medscape - Sep 28, 2021.