US COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Continue to Decline

Carolyn Crist

February 22, 2022

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Average daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are continuing to fall in the U.S., providing a signal that the Omicron variant is receding across the country.

Total confirmed cases dropped below 100,000 per day during the holiday weekend, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, marking a major decline from more than 800,000 daily cases in mid-January.

In New York, which has served as an early indicator of Omicron trends, cases decreased by more than 50% during the past 2 weeks.

"I think what's influencing the decline, of course, is that Omicron is starting to run out of people to infect," Thomas Russo, MD, infectious diseases chief at the University of Buffalo, told The Associated Press.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have also dropped in recent weeks, with about 57,000 people hospitalized with the disease across the country on Tuesday, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In January, the 7-day average of hospitalizations surpassed 150,000 patients.

Deaths are also beginning to decline, with an average of about 2,100 daily, according to the data tracker from The New York Times. More than 2,500 daily deaths were being reported in early February.

States have begun lifting COVID-19 restrictions, including mask mandates in indoor spaces and classrooms. Public health experts are optimistic about the recent declines but have noted that they'd like to see the trends continue for another month or two.

Overall, the recent announcements from governors and state health officials seem to indicate a shift toward treating the coronavirus as an "endemic" issue that will continue to circulate in the community, the AP reported.

On Friday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced that the state would transition into a "steady state" model in April by closing mass test sites, reporting COVID-19 cases less frequently, and advising residents to make personal choices to manage the risk of getting the virus.

"Now let me be clear: This is not the end of COVID, but it is the end — or rather the beginning — of treating COVID as we do other seasonal respiratory viruses," he said during a news briefing.

Also on Friday, Boston lifted its proof of vaccine policy, which required staff and customers to show proof of vaccination if they wanted to use indoor spaces.

"This news highlights the progress we've made in our fight against COVID-19 thanks to vaccines & boosters — which have always been our most effective weapon against the pandemic," Michelle Wu, the mayor of Boston, wrote in a Twitter post.

Public health experts are monitoring COVID-19 trends for future scenarios, the AP reported. The U.S. could see further declines in the spring and summer, while immunity is still strong, and then an increase in new cases in the fall, Russo said.

At the same time, officials are watching for a new variant that could evade the immunity provided by vaccines and #Omicron infections, he said.

"Whether such a variant can evolve is the big question, right?" Russo said. "That is the concern that we'll have to see through. Omicron was the first version of that, and there is this sort of adage that, 'Well, over time, viruses evolve to be less virulent,' but that's not really true. Viruses evolve to be able to infect us."

Sources

The Associated Press: "US virus cases, hospitalizations continue steady decline."

Johns Hopkins University: "Coronavirus Resource Center: Cumulative Cases."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Inpatient Bed Utilization by State."

The New York Times: "Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count."

Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox: "Utah COVID-19 Briefing: Feb. 18, 2022."

Twitter: @MayorWu, Feb. 18, 2022.

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