All major indicators of COVID-19 transmission in the United States continue to fall rapidly. Weekly new cases have fallen from 1.7 million at the national peak in early January to fewer than 600,000 the week of February 18, 2021, and cases have declined in every state. As we’ve seen at many points in the pandemic, case numbers are changing most quickly, with hospitalizations and deaths declining after a delay; cases have been falling sharply for five weeks, hospitalizations for four weeks, and deaths for two weeks. The numbers from nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities are now declining and fewer deaths are directly correlated with COVID-19 vaccinations in this most vulnerable population.
Vaccines are finally showing up in the data, right where we most want to see them. According to the CDC, more than 16 million Americans have now received two doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine since late December. At least 1.8 million of these fully immunized people are residents of or staff in nursing homes or other long-term-care facilities, and more than 900,000 of that 1.8 million are residents. More than 4 million residents and staff in long-term-care facilities have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Cause and effect have been very difficult to establish in the United States throughout the pandemic. Our national patchwork of data sets and policies has confounded many simple analyses that try to explain why cases or deaths are rising or falling. Now we have clear evidence that the vaccines are saving lives in exactly the places where we would expect to see their effects show up first. We are at long last, after so many failures, beginning to protect the most vulnerable.
Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!