The leading country in Covid-19 deaths and infections, the United States seems to be seeing a turning point in the coronavirus pandemic. After a spike in hospitalizations, cases and deaths earlier this year, the numbers are showing signs of pulling back.
The forecasts published by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA), last Thursday (28), show a downward trend in the main Covid-19 indices of the country: cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
The number of new cases per week, while high, has already fallen by 38.6% in the past three weeks. Infections peaked at 1.7 million between Jan. 3 and Jan. 9, the highest level since the confirmation of the first case in the United States – compared to the late summer count in the northern hemisphere (winter to Brazil), the increase was 602%.
The peak came after two major jumps in the indices, one during the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States on November 26 and the other over Christmas. In the first, 14 days after the celebration, cases increased by 32.2% in cumulative between December 6 and December 12. Already two weeks after the second there was a further increase, by 29%, in the sum of registrations exactly in the period between January 3 and 9.
The current trend presented by the CDC, however, is that of a considerable decline. Based on a forecast based on a study of 25 model groups, a 38.2% decrease is estimated between the peak at the start of the month and the cumulative week between February 14 and February 20.
The estimate is already showing signs of confirmation. The sum of business between Jan. 24 and Jan. 30 was 1.04 million, below the forecast of 1.22 million released before the end of the period. If the trend continues, the country will return to the same level as in early November, when the onset of low temperatures contributed to the recent surge, as people began to congregate in closed places.
Experts believe that different factors are contributing to the decrease. One of them is the end of the period of heavy infections due to the holidays. “The period of travel that the virus has taken advantage of is almost over,” Amesh Adalja, an affiliate professor in the Department of Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, told AFP news agency.
The drop in the number of daily tests, which fell 11% between Jan. 18 and 29, according to the New York Times, may also end up contributing, but the positivity rate for those tests has followed the decline, indicating that the claim of the spread is real, says the US newspaper.
There is also the question of behavior. University of Florida infectious disease specialist Natalie Dean also told AFP that the population “kicks in” when the number of infections increases in her region. Prevention, such as wearing masks and social distancing, also plays an important role.
The institution’s assistant professor of biostatistics also cited the examples of the state of Florida itself, as well as Texas and Arizona, as three places that did not impose severe restrictive measures for contain the spread of the virus. In these places, transmission declined only after the adoption of “political measures or small changes in attitude”.
Brandon Brown, a public health specialist at the University of California, says “reduced misinformation” about the pandemic is another reason. For him, “it is difficult to deny the reality of the more than 400,000 dead” in the country. More than 440,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States, representing 2.2 million people infected.
If, on the one hand, the population becomes more cautious when there is an increase in infections, the reverse however occurs when the files decrease, warn the experts.
The point is that the number of hospitalizations and deaths accompanies the drop, although the latter peak is more recent – these records generally follow the same trend as the cases, but with some delay, since the process of confirming death from coronavirus takes longer.
While still high, but far from the peak of 6,489 victims on April 15, there has been a 5.9% drop in the number of deaths in the past two weeks. The weekly accumulated peak was reached in the period January 10-16, which totaled 23,400 deaths.
The CDC forecast specifies that the numbers will follow a downward trend, reaching 18,790 new deaths in the cumulative between February 14 and 20, or 19.7% since the peak in mid-January, at the same level as the week before Christmas.
The estimate, however, was slightly lower than the sum between January 24 and 30. There were 22,025 deaths over the period, up from the 21,075 forecast, which also means an increase of 2.3% over the previous period, between January 17 and 23.
The number of new hospitalizations fell for the second week in a row, falling by 10% over the period from January 20 to 27, according to an analysis by the Covid Tracking Project platform.
The improved numbers, according to the initiative, reflect decreases in hospitalizations in almost all states – the opposite of what happened in November, when the index rose in almost all regions at the same time. Only Vermont posted an increase over the period, still barely 2%.
This is the first week since November 5 that no state has broken records for people hospitalized.
The country saw the peak of these figures on January 6, with 132,400 people in hospitals. Until Friday, the drop was 23.7%, according to the Covid Tracking Project. New hospitalizations are expected to drop 32.2% by February 22, according to CDC forecasts.
According to Professor Adalja, the vaccination campaign in nursing homes has probably contributed to the decrease in hospitalizations and deaths.
The United States began implementing vaccines on December 14, a day that recorded 206,033 cases, 110,573 hospitalizations and 1,766 deaths, numbers that continued to rise. Until this Saturday (30), 24 million people had already received at least the first dose of the vaccine in the country.
The number is still low and corresponds to about 7.2% of the American population – a far cry from the 85% needed to obtain collective immunity. The US campaign has been criticized for being slow, and President Joe Biden is running out of time to deliver on his campaign pledge to deliver 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days in office.
Although the numbers seem to present good news, the Democrat said the day after taking office that the pandemic was far from over in the country and the total number of Americans killed by the disease is expected to reach 500. 000 in February.
Different concerns still surround the issue of the coronavirus in the country. Jeffrey Seman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, told AFP he feared preventive measures might fall in the spring (autumn in Brazil), when population displacement is set to increase again.
There are also mutations of the virus, already found in Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom, which have led to the tightening of restrictions on the movement of people from these countries. It is not known whether existing vaccines, developed in record time, will be effective against these more infectious variants.