The US reported more than 195,000 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, bringing the 7-day average of daily new cases to just over 215,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s changed only slightly from the number of newly infected on December 10, when the 7-day mean of daily new cases reached 212,000, suggesting that new cases may have flattened at a high daily mean.
But because hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 generally follow a week or two after new cases, the number of Americans hospitalized and dying from the virus has continued to increase.
According to the Covid Tracking Project, the US reported on Tuesday that 117,777 people had been hospitalized with Covid-19, the most since the start of the pandemic. In addition, 3,400 people were killed by the virus on Tuesday, the second highest number of Covid-19 deaths in a single day.
The nationwide data also somewhat masks how different states deal with the virus. States like California, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island are seeing massive spikes in new cases, while cases have receded in much of the Midwest since the recent spikes.
Whether the number of new daily cases will start declining nationally from here depends, as always, on the behavior of people – and how America’s power systems influence that behavior. Public health officials, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned people not to hold large, unmasked gatherings this Christmas and New Year.
“I want people to be more careful. I want them to limit travel as much as possible. And when you get together, try to do it with a limited number of people,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Tuesday.
“If we can do that now and get through this season, enjoy it as much as possible, but it won’t be like a normal Christmas season. Tunnel is the vaccine.”
Concerns about the British variant
Scientists advising the UK government estimate that this variant can be up to 70% more effective at spreading than other variants.
Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said on Monday that experts “are now very confident that this variant has a transmission advantage” over other variants.
The UK variant does not appear to cause more serious disease, and it appears that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will still be effective.
Has this species come to the US yet? Researchers studying it think it likely arrived in the US in mid-November and that many people in the US may already be infected.
“If I had to guess, I would say it’s probably hundreds of people by now,” said Michael Worobey, chief of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. “It is quite possible that he arrived several times in several places.”
Scientists have searched genetic sequences of the coronavirus in the US to see if they match the British variant. So far, they haven’t found any, but they say that’s probably because the US surveillance system isn’t catching them.
“It could be in the United States, and we may not have discovered it yet,” Deputy Secretary of Health Admiral Brett Giroir said Monday.
Dr. Fauci says Biden’s administration will be different
Dr. Fauci predicted that the incoming Biden administration will not send out “mixed signals” when it comes to communicating about the coronavirus pandemic.
“There will likely be a unified message rather than mixed signals,” Fauci told the FiveThirtyEight podcast, which aired Tuesday. “I think there will be more central guidance rather than leaving the states all alone and letting them do things the way they want to do it.”
Fauci, Biden’s president-elect, said he believes the biggest obstacle to Biden will be the “divisions” in American society.
“It’s a shame we’ve been plowed through a historic pandemic like nothing we’ve ever seen in 102 years, and it’s been done in the context of a major divide in society,” Fauci said. “I don’t think that will necessarily change immediately with the change in governance.”
Fauci was asked, based on how President Donald Trump handled the pandemic, how the president could have saved more lives.
“Obviously there have been some bumps in the road,” said Fauci. “But in general, especially when you look at the science and vaccine success, that’s huge. I mean, that’s something that’s really unprecedented.”
He also said that when it comes to fighting a pandemic, a nation can always improve their response.
Obviously, you always look back on your public health response and say, ‘Could you have done better? And the answer is, of course. ‘I think any country that looks back on their response will say they could have done better. “
Shelby Lin Erdman and CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.