The number of new Covid cases and deaths in the United States has been in a steady decline since early September, prompting many infectious disease experts to conclude that the worst impacts of the pandemic in America are probably in the past.
“My most optimistic assessment is that if we keep vaccinating, sometime during late fall, into the winter, the pandemic phase of Covid will be substantially reduced over much of the United States,” said William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
In early September, the seven-day average of daily new cases in the United States was 166,000, according to data compiled by the New York Times.
“We have highly effective vaccines – which, yes, the new [Delta variant] impacts, and we may need to get boosters to protect people who are vulnerable and high-risk – but we have made big strides compared to this time last year, going into colder weather, at least in the northern hemisphere,” said Nahid Bhadelia, director of Boston University’s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research.
Still, while new cases and deaths have declined across much of the US, there have still been surges in some states.
The other factor that complicates when people can stop worrying about the virus is the lack of a clear nationwide goal in terms of the number of cases, other than zero, said Justin Lessler, an epidemiology professor at the University of North Carolina.
For Lessler, the goal is one case per 100,000 people, because then the risk of hospitalizations due to the virus is relatively negligible and the chances of meeting someone who is infected will be extremely low, he said.
They will be reducing their risk [with a mask], but if you go to a congregant event, where there are lots of people indoors – particularly if they are excited and cheering – there will be some risk,” Schaffner said.
That has become the behavior in a lot of the world, and I think it would be nice if that was something we do” in the United States, said Lessler