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New, Daily Coronavirus Cases Drop Below 100K For First Time In Months

Scott Olson, Getty Images
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The average rate of confirmed coronavirus cases fell below 100,000 for the first time since Nov. 4, but health experts warn that highly infectious virus variants pose a serious risk to that downward trend.

For the first time since November, average new daily coronavirus infections in the U.S. fell under 100,000--well below the average infection rate in December and January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The seven day average of new infections dropped below 100,000 on Friday, continuing at that level through Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Researchers reported 83,321 new infections and 3,361 new deaths Sunday.

These figures are well below the average daily infection rate of 200,000 for December and nearly 250,000 in January.

Nevertheless, health experts warned the country has a long way to go before celebrating a turning point in the pandemic.

"We are still at around 1,500 to 3,500 deaths per day. The cases are more than two-and-a-half-fold times what we saw over the summer," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Meet the Press. "It's encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they're coming down from an extraordinarily high place."

New, highly infectious coronavirus variants from the UK and South Africa pose a serious risk to any progress in the U.S.

The U.S. has recorded more than 27.5 million virus cases and more than 484,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins data.

Reopening risks

Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, told NPR's Rob Stein that U.S. communities are using the falling COVID-19 cases to justify the reopening of businesses and easing of restrictions.

Nuzzo said, "But this is a really worrisome time to be doing that because we're so deeply worried about the potential spread of these variants."

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week that indoor dining in New York City can reopen at 25% capacity starting on Valentine's Day because of the downward trajectory of the city's coronavirus infections.

Cuomo said in his announcement, "As data on infection rates and hospitalizations continue to improve, we must begin taking steps to jumpstart our economic recovery as long as public health can be protected."

He also announced plans to allow limited capacity wedding receptions to resume March 15 with no more than 150 people at an event. New York City recorded its weekly average of confirmed coronavirus cases to be 21,483 for the previous seven days. The city recorded an average of 1,889 hospitalizations and 455 deaths per day.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte lifted the statewide mask mandate Friday that had been in place since July. Montana recorded 142 new cases Sunday.

Gianforte said providing incentives to residents and emphasizing personal responsibility would help keep people safe more than mandates would. Gianforte said that he would still wear a mask, however.

Gianforte said, "Since we're not out of the woods yet, I will continue wearing a mask and encourage all Montanans to do the same to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors."
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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