Daily COVID-19 cases across the country are declining, with the seven-day average hovering just above 60,000. It’s a fraction of the average number of infections the U.S. recorded during the height of the Delta variant surge a few months ago, and less than a quarter of the number of daily cases during last winter’s deadly wave when the seven-day case average peaked above 250,000.
But despite the encouraging downward trend, it’s important to stay vigilant, Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center Medical director, told Yahoo Finance Live.
“The threat of COVID is not done. I think people should remain cautious. Our trends are promising but we know promising trends don’t continue forever,” Weston said. “We also know our vaccination rate isn’t anywhere near as high as it needs to be to keep that burden of disease low so COVID is not done. The threat of COVID is not done.”
Total vaccine doses administered per day has leveled off in recent weeks after rising in mid-September following President Biden’s announcement of vaccine mandates. About 220 million people, or 66% of the total U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, just 3 million more than two weeks ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of Friday, about 57% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated.
But there’s hope that expanding eligibility will boost vaccinations. Earlier this week, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel endorsed emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, with 17 members voting in favor and one abstention. The vote is viewed as a critical step towards getting children within that age group vaccinated, which could come as early as next week.
The race to ramp up vaccinations comes at a critical time as Americans in northern states brace for cold temperatures and as new variants emerge internationally, posing a threat of potential future waves.
“We will see more cases. We will probably see more variants, potentially worse than Delta, so we need to remain cautious,” urged Weston. “Continuing to vaccinate as many people as possible and then also continuing to hammer home the importance of mitigation strategies — masking indoors, distancing, until we can get a large, large portion of our population vaccinated and drive down the burden of disease.”
“We can celebrate our wins, celebrate that the trends are moving in a good direction, but we need to remain vigilant,” Weston added.
Seana Smith anchors Yahoo Finance Live’s 3-5 p.m. ET program. Follow her on Twitter @SeanaNSmith