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While many people are social distancing and self-quarantining during the novel coronavirus outbreak, some people are wondering when there will be a vaccine. And while many people in the United States want things to go back to normal, some are acting like the pandemic is over. If this contrast has you confused, here is some current information about the COVID-19 pandemic and a potential vaccine.
National daily infection rates
According to data published by John Hopkins University, approximately 27,000 new coronavirus cases were reported on Monday, the lowest number of daily confirmed cases since the beginning of summer. The last time the U.S. recorded less than 30,000 cases was in late June. The new data also shows that the number of daily deaths due to COVID-19 is the lowest recorded since early July. Then, the U.S. was averaging more than 60,000 coronavirus cases per day and peaked at more than 77,000 cases reported in a single day on July 17.
Which states are seeing increasing case rates?
Last week, some midwestern states such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, and Minnesota experienced more cases within a seven-day period than in any previous week of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a database, those particular states have reported 19,133 new cases since the end of August.
Despite those five states comprising only four percent of the U.S. population, their new cases account for about six percent of national coronavirus cases. Some of the most significant surges in new case numbers have been in college towns with students who have returned to school (and many college campuses have closed as a result).
North and South Dakota, which previously experienced fewer cases than in other parts of the country, have recently broken single-day case records. Grand Forks, home to the University of North Dakota, has one of the country’s highest per capita growth rates, with 332 positive cases per million people.
An annual motorcycle rally last month in South Dakota may also be linked to the increase in COVID-19 cases. From August 7 to 16, approximately 350,000 people from around the U.S. congregated to the small city of Sturgis, South Dakota for the town’s annual motorcycle rally. Research estimates that more than 260,000 cases diagnosed in the U.S. since August 2 can be traced to the rally.
What do experts expect to happen with case rates in the fall and winter?
Infectious-disease experts have warned of colder weather leading to an increase in cases. Many fear another wave of infections and deaths, possibly at a more significant scale. Researchers have predicted the surge would come weeks after Election Day on November 3.
Respiratory viruses usually begin spreading more easily several weeks after schools reopen. Although many school districts have switched to remote learning to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus further, a significant portion of the U.S. wants schools and other institutions to return to their pre-pandemic forms.
Viruses tend to spread more easily in cooler, less humid weather, which allows them to remain viable longer. Additionally, people tend to stay indoors more when the weather gets colder, making an increase in COVID-19 more possible due to the higher susceptibility of contracting the virus indoors.
When will a vaccine be available?
Various pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop a vaccine, and nine companies are currently conducting clinical trials. One group of scientists paused its Phase 3 trial on September 8 after a volunteer developed an unexplained illness due to the experimental vaccine.
In earlier, smaller trials, none of the various candidate vaccines led to serious reactions. That might be because, sometimes, illnesses will happen by chance in larger clinical trials and must be reviewed independently before proceeding. The Phase 3 interruption represents the first major setback in the worldwide quick race to get a vaccine.
Billions of people around the world are still suffering from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the global death toll is nearing 900,000. Against this backdrop, the race to find a vaccine is as strong as ever.