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Approximately 498,254 Americans have died of COVID-19. According to data from a university study, approximately 91,000 more Americans are projected to lose their life to the virus by June 1. However, there’s some good news mixed in with the bad – here are the latest COVID-19 updates.
Case rates are declining
During Presidents Day weekend, COVID-19 cases in the United States fell to their lowest level in approximately four months, though there are still many cases in the United States. Additionally, daily reported deaths have declined sharply.
According to recent data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the current seven-day COVID-19 average number of cases is approximately 77,385. This number is a 68.9 percent decline compared to the highest seven-day average to date, which was 249,048 cases the week of January 11. Despite this progress, more wins in the battle against COVID-19 could be jeopardized by relaxing social distancing measures as COVID-19 variants spread.
Variants are spreading
Data collected by the CDC has shown that there are 1,523 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which originated in the United Kingdom, in 42 states. Additionally, reports have shown that there are 21 cases of the B.1.351 variant, which originated in South Africa, in 10 states. Florida, California, and Michigan have reported the most cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, while Maryland has reported the most cases of the B.1.351 variant.
The CDC has recently started tracking the P.1 variant, which was first detected in Brazil and Japan. There are five reported cases of the P.1 variant in four states. On February 21, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a Long Island resident in Nassau County has the first known case in New York of the B.1.351 variant.
Vaccines are still recommended
Research has shown that some vaccines lose some efficacy against COVID-19 variants. For example, one recent study showed that Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine had an estimated two-thirds drop in neutralization power against the B.1.351 variant. More research will be necessary to know exactly how well vaccines protect against COVID-19 variants.
In a February 19 briefing, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that two-dose COVID-19 vaccines will provide a large increase in antibodies, which are critical to fight the spread of COVID-19 virus variants. Two-dose vaccines creating more antibodies will lead to a decreased chance of COVID-19 infection rates and fight against the virus mutating further.
Other new mutations
On February 2, news emerged of a potential recombinant hybrid variant. The allegedly identified hybrid virus is a recombination of the B.1.1.7 variant and a B.1.429 variant that originated in California. This variant carries a mutation that renders the virus resistant to some antibodies.
If this recombinant is confirmed, it would be the first hybrid virus detected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recombination could lead to more transmissible variants, although the threats of recombination remain unclear. More research, in theory, needs to be done.