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Hello. We bring you our latest report on the virus – and a recap of day two of the impeachment trial.
The number of new coronavirus cases continues to fall, as does the number of Americans hospitalized with symptoms. Deaths have also started to decline. And the number of daily vaccines has almost tripled in the past month.
It had been a long time since the news about the virus was as encouraging as it is now.
The general situation is still bad. The virus is spreading faster in the United States than in almost any other major country, and more than 2,500 Americans die every day. Newly contagious variants can create future epidemics. For now, however, things are improving – and a combination of vaccinations, mask wear and social distancing has the potential to support recent progress.
Here’s The Morning’s latest virus report, with the help of five charts – and with a focus on what will shape the next few weeks.
The recent drop in new virus cases is larger than any of the declines in the past year:
Since peaking on January 8 – linked to holiday gatherings – the number of new daily confirmed cases has fallen by almost 60%. The drop in actual cases is likely a bit smaller, as the volume of testing has also declined in recent weeks. Fewer tests lead to fewer reported cases.
But most of the decline in the graph above is real. We know this because the percentage of tests that came back positive also dropped sharply (to 7%, down from 14% on January 8). The number of people hospitalized with symptoms of Covid-19 is also decreasing:
More importantly, the deaths started to decrease:
And deaths are expected to decrease further. Trends in mortality typically lag behind trends in diagnosed cases by around three weeks – meaning the recent sharp drop in cases is only starting to affect the number of deaths. Over the next two weeks, the number of daily deaths is likely to fall below 2,000, Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health, predicts, and it could drop below 1,000 by next month.
We slowly build immunity
The main cause of this decline appears to be that a significant portion of the population now has at least some immunity to the virus. It also helps explain the global decline in newly diagnosed cases:
In the United States, around 110 million people have likely had the virus (including unconfirmed cases), researchers say. An additional 33 million received at least one vaccine injection.
Together, these two groups make up about 43% of all Americans, which appears to be enough to slow the spread. “While it’s difficult to know for sure,” Andrew Brouwer, a University of Michigan epidemiologist, told the Wall Street Journal, “we may be getting close to protecting the herd.”
However, this protection does not guarantee a continued decline in cases. Most Americans still haven’t had the virus.
The first thing to watch out for in the coming days is whether the Super Bowl parties have turned into mass-market events that have sparked new epidemics.
The next question will be whether the recent decline is causing Americans to become lax again, as happened last summer and last fall. New York, Massachusetts and other states have started lifting some restrictions, and many public experts fear politicians will go too far in that direction. Doing so in the coming weeks would be particularly dangerous due to the increasing spread of more contagious virus variants.
“These new contagious variants really increase the risk,” Apoorva Mandavilli, science reporter for The Times, told me. “The good news is we know what to do: wear a mask or maybe two, stay as far away from others as possible, meet people only outside or at least open the windows and wash often. hands.” Failure to follow this advice could be more damaging with variants than with the original version of the virus.
Adding to the risk is the possibility that some people who have previously had the virus remain vulnerable to reinfection of any of the variants. If that turns out to be the case – as early research suggests – vaccination will become even more important.
The American vaccination campaign got off to a bad start. The Trump administration has pledged to shoot 20 million people by the end of 2020 – and has hit less than three million. But the pace picked up in the final weeks of the administration, and the Biden administration accelerated it even further:
The bottom line: The pandemic is receding. What happens next will depend primarily on three factors: 1) how many Americans wear masks and remain socially distant; 2) how contagious the new variants are; and 3) how quickly vaccines – which have virtually eliminated the worst symptoms of Covid – get into people’s arms.
Other virus developments:
A morning reading: As states debate whether to reopen schools, a city district that has kept students in classrooms shows it can work – mostly.
From the review: Aliens are almost certainly there. Let’s look for them, says Farhad Manjoo.
Lives lived: Although an injury derailed her career before she could reach the Olympics, Dianne Durham became a trailblazer among black gymnasts by winning the 1983 national championship. She died at age 52.
Larry Flynt, the self-proclaimed pornographer and free speech champion, was a ninth grade dropout who built an empire of “adult” publications, strip clubs and shops around his sexually explicit magazine Hustler. Flynt died at 78.
Amazon dominates retail and is a growing force in streaming. But there is one big industry where its efforts have repeatedly failed: video games. Despite about a decade of investment, the company hasn’t made a single successful game, as Wired magazine and Bloomberg News recently documented.
Among the possible reasons: Amazon’s bureaucratic, data-driven approach hinders the creativity that game development demands. The original director of Amazon Game Studios was an executive who had never created a video game. (In contrast, Amazon Studios director Jennifer Salke had spent seven years at NBC.)
One of Amazon’s significant gaming successes so far has been its 2014 acquisition of Twitch, a popular live streaming platform that also provides a powerful marketing channel for Amazon products.
Nonetheless, the company’s efforts are a warning to other tech companies interested in the gaming market. “Successful video games are a combination of art, entertainment, technology and huge budgets,” Jason Schreier and Priya Anand write in Bloomberg. “Big tech companies only really understood the last two.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
The late night hosts got serious.
Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was scratch. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play it online.
Here are today’s mini-crosswords and a hint: Emmy or Grammy (five letters).
If you want to play more, find all of our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. – David
PS Jia Lynn Yang, associate national editor at The Times who previously covered business, politics and national security at the Washington Post, will become the next national editor of The Times.
You can see the first printed page of the day here.
Today’s episode of “The Daily” deals with abuse charges against the head of a network of homeless shelters. On the latest “Sway”, Fran Lebowitz talks about his resistance to technology.
Lalena Fisher, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can join the team at email@example.com.
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