US COVID-19 cases drop 15% in past week

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University of Minnesota

The 7-day average of new COVID-19 cases dropped in the United States by 15% this week, to 106,400 cases per day, according to Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Walensky, during a White House press briefing, said hospitalizations also dropped to 8,300 per day (also a 15% decrease), and deaths remained at 1,476 per day, on average. Yesterday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, the country confirmed 110,060 cases, including 2,718 deaths.

“Deaths remain substantially higher in states with low vaccination coverage,” Walensky said, urging the 70 million Americans who have yet to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to do it as soon as possible.

The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows that 55.6% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 64.6% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 2.2% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose.

Vaccine uptake slows

American officials have long said their goal was to vaccinate the country out of the pandemic, but vaccine uptake has slowed significantly in recent weeks.

A USA Today analysis of CDC data shows that Americans are getting vaccinated at the lowest rate yet this year. The United States is giving first-dose vaccinations to fewer than 1.5 million people each week, down from nearly 14 million in mid-April.

And despite being authorized for use in children ages 12 and up, only 48% of parents of children ages 12 to 17 say their child has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 34% of parents of children ages 5 to 11 say they will vaccinate their child right away once a vaccine is authorized for that age group. Those responses come from the latest survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Merck says antiviral halves risk of death

Merck announced this morning that an interim analysis of phase 3 trial results showed that molnupiravir, its investigational oral antiviral, reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 50% in adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. Merck said it plans to submit an application for emergency use authorization as soon as possible.

“We are optimistic that molnupiravir can become an important medicine as part of the global effort to fight the pandemic and will add to Merck’s unique legacy of bringing forward breakthroughs in infectious diseases when they are needed most,” said Robert M. Davis, CEO and president, in a Merck press release.

“We will continue to work with regulatory agencies on our applications and do everything we can to bring molnupiravir to patients as quickly as possible.”

In anticipation of approval, Merck expects to produce 10 million courses of treatment by the end of 2021.

Schools remain in pandemic crosshairs

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 23% of parents of school-aged children said their child had been sent home to quarantine after a school-based exposure to COVID-19 so far this year.

But the school-based mitigation measures, including mask mandates and vaccine requirements, used to keep in-person instruction in place continue to be caught in the political crosshairs across the country.

A group of New York City teachers yesterday asked the Supreme Court to block an order requiring them to have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine before returning to classrooms, NBC News reports.

The same day, the National School Board Association asked President Joe Biden for federal assistance to investigate and stop threats over mask mandates and other policies, the Associated Press reports.

Global COVID-19 headlines

  • In England, COVID-19 infections rose slightly last week, with the positive rate rising in school children, especially secondary students, the Office for National Statistics said today in a weekly update. The country’s primary and secondary schools have been open for about a month.
  • In Asia, where some COVID-19 hot spots remain, South Korea extended its distancing measures another 2 weeks amid another spike of infections in Seoul, according to Reuters. The country’s cases started rising recently following the return of people who traveled for the Chuseok (autumn harvest) festival. Also, Singapore today recorded a new record daily high, with 2,909 new cases. The country’s latest rise follows relaxation of restrictions, which officials have since tightened.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) signaled that it and its partners will tweak vaccine distribution of COVID-19 vaccine through COVAX to emphasize countries with the lowest coverage levels, as opposed to sending doses based on a more proportional method that focuses on population size, according to Reuters. Some countries that are part of COVAX have made bilateral deals with vaccine companies. COVAX projects that 75 million doses will be distributed in October.
  • The global total today rose to 234,023,858 cases, and 4,788,096 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

CIDRAP News Editor Lisa Schnirring contributed to this story.