March 23, 2021: New cases of Covid-19 are once again on the rise across more than half of the United States as officials race to vaccinate additional people before highly contagious variants become prevalent in the country.
As of Sunday, the seven-day average of new cases rose by 5% or more in 27 states, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. According to the data, all around the U.S., an average of 54,308 new cases per day over the past week.
Even as the U.S. picks up the pace of vaccinations, giving about 2.5 million shots every day, some health officials have warned the country remains in a precarious spot. The lifting of restrictions in many states and the spread of more contagious variants in the U.S. threaten to undo the nation’s progress, which has seen cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all fall dramatically since the peak earlier this year.
Lifting restrictions is a “serious threat to the progress we have made,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters at a news briefing Monday. Walensky said she’s worried about an unavoidable surge in cases. “We are at a critical point in this pandemic, a fork in the road.”
Daily new deaths continue to fall, likely helped by the prioritization for vaccination of the elderly and those with comorbid conditions who are most likely to die of Covid-19. According to the CDC, 68.8% of 65 and older have received at least one shot of a vaccine as of Sunday. In total, more than 124.4 million doses have been administered, but most of those are for two-dose vaccines.
As optimism around the steady rise in vaccinations picks up, many states have begun to ease restrictions on businesses and gatherings, despite warnings from the CDC not to do so. Some states, such as New Jersey, are beginning to consider holding off on further reopening as cases start to rise.
White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci urged states last week not to declare victory prematurely.
Fauci said he was concerned about several states and cities that we’re pulling back on public health measures and dropping mask mandates.