The White House COVID-19 response team will hold another briefing on Monday as hospitalizations and new cases continue to fall across the country.
According to the COVID Tracking Project, the seven-day rolling average of new cases of the virus has been falling steadily for the past three weeks. After peaking at a seven-day average of 246,000 new cases on Jan. 12, that average has fallen to about 145,000 — a still-high number that was not reached during the pandemic until November.
Hospitalizations linked to the virus across the country are also now under 100,000 for the first time since early December, a welcome sign for health care workers. However, hospitalizations still remain elevated at 95,000.
However, the White House briefing comes as the threat of new strains of COVID-19 loom.
A variant of the virus first detected in the United Kingdom is now confirmed to have been found in over half of all U.S. states. The U.K. strain has been confirmed to be more contagious than other forms of COIVD-19 according to the CDC, but it’s unclear if it’s more deadly or severe.
Last week, officials in South Carolina confirmed the first two cases of a strain of COVID-19 first detected in South Africa. While the CDC says that there is “no evidence to suggest that this variant has any impact on disease severity,” officials fear that the strain could also prove to be more contagious or less vulnerable to a vaccine.
On Friday, response team member Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the best way to protect the U.S. from the emerging strains was to ramp up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The virus will continue to mutate and will mutate to its own advantage,” Fauci said during a COVID-19 response team briefing Friday. “…if a virus can’t spread, it can’t mutate.”
The U.S. is continuing to increase its distribution efforts of COVID-19 vaccines. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. is currently distributing 1.3 million doses of the vaccine each day. Two weeks ago, the country distributing an average of 777,000 doses a day.
Last week, the Biden administration announced plans to purchase an additional 200 million doses of vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna, an order which the administration expects to be filled by summer.
In addition, Johnson & Johnson released promising results from its Phase III vaccine trial last week, meaning the drug is on track for FDA emergency approval by the end of the month.