Has the delta variant peaked? COVID-19 data gives glimmer of hope

Coronavirus

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — A recent report shows the number of new daily COVID-19 cases has risen less over the past week than at any other point since June, giving people hope that the latest surge has reached its peak and cases could soon drop.

“I think there’s a good sign that we’re starting to see some slowing in some areas across the country. We’re starting to see a little bit of plateau that maybe we’ll start to see the downward trend again,” said Dr. Susan Casey Bleasdale, the chief quality officer at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System.

This chart from the New York Times shows the daily average new COVID-19 cases in the United States.

In other parts of the world, we’ve seen new cases surging for roughly two months before they start to fall.

For instance, India reported 81,000 new cases April 1; the surge then peaked with about 380,000 new cases in May. By the end of June, it dropped back down to 48,000 cases.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily the similar reasons for how it’s happened in other countries, but I think that it’s just the pattern of the way the infection is spread,” Bleasdale said. “The peak comes after the transmission and after we kind of know what’s happening, and then people start using more precautions.”

She believes this recent plateau could be related to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updating its recommendations in July, saying fully vaccinated Americans who live in areas with “substantial and high” virus transmission should wear masks indoors.

“I think that it increased our safety measures that hopefully prevented further transmission and a higher peak,” Bleasdale said. “That may be why we’re starting to see some decline.”

Bleasdale does not believe we’ve moved on from the pandemic to endemic phase but says the virus “is with us for good.”

“Right now, we’re still seeing an increased number of hospitalizations that are putting a strain on our healthcare system,” Bleasdale said. “Hopefully, as we have more immunity through vaccination, over time, there will be less severe illness, and then there will be subtle changes in the virus that will cause some disease, but not the severe disease that’s leading to hospitalization and deaths.”

She also says we now know how to better manage viruses, by doing things like mask-wearing.

“We’re learning how to live with it, and we’re learning the things that we can do,” Bleasdale said. “Eventually, we’re going to get back to more normal activities.”

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