In the midst of the devastating news that the United States has reached over 500,000 total coronavirus deaths, there might be a small piece of hope on the horizon. The New York Times reported a bit of good news on Monday, displaying data that shows coronavirus cases around the world are going down. Compared to a month ago, when “the pandemic looked bleak” and over 750,000 cases were counted around the globe in a single day, the current situation is more promising.
The Times reports, “New cases have declined to half their peak globally, driven largely by steady improvements in some of the same places that weathered devastating outbreaks this winter.”
The report notes that case numbers are not a perfect method of measurement due to “uneven records and testing” that can hide the extent of outbreaks, specifically in areas of Africa, Latin America and South Asia. However, fewer people are arriving at hospitals in many countries that have the highest numbers of infections, which is reportedly giving experts confidence that this decrease in case loads is real.
Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said,“It’s a great moment of optimism, but it’s also very fragile in a lot of ways…We see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s still a long tunnel.”
Many experts reportedly say that the reason for the slowdown of the outbreaks is not due to vaccinations, but rather may have come from other behaviors. The various factors that have contributed to the slowdowns might differ in different areas. “Public health experts in the worst-hit countries attribute the progress to some combination of increased adherence to social distancing and mask wearing, the seasonality of the virus and a build-up of natural immunity among groups with high rates of existing infection,” reports The New York Times.
Notably, each of the factors might not be enough individually. The Times reports that natural immunity is not believed to be strong enough alone to stop the epidemic. However, different factors working together could slow the spread of the virus.
The New York Times reports:
Although the United States did not impose a national lockdown, voluntary changes in behavior, along with some degree of immunity in hard-hit communities, may have helped prevent an even worse outcome after the holidays, said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University.
“During the winter, when things were getting really bad, I think people saw how bad things were getting in their community and made different choices,” Dr. Rivers said. “They canceled gatherings, they stayed home more, they reached for the mask, and those things really do help, put together, to reduce transmission.”
Experts attribute the decline in other countries to varying reasons, as well, noting that the decrease in South Africa had many causes, but the main one was the high intensity of last month’s infection rate. The British decline is believed to be due to the strict national lockdown imposed over the holidays.
While levels of infections are low, experts insist that it is important to keep the numbers down as people get vaccinated. They also believe that the vaccines will play a main role in keeping the infection numbers low, preventing hospitalizations and deaths and also lowering the possibility of future mutations if countries are able to get large amounts of their populations vaccinated. But they maintain that the next period will be vital to dodge another surge of infections.
“We have a small window of opportunity here to take advantage of the decreasing number of new infections,” said Bruno Ciancio, the head of disease surveillance at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. “We must continue with the public health measures in place and vaccinate as many people as possible.”
Monday marked a difficult milestone for the United States as President Biden took a moment to honor the people who have passed away from the coronavirus, as well as those who have lost loved ones.
“Today we mark a truly heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead,” Biden said during his remarks before a moment of silence. “That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth.”
While the loss of life is tragic and horrific, these decreasing numbers of infections around the world might demonstrate that Americans have future solid ground to grasp onto.
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