COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been slowly dropping since peaking several weeks ago, with the average falling below 100,000 Friday for the first time since Nov. 4 and staying under that figure Saturday.
That’s still more than one new case every second, but it’s less than half the rate the country was reporting in January.
The number of known coronavirus variant cases, however, is surging. The vast majority are of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the U.K. and has run rampant there. The CDC has said it may become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March.
U.K. government scientific advisers said Friday the variant may be up to 70% more deadly than previous variants, underscoring concerns about how mutations may change the characteristics of the disease.
On Sunday, the U.S. reported 1,193 cases of coronavirus variants that can spread more easily, dodge some treatments and immunities, or both. It’s nearly 200 cases more than were reported Thursday night, and the number has nearly doubled since Feb. 4.
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In the headlines:
►In a pre-published study posted Sunday, a team of researchers from around the U.S. reported seven variants of COVID-19 in different states.
►California on Sunday reported the lowest number of hospitalizations since Dec. 1, according to the California Department of Public Health. The state’s death toll, however, remains persistently high.
►Both New York’s daily and seven-day average case rates stayed below 4% on Sunday for the second day in a row, per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
►Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has extended coronavirus restrictions through mid-March in Hawaii’s most populous city, but said that could change if confirmed cases remain low.
►New Zealand’s largest city went into lockdown for at least three days Sunday and police set up checkpoints at eight locations at Auckland’s border. The crackdown comes after three family members tested positive. The entire nation of about 5 million people has fewer than 50 known cases currently.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 27.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 485,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 108.7 million cases and 2.39 million deaths. More than 70 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 52.8 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: The life cycle of a COVID-19 vaccine, from DNA to doses, is a complicated, months-long process. Here’s how Pfizer does it.
Variant cases surge in US, including new reports in Maine, Illinois, Texas
COVID-19 variants continue to infiltrate the U.S.: The B.1.1.7 variant first seen in the United Kingdom has been reported for the first time in Maine, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C., while the B.1.351 variant first seen in South Africa has now been reported in Illinois, Texas and D.C.
The B.1.1.7 variant is spreading rapidly. Michigan had been reporting 29 cases since Feb. 4; on Sunday night, it reported another 32 cases, more than doubling its load. Florida also reported 32 new cases, bringing its total to 379, or about a third of the nation’s. California reported 27 new cases, bringing its total to 186. Colorado added 26 cases to reach 67; Massachusetts added 19 cases to nearly triple its reported tally, to 29. Texas added 14 cases to reach 49.
There are now 1,173 known cases of B.1.1.7, which the Centers for Disease Control had said could become the country’s predominate strain in March. The rapid spread of variants is happening even as all coronavirus case counts are being reported half as quickly as they were last month.
– Mike Stucka
New Orleans gets tough with Mardi Gras celebrations
New Orleans is tamping down its annual Mardi Gras celebrations this week and health officials in other cities are warning would-be revelers to do the same amid a spike in coronavirus variant cases across the nation.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered bars closed during the Mardi Gras weekend that started Friday and runs through Tuesday. Parades are canceled and there are limits on gatherings.
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the annual pre-Lenten bash celebrated along much of the Gulf Coast. Last year’s revelry is believed to have contributed to an early surge that made Louisiana a coronavirus hot spot.
Navy reports fourth COVID-19 death
The U.S. Navy on Friday reported the fourth death of an active-duty sailor from COVID-19 complications.
Aviation Support Equipment Technician 1st Class Marcglenn L. Orcullo, 42, had been assigned to a naval warship before being hospitalized on Jan. 17.
“We offer our condolences and join the sailor’s family, friends and shipmates in mourning the loss of this sailor. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time,” the Navy said in a statement.
Contributing: The Associated Press