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Has the worst of the coronavirus peaked in the US?

Posted at 8:04 PM, Jan 21, 2021

Data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project show that in the last week, coronavirus deaths, hospitalizations and new cases have dipped after a rise in all three measures from late October through the beginning of the year. Does this mean the worst is behind us?

Experts say it's possible, but it all depends on the spread of mutations to the coronavirus that make the virus more transmissible.

In the last week, hospitalizations have dropped from a high of 131,326 to 122,700. Those figures still are overwhelming hospitals, but it is progress.

Speaking from the White House Briefing Room on Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned that it is too soon to claim the worst is behind us.

“You have to be careful that we may not be seeing perhaps an artifact, an artifact of the slowing down following the holidays,” Fauci said. “When we see that we think it's real, but one of the things, it's interesting, I'm sort of getting a Deja vu standing up here, because I said something like this almost a little less than a year ago when talking about the acceleration of cases in the late winter/early spring of 2020 when we were having New York City metropolitan area being the epicenter of what was going on, that there are always lags so be aware of that. That when you have cases and then a couple weeks later you see it represented in hospitalizations, intensive care and then a couple weeks later in deaths.”

Part of his concern, he said, is that there are mutations of the coronavirus which make the virus spread more easily.

“It looks like it increases the transmissibility,” Fauci said. “They say correctly on a one to one basis, it doesn't seem to make the virus more virulent or have a greater chance of making you seriously ill or killing where you. However, we shouldn't be lulled into complacency. If you have a virus it's more transmissible, you will get more cases.”

According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the daily number of coronavirus deaths is expected to peak next week in the US. From there, the number of coronavirus deaths is expected to decrease into the spring.

Dr. Ali Dr. Mokdad from the IHME said that it’s likely that coronavirus cases have peaked in the US, but, “If more transmissible variants spread in the coming weeks, the cases and death toll will substantially increase.”

Fauci stressed that it’s unknown how prevalent certain variants of the coronavirus are circulating among the public, and that more research will be needed to better understand.

Currently, there have been more than 3,000 coronavirus-related deaths reported per day in the US this month. The IHME model projects could peak at the end of January at around 3,700 coronavirus-related deaths per day.

By March 1, that number is expected to drop to 1,700 deaths per day. By April 1, the IHME projects 616 deaths per day, and by May 1, the last day the model extends to, the number is down to 202 deaths per day.