Coronavirus Update: The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, but ‘the great end point’ is in site as nearly 120 million Americans are fully vaccinated

United States

“You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic” — if you are one of the 36% of Americans who are fully vaccinated, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The CDC said the fully vaccinated can also resume those activities, without wearing a mask and without social distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, territorial and local business and workplace guidance.

But it’s not over yet. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on NBC’s “Today Show” Friday when asked by Hoda Kotb, “Is it over?”:

“I am cautiously optimistic that we are seeing this great, great end point in sight, but I think we really do have to be humble and say that this virus, this pandemic has given us twists and turns so we can’t get our eye off the ball and we do have to continue to monitor really carefully.”

The new CDC guidelines were announced as new cases have been falling in the U.S., and as White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said the number of COVID-19 deaths have fallen to the lowest point since April 2020, as MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported.

And late Thursday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that people who are vaccinated can get that sense of a return to some form of normalcy.

“If you’re vaccinated, the data that’s accumulated now about the real-world effectiveness of the vaccine really makes the risk of getting infected extraordinarily low,” Fauci said. “And if you do get infected, the risk of getting any serious disease is even lower.”

But again, the sense of normalcy only applies to a minority of Americans, as the latest data from the CDC shows that 118.99 million people, or 35.8% of the U.S. population, have been fully vaccinated. For Americans 65 years and older, 39.29 million, or 71.8%, have been fully vaccinated.

In the U.S., being fully vaccinated means it has been two weeks since the second dose of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc. PFE, +0.10% and its German partner BioNTech SE BNTX, +7.33% and Moderna Inc. MRNA, +5.90% have been administered, or it’s been two weeks since receiving one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s JNJ, +0.36% vaccine.

At least 154.62 million Americans, or 46.6% of the population, have received at least one vaccine dose. And since the Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency-use authorization for Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine to include 12- to 15-year-olds earlier this week, about 2.5 million people 12 years old to 17 years old have received at least one dose.

The U.S. leads the world by far in the number of people fully vaccinated, as second-place Brazil has fully vaccinated 16.22 million people, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. But the U.S. is seventh in the world in the percentage of a country’s population who have been fully vaccinated; Seychelles is first at 61.9% and Israel is second at 56.3%.

Within the U.S., Connecticut is the state with the highest percentage of its population fully vaccinated at 42.5%, followed by Massachusetts at 41.8% and Maine at 41.2%. At the bottom of the list is Mississippi at 23.9%, then Alabama at 25.1% and Utah at 26.6%.

Johns Hopkins University & Medicine

There is still a fair amount of vaccine hesitancy across the U.S., as more than 72.5 million vaccine doses that have been delivered have not yet been administered.

Dr. Fauci tried to assure some of those people by saying the protection from the vaccine is “really quite substantial,” and works very well “at every level, at every age, under every circumstance.”

Meanwhile, the increase in vaccines has helped bring the number of U.S. cases and deaths down sharply in recent weeks.

The seven-day average of new daily cases was 35,496 as of Thursday, down 31% from the daily average two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker, while the average number of daily deaths has declined 11% to 622.

There are 41 states and Puerto Rico that have are seeing declining trends in cases in the past week, compared with 32 states and Puerto Rico last week, according to JHU data. The only two states that have seen new daily cases trend higher in the past week are Alabama and Mississippi, which coincidentally are the two states with the lowest percentage of population having been fully vaccinated.

“This country is not uniform,” the CDC’s Walensky said. “We still continue to take precautions if people are not vaccinated.”

And the World Health Organization (WHO) said that local conditions needed to be considered if a country plans to allow vaccinated people not to wear masks, as the Guardian reported.

The end of the pandemic may be in sight for Americans, but India continues to be a hot spot for the virus, although there are signs of some improvement.

There were 343,144 new cases in India on Friday, according to a Times of India tracker, down from 362,727 on Thursday. The 5-day average of new cases has declined to 350,079 on Friday from a high of 412,262 as of May 6. There were 4,000 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, down from 4,120 on Thursday.

WHO head Tedros Adhanom warned that the second year of the pandemic could be even more deadly than the first, and urged “rich” countries to reconsider plans to vaccinate children and instead donate vaccines to the Covax Gavi Advance Market Commitment, the WHO program set up to ensure vaccine equity, the Guardian reported.

Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness rose to 161.31 million on Friday, according to JHU data, while the death toll rose to 3.35 million.

The U.S. continues to lead the world in cases with 32.85 million, or 20.4% of the global total, and in deaths with 584,510, or 17.5% of the worldwide tally. 

India is second to the U.S. by cases at 24.05 million and third by fatalities, at 262,317.

Brazil is third with 15.43 million cases and second by fatalities at 430,417.

Mexico has the fourth-highest death toll at 219,901 and the 15th highest case tally at 2.38 million.

The U.K. has 4.46 million cases and 127,912 deaths, the fifth-highest in the world and highest in Europe.

China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 102,681 confirmed cases and 4,846 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.