Amid a slow and uneven rollout of vaccines and increasing concern about new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the pandemic indicators we’ve been watching since March reveal that outbreaks are easing all over the country. For the second week in a row, new cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped nationally—17 percent for cases and 10 percent for hospitalizations—though cases and hospitalizations remain much higher than at any point before the fall/winter surge. Tests have also declined, which is not what we’d like to see—drops in tests may mean that more cases are being missed—but this decline follows two weeks of testing data that may have been artificially elevated by the resolution of holiday-reporting backlogs, so it’s difficult to interpret.
Reported deaths rose 7 percent this week, with states reporting a total of 22,797 lives lost to COVID-19. Deaths lag behind cases—both because it takes time to die of the coronavirus and because the reporting process for deaths is very slow. Even with cases falling across the United States, we may have another week or more of very high death numbers to come.
Residents and staff in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities are also seeing much-needed improvements. The week running January 15 to January 21 was the first time in four months that both new cases and new deaths in long-term-care facilities decreased at the same time without a holiday-reporting delay. Deaths among residents—who make up about 99 percent of COVID-19 deaths associated with LTC outbreaks to date—remain very high. States reported 5,883 COVID-19 deaths associated with long-term-care-facility outbreaks the week of January 15—about twice as many as were reported at the peak of the summer case surge. The data we publish about long-term-care facilities now include the CDC’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care vaccination data.