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If the U.S. COVID-19 epidemic were a marathon, the country might have made it to Mile 20. It’s been through a lot, and already, there are signs things are getting better. But there are building leg cramps that could make this last push, which isn’t actually all that short, really painful.
The two existing vaccines are reaching more people, and soon, the country will likely have a third, from Johnson & Johnson, that’s just one dose and comes with easier transport and storage requirements. Cases and hospitalizations have fallen precipitously since their peaks last month, and now deaths — which are a lagging indicator — have turned downward as well. That will ease the burden on health systems and offer a reprieve from what had for months been worsening infection and death data.
While the numbers are going in the right direction, they are still at once unimaginably high levels. Even on the best days, more than 1,300 people die of COVID-19 in the U.S., and many more than that die on many days, according to the COVID Tracking ProjectThe country just logged fewer than 100,000 new confirmed infections in a single day for the first time since early November; some days in January had more than 200,000 cases.