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Covid cases occur in more than half of the US as the country races for vaccinations

Paramedics arrive at the emergency room at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, California with a patient with Covid-19.

Bing Guan | Bloomberg | Getty Images

New cases of Covid-19 rise again in more than half of the U.S. as officials battle to vaccinate more people before highly contagious variants spread across the country.

According to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day average of new cases in 27 states rose 5% or more on Sunday. In the US, the nation recorded an average of 54,308 new cases per day for the past week – a 1% increase from the previous week after months of rapidly declining case numbers.

Even as the US accelerates the pace of vaccinations, firing around 2.5 million shots a day, some health officials have warned the country that it remains in a precarious position. The lifting of restrictions in many states and the proliferation of more contagious varieties in the US threaten to reverse the nation’s progress. Since the peak earlier this year, cases, hospitalizations and deaths have decreased dramatically.

‘Serious Threat’

The lifting of restrictions is “a serious threat to the progress we have made,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters at a news conference on Monday. She said she was concerned about an inevitable surge in some cases. “We are at a critical point in this pandemic, a fork in the road.”

New deaths continue to fall daily, likely aided by prioritizing vaccination among the elderly and those with comorbid conditions who are most likely to die from Covid-19. About 68.8% of those over 65 received at least one vaccine on Sunday, according to the CDC. In total, more than 124.4 million doses have been given, but most of them are for two-dose vaccines.

With increasing optimism about the steady surge in vaccinations, many states have begun easing restrictions on businesses and gatherings, despite the CDC warning not to do so. Although some states, such as New Jersey, are beginning to consider delaying reopening further as cases increase.

The Chief Medical Officer of the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, last week urged states not to declare victory prematurely.

He said he was concerned about a number of states and cities withdrawing their public health measures and dropping mask mandates.

“So it’s unfortunate, but not surprising to me, that the number of cases per day is increasing in areas – cities, states, or regions – even though vaccines are being distributed in a pretty good range of 2 (million) to 3 million per day” said Fauci on Friday. “That could be overcome if certain areas prematurely withdraw the containment and public health measures we are all talking about.”

B.1.1.7 in Michigan

In addition to the urgency of having people vaccinated quickly, there is also the threat of new variants, which in large parts of Europe and other parts of the world have apparently already led to high voltage peaks. The CDC has forecast that the more contagious and potentially deadly variant B.1.1.7 discovered in the UK could become the dominant strain in the US by the end of the month.

Some health officials have said variant B.1.1.7 could be the cause of some particularly worrying bumps seen in several states, including Michigan, where cases have increased dramatically in recent days. According to Hopkins, Michigan reports an average of nearly 3,000 new cases per day, up about 50% from the previous week.

The rise in cases is due to the state allowing indoor restaurants to reopen on Feb. 1, pushing schools to offer face-to-face learning by March 1, and restaurant and gathering restrictions earlier this month has loosened. The recent surge there even prompted Fauci recently to ask Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer to “hold back” on the reopening.

In addition to easing restrictions, Michigan also has the second highest number of B.1.1.7 cases of any state in the country after Florida. The state has 616 cases of the variant, according to the CDC, although there are likely many more cases that have not yet been confirmed, meaning the tribe could be fueling the outbreak there.

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