COVID-19 tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)
Total U.S. confirmed cases: 81,106,584 (81,045,532)
Total U.S. deaths: 992,009 (991,629)
Total global cases: 511,142,131 (510,331,384)
Total global deaths: 6,226,008 (6,221,415)
Fauci says pandemic is over
Dr. Antony Fauci, the Biden administration’s top medical adviser, says the U.S. is “out of the pandemic phase” when it comes to COVID-19. He made the comments in an interview with PBS.
“Namely, we don't have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths,” Fauci said. “We are at a low level right now.”
However, Fauci predicted that the U.S. would not eradicate the virus that has killed nearly 1 million people in the U.S. since 2020. He said the U.S. could keep cases at a very low level and intermittently vaccinate the population. “That might be every year, that might be longer, in order to keep that level low,” Fauci said.
More than half of U.S. population may have had COVID-19
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may provide a clue as to why there is a lower number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. The report suggests that 58% of the U.S. population has already had the virus and, thus, has built up some immunity.
Many of the cases were likely caused by the Omicron variants. The CDC report found that the estimate of the percentage of the population that had been infected rose from 34% in December to 58% in February.
“We do believe that there is a lot of protection in the community both from vaccination, as well as from boosting and from prior infection,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
How good are rapid tests at detecting Omicron variants?
With state after state shutting down mass testing centers, a growing number of COVID-19 tests are now administered at home using over-the-counter rapid tests. But just how effective are these tests at detecting the highly-transmissible strains?
According to NPR, there is no evidence that these tests are any less effective at detecting the Omicron variant and its subvariants. However, the tests might take longer to yield a positive result.
"There's usually a day or two delay between when you might test positive on a PCR versus when you might test positive on one of these at-home rapid antigen tests," Dr. Celine Gounder, a senior fellow and editor-at-large for public health at Kaiser Health News, told the network. "But they do work to pick up an infection, and they should be used frequently."
Around the nation
Massachusetts: State health officials point to fresh data as evidence of how easily the Omicron variant and its subvariants spread. They report that more than 52% of the residents of the state were infected from the Omicron surge that began in December.
Illinois: New cases of the coronavirus are rising across the state. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state averaged 3,136 new cases per day over the last seven days. That represents an increase of 43.1% in the last week.
Texas: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke has announced that he tested positive for the coronavirus this week. The candidate said he tests regularly for the virus. “I tested negative yesterday morning before testing positive today. I have mild symptoms and will be following public health guidelines.”
Virginia: All areas of the state now meet the criteria for “medium risk” of COVID-19. As a result, no localities within Virginia mandate masks for indoor public spaces. The Virginia Department of Health reports that new cases dropped 28% last week and that 73.1% of Virginians are fully vaccinated.
Oklahoma: In a briefing with the media on Tuesday, Dr. Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma’s chief COVID officer, said cases of the virus are “relatively low” across the state. However, he expects an increase to occur because of the fast-spreading Omicron subvariants. But as in other states, he says Oklahoma is not seeing a rise in severe cases that require hospitalization.