2021-02-11 11:26:44 | Pandemic in Retreat – The New York Times

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Story by: David Leonhardt The New York Times World News

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The recent decline in new virus cases is larger than any of last year’s declines:

Most important, deaths have begun to decline:

And deaths are likely to decline more. The fatality trends typically trail behind the trends in diagnosed cases by about three weeks — which means the sharp recent drop in cases is only now starting to affect the death numbers. Over the next two weeks, the number of daily deaths will probably fall below 2,000, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, predicts, and it could drop below 1,000 by next month.

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The main cause of the decline appears to be that a significant share of people now have at least some immunity to the virus. That also helps explain the global decline in newly diagnosed cases:

In the U.S., about 110 million people have likely had the virus (including unconfirmed cases), researchers say. Another 33 million have received at least one vaccine shot.

Combined, these two groups make up about 43 percent of all Americans, which appears to be enough to slow the spread. “Though it is difficult to know for sure,” Andrew Brouwer, a University of Michigan epidemiologist, told The Wall Street Journal, “we may be approaching herd protection.”

Still, this protection does not ensure a continuing decline in cases. Most Americans still haven’t had the virus.

The first thing to watch in coming days is whether Super Bowl parties turned into superspreader events that have caused new outbreaks.

The next question will be whether the recent decline causes Americans to become lax again, as happened both last summer and fall. New York, Massachusetts and other states have begun lifting some restrictions, and many public experts are worried that politicians will go too far in this direction. Doing so in coming weeks would be especially dangerous because of the growing spread of more contagious virus variants.

“These contagious new variants really heighten the risk,” Apoorva Mandavilli, a Times science reporter, told me. “The good news is that we know what to do: Wear a mask or maybe two, stay as far from others as you can, meet people only outside or at least open the windows, and wash your hands often.” Failing to follow this advice could be more damaging with the variants than with the original version of the virus.

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Adding to the risk is the possibility that some people who have already had the virus remain vulnerable to reinfection from one of the variants. If that turns out to be the case — as early research suggests — vaccination will become even more important.

The U.S. vaccination campaign got off to a bad start. The Trump administration vowed to give shots to 20 million people by the end of 2020 — and reached fewer than three million. But the pace sped up in the administration’s final weeks, and the Biden administration has further accelerated it:

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Lives Lived: Though an injury derailed her career before she could reach the Olympics, Dianne Durham became a trailblazer among Black gymnasts by winning the 1983 national championship. She died at 52.

Larry Flynt, the pornographer and self-promoting free-speech champion, was a ninth-grade dropout who built an empire of publications, strip clubs and “adult” shops around his sexually explicit magazine Hustler. Flynt died at 78.

Amazon dominates retail and is a growing force in streaming. But there is one big industry where its efforts have repeatedly failed: video games. Despite about a decade of investments, the company hasn’t made a single hit game, as both Wired magazine and Bloomberg News have recently documented.

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Source References: The New York Times World News

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