The United States is at a pivotal point in its efforts to combat the covid-19 pandemic. By the end of Tuesday, it’s expected that a majority of American adults will be fully vaccinated, and within days, a majority of all Americans will have gotten at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine. The accomplishment comes in the middle of a continued decline in daily cases, hospitalizations, and deaths attributed to the virus.
An anonymous White House official announced the milestone early this morning, the Guardian reported Tuesday. As of Monday, May 24, 49.8% of American adults had gotten fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker. Meanwhile, about 49.4% of all Americans have received at least one vaccine dose. That amounts to roughly 164 million Americans who are at least partially vaccinated, with 130 million fully vaccinated (either with a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines).
America’s successful vaccine rollout seems to have played a substantial role in driving down the pandemic locally, alongside other likely factors like high levels of preexisting disease-acquired immunity to the virus and warmer temperatures allowing for more outdoor activities. According to an analysis by Reuters published on Tuesday, the U.S. reported the lowest number of cases last week in nearly a year, following the initial spring 2020 peak of the pandemic. Hospitalizations and daily deaths have steadily fallen since mid-April, even in places that recently saw brief spikes in cases, such as Michigan. The positivity rate of new tests is also falling, indicating that the decline isn’t simply due to less testing and that the pandemic truly is grinding to a halt in the U.S.
Of course, this success has come after more than a year of failures. The U.S. remains the country with the most official covid-19 deaths to date, now approaching 590,000 American lives lost. Millions more have been hospitalized, and some survivors continue to experience long-term complications. Though the U.S. has done better than most countries in vaccinating its residents, there have been hurdles in providing access to some communities, while a sizable number of people remain reluctant to get vaccinated. And the U.S. and other wealthier countries have played a role in limiting the supply of vaccines to other countries, slowing down progress against the pandemic worldwide.
All of these caveats aside, it’s okay to feel a sense of relief. Cases are expected to keep declining for the foreseeable future, and though the vaccination rate has slowed as of late, millions of Americans are still getting the shot weekly. These vaccinations will not only protect people directly but should also prevent outbreaks from spiraling out of control, as they did often last year.
Things may never be quite the same, but at least there’s now the chance to start rebuilding.