Why are coronavirus cases going down so quickly?

Masked teacher posing with her coronavirus vaccine card
Photo via Phil Roeder/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are seeing a sharp decline. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has experienced a 29% drop in new infections, a massive change from projections for the month of February. The reason why coronavirus cases are going down can be attributed to several factors, according to experts. 

The gradually warming weather deserves some credit for the fall in cases, as do broadened vaccine efforts and an overall shift in behavior and attitude. More people are wearing masks and socially distancing, both of which has certainly contributed to the far more promising numbers. 

The harsh winter weather experienced by Texas and several other southern states is also a partial factor, as testing centers were closed across the state for much of the week. Experts say that the majority of credit belongs to Americans themselves, however, and the adjustments they’ve made in their day-to-day lives during the last two months. 

“If I were ranking explanations for the decline in COVID-19, behavior would be No. 1,” University of Washington global health professor Ali Mokdad told the Atlantic. “If you look at mobility data the week after Thanksgiving and Christmas, activity went down.”

An abrupt spike in cases closely followed the 2020 holiday season. Experts urged Americans to stay indoors and to avoid any unnecessary socializing. We’ve seen this shift in behavior before, however, leading scientists to advise Americans not to become complacent. Just because we are doing better now doesn’t mean cases won’t rise again. 

The warmer weather is also a likely factor in coronavirus cases going down. While former President Donald Trump’s claim from early 2020 that the virus would “disappear” with the summer months was inaccurate, it had the roots of truth to it. Viruses like COVID-19 thrive in cold weather, and they tend to diminish as a threat in warmer months. 

There is also the matter of steadily increasing the number of inoculated Americans. More than 64 million doses have been administered thus far in the pandemic, gradually decreasing the number of available bodies COVID-19 can infect. These vaccinated individuals, combined with those that have built up antibodies through recovering from a bout of COVID-19, drastically decrease the virus’ ability to spread with the same speed it did last spring.

Still, coronavirus cases are going down, and no matter the reason why, that’s good news.

“It was 10 days ago and it was a shift that I did in the emergency department. That was the first time in probably two months that I didn’t feel like virtually every other patient that I was going in to see either had COVID, or I was worried had COVID,” Dr. Christopher Colwell, the chief of the emergency department at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, told ABC7 in February.

“Just this past week, there was a shift where we had three and prior to that it was even less than that. It has been really a dramatic decrease in the number of patients we are seeing in the emergency department.”

Sources: The Atlantic, CNN, Johns Hopkins, NPR, ABC7

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