WASHINGTON: Deaths from COVID-19 in the United States fell for a third straight week last week, as cases and hospitalisations both showed steep drops.
The positive trends come as the US death toll from the pandemic hit 500,000, though health experts have warned about a possible resurgence in cases due to new and more contagious variants of the coronavirus.
Deaths linked to COVID-19 fell 37 per cent in the week ending Feb 21 to 13,636, according to a Reuters analysis of US state and county reports. Excluding a backlog of deaths reported by Ohio in the prior week, deaths on an adjusted basis fell 17 per cent.
The country reported more than 491,000 new cases last week, but that was down 23 per cent from the previous seven days. New cases have fallen for six straight weeks and are down 72 per cent from their peak in early January. Compared to the previous week, new cases rose in only seven out of 50 states.
However, with the country logging 70,000 new cases on average per day, residents may be wearing masks into 2022, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, told CNN last week.
"That's still very high level of virus in the community," he said.
The average number of COVID-19 patients in US hospitals fell 17 per cent to 61,400 last week, the lowest since mid-November, according to a Reuters analysis of data from the volunteer-run COVID Tracking Project.
Nationally, 5.3 per cent of COVID-19 tests came back positive for the virus, the lowest level since the week ending Oct 18, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. The positive test rate remained above 20 per cent in four states: South Dakota, Kansas, Alabama and Idaho.