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People line up for COVID-19 vaccinations at a clinic in California. Gina Ferazzi/Getty Images
  • New COVID-19 cases have plateaued at about 70,000 per day.
  • Experts say while those numbers have dropped significantly since early January, they’re still worrisomely high.
  • Vaccinations are helping ease the pandemic, but experts say the public still needs to adhere to safety protocols to avoid another surge in cases.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated regularly as new statistics are released.

After declining sharply during the past 6 weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States appears to have leveled off.

According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the daily case rate in the United States was about 70,000 per day last week.

The agency did report that there were about 50,000 new COVID-19 cases nationwide on Feb. 28 and March 1, the lowest daily levels since October.

Those numbers are also a fraction of the record 315,179 cases reported on Jan. 8.

However, after 2 weeks of declines of more than 20 percent, the number of new COVID-19 cases this past week nationwide fell by only 3 percent.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, expressed concern that the nation’s COVID-19 cases have plateaued at a level that’s equal to the height of last summer’s surge.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious expert at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, has the same worry.

“I share the concern about the plateau at 70,000 cases per day. This is much too high,” Schaffner told Healthline.

Overall, the United States has recorded more than 28.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Hospitalizations now stand at slightly under 46,000, down 13,000 from a week ago and a third of the 130,000 recorded in early January.

COVID-19-related deaths in the United States have now surpassed 516,000 with deaths still averaging 2,000 per day.

Experts do have concerns that the plunging numbers from the past 6 weeks are encouraging states to lift mask mandates and some communities to reopen businesses and public facilities too quickly.

“Some jurisdictions, including in my own state, are removing mask mandates and are relaxing social distancing guidelines,” Schaffner said.

“We have made this mistake before. The roller coaster of cases will start to rise again. We must continue to wear our masks and practice social distancing while we vaccinate intensively. We are not out of the woods yet, but we are getting closer,” he said.

Dr. Jamila Taylor, the director of healthcare reform and a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, urged the public to continue with safety protocols even with the predictions by some experts that the United States could reach herd immunity by late April.

“I think it is realistic if we continue to increase distribution of the vaccine, and do so equitably,” she told Healthline last week. “It is also important to continue driving the message that everyone distances themselves, wash their hands, and wear masks.”

This past week, 29 states reported increases in COVID-19 cases. That compares with 7 states the prior week.

The CDC reports that Texas recorded the most new cases in the past 7 days with 53,379, about 23,000 more than the previous week. The snowstorm that hit the state 2 weeks ago affected the numbers reported at that time.

Florida was second with 37,073 new cases, about the same as the prior week.

California was third with 32,467 new cases, about 8,000 fewer than the previous week.

New York was fourth with 24,290 cases, about the same as the previous week.

New Jersey was fifth with 23,387 new cases.

New Jersey had the highest rate of cases with 37 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 7 days.

Rhode Island was second with 35 cases per 100,000 residents, followed by Arkansas at 32 per 100,000 residents and New York at 31 per 100,000 residents.

There were 18 states that reported an increase this past week in COVID-19 deaths.

California recorded the most COVID-19 deaths the past 7 days with 2,856, about 600 more than the previous week.

Texas was second with 1,588 reported deaths, followed by Virginia with 1,285 deaths.

The CDC reports there have been more than 78 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered across the country.

More than 26 million of those doses were for people receiving their second shot.

California has administered the most doses at more than 9 million.

That’s followed by Texas at almost 6 million, Florida with more than 5 million, and New York with more than 4 million.

None of those states, however, are in the top 5 in terms of doses administered per 100,000 people:

Most vaccination doses per 100,000 residents
1. Alaska: 36,900
2. New Mexico: 34,409
3. South Dakota: 31,942
4. North Dakota: 31,342
5. West Virginia: 29,938
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The White House announced on March 2 that it will increase the weekly supply of vaccine doses delivered to states to more than 15 million, up from 14.5 million the previous week.

That will include 3 million doses distributed to local pharmacies.

The Biden administration also announced that Merck will help manufacture the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine to help that company meet production goals.

Both Schaffner and Taylor said the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine will have an impact.

“The J&J vaccine is a great addition,” Schaffner said. “A third vaccine manufacturer will now add millions more doses of vaccines.”

“J&J has two special advantages,” he said. “It is a single-dose vaccine — one and done. We can vaccinate people with half the effort. Also, it can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, so that will allow wider distribution of vaccine to remote areas as well as to pharmacies and doctors’ offices.”

“I think this is wonderful news,” Taylor added. “I am encouraged by the availability of this one-dose vaccine, which means that more people will be on track to become vaccinated in the coming weeks. I would like to see a continued focus on ensuring vaccine confidence and making shots available to those most vulnerable to COVID-19.”