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After weeks of steady decline, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are creeping back up. The U.S. is seeing, on average, 63,000 new coronavirus infections each day — about the same amount recorded in mid-July during the summer surge, or second wave. And an increasing number of Americans are being admitted to hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.
While the climb in cases and hospitalizations may feel like déjà vu, health experts are hopeful that this “fourth wave” will be different from previous peaks in the pandemic.
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The main reason: The vaccines, which so far have proved highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illness, are making their way into millions of arms each day. “And that is likely to have an impact in terms of keeping hospitalizations and deaths under better control than previously,” says Shama Cash-Goldwasser, M.D., an infectious disease physician and a senior technical adviser in the Epidemic Intelligence Unit at Resolve to Save Lives.
Both hospitalizations and deaths saw the greatest swell in mid-January during the so-called third wave, when roughly 4,000 people died from COVID-19 each day. The current average hovers around 700 daily deaths, and experts expect to see that tally decline as more Americans get vaccinated.