Cases of Covid in the US are on the rise again, reversing months of progress

A Covid-19 test site in Cape Coral, Florida.

Photographer: Zack Wittman / Bloomberg

Covid cases in the US are on the rise again, reversing course after months of decline and threatening another setback in the return to normalcy.

The seven-day average of new cases rose to 57,695 Wednesday, 9.5% more than the previous week, the largest increase since Jan. 12, according to Johns Hopkins University Data.

While that’s only a fraction of the mid-January peak, the change of course is worrying as states are breaking open their economies, several cases are multiplying and the country is racing to vaccinate as many people as possible to stave off another wave.

“We’re not at risk,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which produces influential Covid-19 projections. “We slow down and go in the wrong direction in many places.”

Revival in cases

Percent change from week to week in the 7-day mean of US cases

Source: data from Johns Hopkins University

The number of New York cases reported by Johns Hopkins this week seemed artificially inflated after the data lagged. But that had no significant impact on the national trend, which rises to about the same degree even without New York.

“This is not the time to give up. We have the goal in sight, we need more vaccines and we need more effective ways to get it out, ”said Isaac Weisfuse, a medical epidemiologist and adjunct professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “It’s really nothing short of a tragedy if someone gets infected and dies at this stage.”

A nearly 10% increase should prompt states to rethink plans to reopen and try to speed up vaccination, focusing on the hardest-hit neighborhoods, Weisfuse said. Growing pandemic fatigue among younger Americans, especially those traveling for spring break, is a major concern as they are less likely to get shots.

The US vaccinated 1 in 4 people, averaging about 2.5 million doses a day last week, said Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. That’s not enough to achieve herd immunity, and many public health experts fear that another surge could occur before the immunization push is at full blast. Texas, Tennessee and Alabama are among the slowest in the country, perhaps reflecting the hesitation among Republicans, especially men, about vaccines.