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CDC: COVID-19 cases, deaths projected to drop sharply in mid-July

CDC: COVID-19 cases, deaths projected to drop sharply in mid-July
© White House

New COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are expected to fall sharply by mid-July, according to new government data released Wednesday, so long as vaccinations continue apace and people follow basic public health precautions.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that even "moderate" reductions in precautions like physical distancing and masking could quickly undermine any vaccine-related gains.

"High vaccination rates and compliance with public health prevention measures are essential to control the COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent surges in hospitalizations and deaths in the coming months," the agency said.

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The agency tasked teams to develop six different models to track the potential course of COVID-19 in the United States in the next six months across different scenarios, each with varying degrees of vaccination coverage rates and different adherence to public health measures.

"The models forecasted some really good news, and an important reminder," CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health Care: Biden touts 300 million vaccine doses in 150 days | Biden warns of 'potentially deadlier' delta variant | Public option fades with little outcry from progressives Biden warns of 'potentially deadlier' delta variant, urges public to get vaccine Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE said during a White House briefing.

"In good news, the models projected a sharp decline in cases by July 2021, and an even faster decline if more people get vaccinated sooner," Walensky said. "The results remind us that we have the path out of this. And models, once projecting really grim news, now offer reasons to be quite hopeful for what the summer may bring."

But the good news comes with a caveat.

"Local conditions and emerging variants are putting many states at risk for increases in COVID-19 cases, especially if we do not increase the rate of vaccinations and if we do not keep our current mitigation strategies in place until we have a critical mass of people vaccinated," Walensky said. 

In all four scenarios, COVID-19 cases were projected to increase through May at the national level because of increased prevalence of the B.1.1.7 variant and decreased health mandates and compliance.

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A peak of 7,000 to 11,100 weekly deaths nationwide was also projected this month, before falling.

Under the most optimistic scenarios considered, with high vaccination rates and moderate mitigation measure compliance, new weekly national cases could drop below 50,000 by the end of July. 

Weekly hospitalizations were projected to drop to fewer than 1,000, and deaths could fall to a few hundred.

In the scenarios with low vaccination and low adherence to mitigation measures, weekly cases could number in the hundreds of thousands, with tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths.

"We need to keep vaccinating people, but we all need to keep practicing certain prevention interventions to help us get to the predicted good outcomes," Walensky said. "Although we are seeing progress in terms of decreased cases, hospitalizations and deaths, variants are a wild card that could reverse this progress we have made, and could set us back."

Decreased adherence to public health measures, in combination with increased transmissibility of some new variants, was projected to lead to surges in hospitalizations and deaths, the CDC found.

Still, cases, deaths and hospitalizations are continuing to fall. CDC reported just over 32,000 new infections as of Tuesday, Walensky said, and the seven day average is about 48,000 cases per day, down 12 percent from last week.

As a result, states have been moving to roll back or completely lift many coronavirus-related restrictions, like indoor capacity limits and mask mandates. 

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFormer Fla. Gov calls for an investigation into the state's 'outsized role' in the Jan. 6 riot The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Florida pardons residents fined or arrested for mask violations MORE (R) banned local jurisdictions from making their own public health measures.

The nationwide death toll is nearly 600,000 people. But close to 146 million people, more than 56 percent of all adults, have received one dose of vaccine, and almost 41 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.