U.S. COVID-19 deaths tumble to lowest level in 10 months

The latest:

COVID-19 deaths in the United States have tumbled to an average of around 600 per day — the lowest level in 10 months — with the number of lives lost dropping to single digits in well over half the states and hitting zero on some days.

Confirmed infections, meanwhile, have fallen to about 38,000 per day on average, their lowest mark since mid-September. While that is still cause for concern, they have plummeted 85 per cent from a peak of more than a quarter-million cases per day in early January.

The last time deaths were this low was early July, nearly a year ago. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. topped out in mid-January at an average of more than 3,400 a day, just a month into the biggest vaccination drive in the nation’s history.

Kansas reported no new deaths from Friday through Monday. In Massachusetts, the Boston Herald put a huge zero on Wednesday’s front page under the headline: “First time in nearly a year state has no new coronavirus deaths.”

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University, said that vaccinations have been crucial even as the nation struggles to reach herd immunity.

“The primary objective is to deny this virus the ability to kill at the rate that it could, and that has been achieved,” he said. “We have in effect tamed the virus.”

Nearly 45 per cent of the nation’s adults are fully vaccinated, and over 58 per cent have received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This week, Pfizer’s vaccine won authorization for use in 12- to 15-year-olds, in a move that could make it easier to reopen the nation’s schools.

Cooper Semrad, 15, is inoculated with Pfizer’s vaccine against COVID-19 by registered medical assistant Melissa Dalton, after Georgia authorized the vaccine for ages 12 years and up, in Decatur, Ga., earlier this week. (Chris Aluka Berry/Reuters)

The encouraging outlook stands in sharp contrast to the catastrophe unfolding in places like India and Brazil.

The overall U.S. death toll stands at about 583,000, and teams of experts consulted by the CDC projected in a report last week that new deaths and cases will fall sharply by the end of July and continue dropping after that.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

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As of 1:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 1,302,674 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 76,774 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 24,756.

Ontario on Wednesday reported 2,320 new cases of COVID-19 and 32 additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the hard-hit province stood at 1,673, the province reported, with 776 people in ICU due to COVID-related illness.

The update came a day after officials said Ontario is stopping the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine as a first dose against COVID-19 for now. The province’s top doctor said it’s because of an increase in a rare blood-clotting disorder linked to the shot.

In Quebec, health officials on Wednesday reported 745 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths.

Across the North, Nunavut was the first territory to report updated figures on Wednesday, saying there were eight new cases of COVID-19. Premier Joe Savikataaq said on Twitter there were “69 active cases in the territory — all in Iqaluit.” Health officials in the Northwest Territories and Yukon had not yet provided updates for the day.

In Atlantic Canada on Wednesday, New Brunswick reported nine new cases of COVID-19, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported 10.

The other provinces in the region — Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island — had not yet provided updates for the day.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba on Tuesday reported 329 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths. The update came a day before kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Brandon and Winnipeg were moving to remote education. The province is joining others in pausing AstraZeneca vaccines for now. 

Manitoba has opened COVID-19 vaccination appointments to everyone aged 18 and up. Health officials say supplies have been increasing steadily and everyone aged 12 and up should be eligible to get a first dose in the first half of June.

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Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 186 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths.

Alberta on Tuesday reported 1,449 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths linked to the virus. There were 705 people in hospital due to COVID-19, with 163 in intensive care. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, confirmed the province won’t give out more first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the time being.

“Based on global supply challenges, we do not know when Canada, and in turn Alberta, will receive additional doses,” she said.

British Columbia on Tuesday reported 515 new COVID-19 cases, continuing a downward trend at the same time that vaccinations are on the rise. The province also reported two additional deaths.

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 11:30 a.m. ET

What’s happening around the world

Intensive care unit nurses gather in front of the French Health Ministry in Paris earlier this week during a national strike to demand salary increases and better recognition of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

As of early Wednesday afternoon, more than 159.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tool from Johns Hopkins University that tracks cases. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.3 million.

A new global system should be set up to respond faster to disease outbreaks, which could ensure that no future virus causes a pandemic as devastating as COVID-19, an independent World Health Organization review panel said on Wednesday.

In the Asia-Pacific region, India’s coronavirus deaths crossed a quarter million on Wednesday in the deadliest 24 hours since the pandemic began, as the disease rampaged through the countryside, overloading a fragile rural health-care system.

A grieving relative of a COVID-19 victim is consoled by another at a crematorium in Jammu, India, on Wednesday. (Channi Anand/The Associated Press)

Boosted by highly infectious variants, the second wave erupted in February to inundate hospitals and medical staff, as well as crematoriums and mortuaries. Experts are still unable to say with certainty when the figures will peak and have cautioned that case and death numbers could be significantly higher than reported.

In the Americas, Mexico plans to start a late-stage clinical trial this month for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by China using similar technology to shots from Moderna and Pfizer, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said.

In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says a public inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic will be held next year. He told lawmakers Wednesday the inquiry will have wide-ranging statutory powers, and the government has a responsibility to learn lessons from the pandemic. 

Pope Francis receives a drawing from a child as he arrives for the weekly general audience while COVID-19 restrictions are eased at the Vatican on Wednesday. (Remo Casilli/Reuters)

Pope Francis returned to doing audiences with the faithful in person on Wednesday after a nearly six-month interruption due to COVID-19.

In the Middle East, Kuwait has suspended flights, and barred entry to travellers, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka until further notice, state news agency KUNA said.

In Africa, South Africa on Tuesday reported 1,548 new cases, bringing the total number of reported cases to nearly 1.6 million.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 12:35 p.m. ET

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