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The U.S. appears to be narrowly beating COVID-19, but there’s good news and bad

«There’s a race on, between the virus and vaccinations,» and «the stakes are high,» Politico proposes. If the coronavirus wins, «the pandemic could stretch on for another year or more. If the vaccinations win (and everything else goes right), then the end of the pandemic could come as soon as this fall.» Right now, Politico says, COVID-19 and its vaccine are «neck and neck.» Good news: New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are dropping nationwide. The U.S. is currently averaging 139,000 new cases a day, «a 16 percent improvement over last week, which was a 16 percent improvement over the week before,» Axios reports. Cases are falling in 42 states and holding steady in the other eight. Our daily update is published. States reported 1.4 million tests, 117k cases, 91,440 currently hospitalized, and 3,685 deaths. pic.twitter.com/UcCMgGWrLn — The COVID Tracking Project (@COVID19Tracking) February 4, 2021 The U.S. is averaging more than 1.3 million vaccinations a day, and more Americans have been inoculated — 27.5 million — than were ever infected, 26.6 million. Globally, 104.9 million vaccine doses have been administered and 104.1 million total cases reported, Reuters reports. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccine supplies are increasing faster than expected in the U.S., and «hundreds of millions of additional vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and Novavax could further expand supply by summer, The New York Times reports. «All of the vaccines have shown excellent protection against the severe form of COVID-19 that leads to hospitalization and death.» Bad news: The U.S. surpassed 450,000 deaths on Wednesday, and since Jan. 1, one American has died every 27 seconds from COVID-19, the Times’ Mike Baker notes. Cases have fallen to about the level the U.S. was at right before Thanksgiving, but they’re still nearly twice as high as last summer’s peak. New, more contagious variants are spreading around the world, and «the more the virus circulates in the U.S., the more likely that a new variant emerges that can evade a vaccine’s defenses,» Politico reports. If vaccinations don’t pick up, «there is a chance that the race between the vaccine and virus never ends, with researchers reformulating vaccines and distributing boosters on a regular basis to keep ahead of mutations.» «The big picture,» Axios says, is that «the U.S. still has a ton of coronavirus, and there’s still the potential for dark days ahead. But this is progress, and the improvement is significant. If this trend keeps going, the country will be in a far better and safer position as vaccines continue to roll out.» More stories from theweek.com5 scathing cartoons about the GOP’s Marjorie Taylor Greene problemKenyan woman finds a way to recycle plastic waste into bricks that are stronger than concretePro-worker Republicans go missing

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