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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - MOSCOW/WASHINGTON — The number of global new COVID-19 cases is decreasing, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement, according to Sputnik News Agency.
"For the fourth week in a row, the number of global new cases reported fell, with 3.1 million new cases last week, a 17% decline compared to the previous week," the WHO said.
"This is the lowest figure since the week of Oct. 26 (15 weeks ago)," it said. The WHO said that although there were still many countries with increasing numbers of cases, the tendency at the global level was encouraging.
"The number of new deaths reported also fell for a second week in a row, with 88,000 new deaths reported last week, a 10% decline as compared to the previous week. All WHO regions reported a decline in new cases, with five out of six regions reporting more than 10% decreases," the global health body said.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that COVID-19 cases continued to decline over the last four weeks, with the seven-day average down nearly 20% from the week before, meaning we may have passed the peak in the winter surge
The number of new cases are still "dramatically higher" than last summer's peak, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.
And while an Axios-Ipsos poll published Tuesday found that Americans' perception of risk from the coronavirus is the lowest it has been in months, experts say you definitely should not toss your mask away and jump on a plane to see your mom just yet.
But understanding what the rest of the year will bring depends on who you ask. Some experts are embracing optimism, and others are bracing for a storm. Many say it's too soon to know. All are concerned about the new variants. And they hope that you will do your part to keep the number of variants from growing.
"Despite the trends moving in the right direction, we remain in a very serious situation," Walensky said at a White House briefing on the coronavirus Monday. "COVID-19 continues to infect too many people."
Walensky warned that the spread of variants is "a threat that could reverse the recent positive trends we are seeing."
Viruses change as they spread, and with so many cases worldwide, the coronavirus has had a lot of opportunities. Some changes are harmless. Others make it more contagious.
That's what happened with the variant first detected in the UK. Its ability to transmit is such a concern that some experts like Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, describe the coming surge as a "hurricane."
This, he says, is the eye of the storm. Hotez told CNN Tuesday that the new variants first found in the UK, South Africa and Brazil can upend what currently appears to be positive trends.
"Everything is going in the right direction. The numbers are going down. We're starting to rev up in terms of vaccinations. Everything is looking really promising. Unfortunately, we have these spike variants that seem to be mounting and that really worries me," Hotez said.
Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm called the variant threat a "category five hurricane," and warns the country has not seen the end to new case records.
“The end of the beginning.” The dark winter is here and Americans see no end
"The surge that is likely to occur with this new variant from England is going to happen in the next six to 14 weeks," Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said on NBC's Meet the Press at the end of January.
"If we see that happen, which my 45 years in the trenches tells me we will, we are going to see something like we have not seen yet, in this country."
Even with vaccinations under way, more cases could bring more hospitalizations and deaths. And while it hasn't happened yet, experts worry the virus could mutate in such a way that tests, vaccines, and antibody treatments sensitive to the original coronavirus will stop working.
More research is needed, but so far, there are indications from vaccine and antibody treatment trials that they still work against the variants, although some may not work as well. Vaccine makers are already looking at ways to adapt them, if necessary.
Variants are one reason Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wants you to get vaccinated as soon as it is your turn.
"You need to get vaccinated when it becomes available as quickly and as expeditiously as possible," Fauci said in a news briefing with the White House COVID-19 response team.
"Viruses cannot mutate if they don't replicate. And if you stop their replication by vaccinating widely and not giving the virus an open playing field to continue to respond to the pressures that you put on it, you will not get mutations." — Agencies
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