The average number of daily Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. has fallen to the lowest point in more than a year, a fresh sign that vaccinations are lessening the worst effects of the pandemic.
The seven-day average for newly reported deaths fell to 432 on Thursday, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University. The figure hasn’t been this low since late March 2020, in the early days of the pandemic.
More than half of the U.S. adult population has reached full-vaccination status, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For those 65 and older, that figure stands at 75%.
The high rates of vaccinations among elderly people, who are most likely to die from Covid-19 infections, have helped push the number of deaths lower. And the steady decline in newly reported cases indicates that deaths, a lagging indicator, will continue to shrink.
Doctors say treatment protocols for Covid-19 patients have steadily improved, and may be saving lives. But the starkest benefit is likely the vaccine. Four out of every five Covid-19 deaths have been in people over 65, and that population is now significantly shielded by inoculations.
For people who aren’t vaccinated and get infected, drug treatments called monoclonal antibodies have helped patients recover faster and prevented them from developing severe cases, doctors say. In clinical trials, the drugs reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 70% in people with mild-to-moderate symptoms.
The actual count of recent deaths may actually be lower. There have been several incidents of states catching up with backlogs in reporting, which have inflated recent death counts. States sometimes don’t backdate these deaths to when they occurred.
Covid-19 also continues to rage in less-vaccinated parts of the world, indicating that, globally, the pandemic is far from over. High infection rates world-wide also create a continuing risk of new and dangerous Covid-19 variants.