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U.S. virus toll projected to drop by end of July

NEW YORK (AP) — Health experts are projecting the coronavirus toll in the U.S. will wane dramatically by the end of July.

That’s according to research released by the government Wednesday. But health experts also warn a “substantial increase” in hospitalizations and deaths is possible if unvaccinated people don’t follow basic public health guidelines, such as wearing a mask and social distancing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paper included projections from six different research groups.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky notes the variants of the coronavirus are a “wild card” that could set back progress.

More than 56% of the nation’s adults, or close to 146 million people, have received at one dose of vaccine, and almost 41% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

The CDC is currently reporting an average of about 350,000 new cases each week, 35,000 hospitalizations and more than 4,000 deaths.

The U.S. death toll stands at more than 578,000. A closely watched projection from the University of Washington shows the curve largely flattening out in the coming months, with the toll reaching about 599,000 by Aug. 1.

Biden aims for 70% adult vaccination by July 4

President Joe Biden set a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by July Fourth as he tackles the vexing problem of winning over the “doubters” and those unmotivated to get inoculated.

Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their available doses unordered. Aiming to make it easier to get shots, Biden on Tuesday called for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and he will direct many pharmacies to do likewise.

His administration for the first time also is moving to shift doses from states with weaker demand to areas with stronger interest in the shots.

“You do need to get vaccinated,” Biden said from the White House. “Even if your chance of getting seriously ill is low, why take the risk? It could save your life or the lives of somebody you love.”

Biden’s goal equates to delivering at least the first shot to 181 million adults and fully vaccinating 160 million. It’s a tacit acknowledgment of the declining interest in shots.

Already more than 56% of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 105 million are fully vaccinated. The U.S. is currently administering first doses at a rate of about 965,000 per day — half the rate of three weeks ago, but almost twice as fast as needed to meet Biden’s target.

“I’d like to get it 100%, but I think realistically we can get to that place between now and July Fourth,” Biden said of his new goal.

He said the administration would focus on three areas as it tries to ramp up the pace of vaccinations:

  • Adults who need more convincing to take the vaccine.
  • Those who have struggled or are in no hurry to obtain a shot.
  • Adolescents aged 12-15, once federal authorities approve vaccination for that age group.

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