Governors are starting to relax COVID-19 restrictions across the country, as the overall rate of new cases appears to be plateauing with increasing vaccinations. But health officials say infections remain high and warn of dangerous new virus variants.
The U.S. has had nearly 30 million cases and more than 540,000 deaths and continues to average 55,000 new infections a day. But with three vaccines now available for use, experts hope stabilizing infection rates will be the first step towards a downward trend.
Helping that goal is a faster pace of vaccinations. On Friday, the U.S. cleared President Joe Biden's goal of 100 million doses within 100 days - with more than a month to spare.
"In just 58 days, weeks ahead of schedule," said Jeff Zients, the White House's COVID-19 Response Coordinator.
States like Florida and Vermont have also started expanding eligibility for vaccinations. And with the supply improving, the White House says it's ready to ship some vaccines to neighboring Canada and Mexico.
But officials warn that dangerous new variants of COVID-19 are spreading.
"And likely accounts now for about 20 to 30% of the infections in this country," Dr. Anthony Fauci said. "And that number is growing."
While the overall picture is improving, average new case counts are rising in 10 states, with Michigan up 45% in a week. Other states, especially in the East Coast, are struggling to keep case numbers on the decline.
Dr. Fauci says it's risky to declare victory too soon. But President Biden says he hopes a new vaccination goal, to be announced next week, will help keep the pandemic at bay.