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This Week in Illness, March 12

This Week in Illness aggregates insights from Kinsa's network of smart thermometers and major headlines from across the country to bring you up to speed. Get your insights at a glance.

March 13, 2021  ||  By Matt Albasi

Plot of ILI from this 2020 and 2019

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the WHO declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic. The rate of decrease in COVID-19 cases continued to slow, but cases, hospitalizations and deaths all decreased to just below the summer 2020 peak. It is a good time to remember, as President Biden said Thursday in his national address, we need to continue social distancing and mask wearing to get the pandemic under control. In other news, the CDC issued new guidelines for fully vaccinated people, and we see potentially troubling signs in a few states.

Cases Declining, But Still High

COVID-19 cases are down 18% to about 63,000 new cases per day on a rolling 14-day average. Case numbers are near the summer 2020 high. Hospitalizations and deaths continue to drop as well. In New Jersey, New York and DC, COVID-19 cases are plateauing at higher levels.

TX Opens completely, LA and MN Trending the Wrong Way, and Spring Break Begins 

Texas lifted their mask mandate and opened all businesses 100% on Wednesday. While COVID-19 cases have continued to drop, we’ll keep an eye on the data for any early signs of a resurgence in the area. 

According to Kinsa data, Louisiana’s rate of Influenza-like Illness (ILI) has continued to climb. Friday marked the 12th straight day of increase for the state. COVID cases appeared to be plateauing at relatively low levels, similar to what the state was reporting at the end of October. Minnesota saw their ILI decrease this week after peaking at the end of February, but they also had a slight uptick in COVID cases.

With March comes Spring break at universities across the country, raising concerns that the revelry will spread variants further throughout the population.

Variants Continue to Spread 

The race between vaccines and variants continued to gain urgency this week. The B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the UK, now accounts for around 30% of cases in the US, Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. A study from University of Exeter suggests this variant is 64% more deadly compared to other strains in certain settings.

10% of the Population Inoculated and Our Experts Answered Your Vaccine Questions

10% of the US population has been fully vaccinated and more than 19% has received at least one shot. New Mexico, Connecticut, Alaska, South Dakota and Rhode Island have the highest number of people with at least one shot. On Tuesday, Alaska announced it would be the first in the nation to open vaccinations to anyone over the age of 16. The state is about a month and a half ahead of President Biden’s new schedule announced on Thursday which allows all adults to be eligible for vaccination by May 1.

Everyone has questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, so we assembled a panel of experts to weigh in on our users' biggest concerns. Anna Aronowitz compiled their answers into an informative article you can check out here. 

CDC Issued New Guidance for Vaccinated Individuals

CDC updated guidelines this week for fully vaccinated people, saying vaccinated people can gather indoors with other vaccinated people without wearing a mask. They also made new recommendations about quarantining and testing. Remember, you’re not fully vaccinated until two weeks after your second shot for Moderna and Pfizer or two weeks after your only shot for J&J! 

Flu Still Near Historic Lows

Flu numbers continued to hover at historic lows. The CDC reported 22 positive flu specimens for the week ending March 6. Last year during the same period they reported almost 12,000 positive cases. For further context, this flu season had one pediatric flu death reported compared to 196 in the previous season. We’re expecting case numbers to stay low as we move out of the flu season.

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