US COVID-19 cases continue steep decline – CIDRAP

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Cases of COVID-19 continue to drop significantly across the country, as the most recent surge caused by the Omicron variant is declining at a rapid pace.
The United States reported 330,128 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, and 3,546 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. The 7-day average of new daily cases is 385,425, with 2,658 daily deaths, according to the New York Times tracker.
New daily cases have decreased by almost 50% in the last 2 weeks, but the average daily death rate — which lags by 4 to 6 weeks behind case rates — has increased by 35%. An analysis of new federal data shows 100,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since Thanksgiving. 
It will take several weeks for hospitalizations and deaths to follow case count trends; The HHS Protect Public Data Hub shows 122,627 inpatient beds in use for COVID-19. Hospitalization rates are down 16% in the last 14 days.
Despite progress, 14 states are struggling with intensive care unit (ICU) capacity of 15% or less, ABC News reports. Those states include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Meanwhile, stressed hospitals have forced healthcare systems to look abroad for staff, according to the Associated Press. Because of a temporary cessation of employment visas during the first part of the pandemic, the United States has double the number of green cards to offer skilled professionals — including nurses.
Typically, hospitals are drawn to nurses from English-speaking countries, including Jamaica and the Philippines. Industry experts say the demand for international nurses has risen between 300% and 400% since the pandemic began.
The US Army said yesterday that it will immediately begin removing soldiers who have refused COVID-19 vaccination, the Washington Post reports. The Pentagon announced a vaccine requirement last August. A vast majority of service members have complied with the mandate, but a small percentage has refused.
The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 63.9% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 75.4% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 41.8% of vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose.
Meanwhile, airlines and other travel-industry groups asked the Biden administration yesterday to drop COVID-19 test requirements for vaccinated passengers before US-bound flights, CNBC reports. 
CIDRAP News Editor Lisa Schnirring contributed to this story.
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