Texas on Sunday recorded zero new Covid deaths for the first time since it began tracking data on the virus in March 2020 and new cases in the Lone Star State hit a 13-month low.
It comes just two months after the state reopened, drawing sharp criticism from public health officials and President Biden, who called Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order lifting all restrictions ‘Neanderthal thinking.’
Despite those concerns, new infections and deaths have fallen steadily in Texas since the state reopened on March 2.
Abbott tweeted Sunday’s good news, adding, ‘Thanks Texans!’
Public health experts have been left scratching their heads as largely conservative states like Texas and Florida reopened early against their advice, with little consequence, while liberal states like California and New York maintained mask mandates but saw persistently high Covid case rates.
But as vaccinations ramp up, the playing field is leveling out and coronavirus cases and fatalities are ebbing nationwide.
The U.S. recorded fewer than 17,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday for the first time since the pandemic took hold in America in March 2020.
Texas recorded zero COVID-19 fatalities on Sunday for the first time since it began tracking deaths from coronavirus. The state has defied expectations with Covid deaths declining consistently since January despite lifting its mask mandate
New infections have stayed consistently low for the past two months, with just 388 recorded on Sunday – the least in 13 months
COVID-19 had just been declared a pandemic the last time new infections were this low.
And in March 2020, Covid tests were hard to come by, so case figures were almost certainly an undercount.
Now, testing is widespread, so while the 16,864 new infections recorded by Johns Hopkins University on Sunday are still likely an undercount, it’s probably much closer to the real figure.
The seven-day rolling average increased slightly to 602, after falling below 600 on Saturday – but that’s still a lower average fatality rate than the U.S. has seen since early April.
Nearly half of the U.S. population (47 percent) has had at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine – and, coupled with the declining infection, hospitalization and death numbers, rising vaccination rates are allowing Americans to get back to some semblance of normalcy.
But many have been left reeling by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) sudden about-face on masking for vaccinated last week, with some excited to uncover their faces, while others worry the guidance came too soon, and still others angry at Americans who want to keep their masks on.
The CDC cited science on rates of illness among vaccinated versus unvaccinated people as well as the rising vaccination rate and declining pandemic indicators in its updated guidance.
As of Sunday, the seven-day rolling average of new cases had fallen to 33,117 a day.
That’s less than half the average just a month ago.
Deaths have declined more slowly, but in the same span of time have fallen by more than 50 percent.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (left) lifted the state’s mask mandate on March 2. President Biden (right) criticized the move as ‘Neanderthal thinking’
Over the course of the past two weeks, new infections have trended downward in every state, except one: Alabama.
The southern state saw a massive jump of nearly 5,000 cases on Friday.
However, most of these were part of a backlog that dated back to September 2020. It’s not clear exactly how many were actually new infections.
The state health department did say that nearly 2,000 were from a single ‘undisclosed facility’ in Lee County, according to Opelika-Auburn News.
Alabama reported a similar backlog on Thursday, but cases have otherwise remained relatively low and stable, declining to fewer than 200 a day.
According to data from Johns Hopkins, 25 new deaths were recorded there on Sunday, but the state was seeing fewer than 20 deaths a day the week prior – a figure that’s been stable for about a month.
After struggling for weeks with stubbornly high new infection rates, states in the Northeast are seeing a dramatic decline in news cases.
Rhode Island, which spent weeks as one of the worst hotspots in the nation is now seeing fewer than 150 new infections a day, down from nearly 500 a month ago.
After rising sharply in March, new cases in New York are finally plummeting, although rates in the populous state remain higher than in most.
New York recorded 1,085 new infections yesterday, according to Johns Hopkins University data, down from nearly 11,000 amid the late-March spike.
On Sunday there were 39 new fatalities reported in New York.
The state is keeping its mask mandate and capacity caps on large events for the time being, despite the CDC’s new guidance advising that fully vaccinated people can go without masks.
Texas, on the other hand, has defied expectations. Virtually no restrictions are in place now and 52 percent of its population is vaccinated.
Yesterday, the state recorded just 388 new infections, despite being more populous than New York.
And for the first time in its battle with the pandemic, there were no fatalities in Texas on Sunday.
When Governor Abbott lifted its mask mandate – alongside Mississippi – President Biden slammed the move as a ‘big mistake.’
‘Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference,’ he said.
‘We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms.
‘We’ve been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough for every American, to get every adult American to get a shot.’
Vaccines indeed seem to have turned things around for Texas, regardless of ditching its mask mandate and social distancing measures.
Daily vaccinations have slowed nationwide, but already enough people seem to be inoculated to drive cases and deaths down considerably in Texas and every state.
As for the effect of lifting mask mandates, it’s soon to become a moot point with the CDC no longer telling vaccinated people to wear theirs.
And there’s no way to know whether or not Texas have continued to wear their masks since the March 2 reopening announcement.
For the time being, the only conclusion to be drawn was articulated last week by CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky.
‘This past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable,’ she said during last week’s White House press briefing announcing the new mask guidance.