WASHINGTON – There's reason to be hopeful with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all declining, including infections among children. Add to that new medical advances, and it's welcome news for Americans. Still, health experts warn we're not out of the woods yet.
Among those medical advances is the first anti-viral pill designed to fight COVID-19. Drug-maker Merck is seeking emergency use authorization from the FDA and says in its trials, the drug cut the risk of hospitalizations in half for people at risk for severe disease. The pill can be taken at home – four pills every 12 hours for five days.
While transmission rates have been dropping nationwide, health experts are still encouraging the vaccine because there are still roughly 75,000 new cases in the U.S. each day, according to the latest statistics from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
"The vaccine is virtually 99% effective at preventing hospitalization," said Dr. Paul Offit with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "You'd much rather prevent getting the illness than treating it once you've already gotten it."
Vaccine mandates continue to be unpopular in many places though.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has signed an executive order banning vaccine mandates by all entities, including private businesses.
And in California, the man in charge of the country's largest sheriff's department says he's not enforcing vaccine requirements for his employees.
"I'm not forcing anyone," said Sheriff Alex Villanueva of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "The issue has become so politicized, there are entire groups of employees that are willing to be fired or laid off rather than getting vaccinated."
Thursday and Friday the FDA will also review data on vaccine boosters from Moderna and J&J. If the agency gives the green light, they'll go to the CDC for final approval next week.
Another symbol of hope came Monday when 18,000 runners participated in the first Boston Marathon in more than two years. Each runner had to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. The same requirements will be in place later this month at the New York and Philadelphia Marathons.