Johns Hopkins Professor Warns India COVID Outbreak a 'Cautionary Tale' as U.S. Virus Deaths Decline

Deaths caused by COVID-19 are on the decline in the U.S., but a Johns Hopkins epidemiology professor points to India as a "cautionary tale" as the country struggles with its outbreak crisis.

The amount of U.S. virus deaths has dropped to its lowest average in 10 months with roughly 600 a day compared to mid-January when average deaths were at its highest point of more than 3,400 a day. This reflects an 85 percent decrease in COVID-19 infections since early January with an average of about 38,000 daily cases compared to more than a quarter-million.

"I think we are in a great place, but I think India is an important cautionary tale. If there is a right combination of vaccine hesitancy, potentially new variants and quickly rolling back control measures that comes together, we could potentially screw this up and have yet another wave that is completely unnecessary at this point," John Hopkins professor Justin Lessler said.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist and Lessler's colleague, said vaccinations have been critical. Almost 45 percent of U.S. adults have been vaccinated with more than 58 percent who have been administered their first dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

A Man Receives COVID-19 Vaccine
A man receives the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination site at Grand Central Terminal train station on May 12, 202 in New York City. As COVID-19 deaths drop in the U.S., a Johns Hopkins professor said the virus outbreak situation in India should be a “cautionary tale." Angela Weiss/Getty Images

COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have tumbled with the number of lives lost dropping to single digits in well over half the states and hitting zero on some days.

Confirmed infections are at their lowest mark since mid-September.

The last time deaths were this low was early July, nearly a year ago. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. topped out in mid-January just a month into the biggest vaccination drive in the nation's history.

Kansas reported no new deaths from Friday through Monday. In Massachusetts, the Boston Herald put a huge zero on Wednesday's front page under the headline "First time in nearly a year state has no new coronavirus deaths."

"The primary objective is to deny this virus the ability to kill at the rate that it could, and that has been achieved," Adalja said. "We have in in effect tamed the virus."

This week, Pfizer's vaccine won authorization for use in 12- to 15-year-olds, in a move that could make it easier to reopen the nation's schools.

Physicians like Dr. Tom Dean in South Dakota's rural Jerauld County are cautiously optimistic, concerned about the many people who have decided against getting vaccinated or have grown lax in guarding against infections. The county has seen just three confirmed cases in the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins data.

"What I'm afraid of is people believing this whole thing is over and you don't have to worry about it any more," Dean said. "I think complacency is our biggest threat right now."

The encouraging outlook stands in sharp contrast to the catastrophe unfolding in places like India and Brazil.

The overall U.S. death toll stands at about 583,000, and teams of experts consulted by the CDC projected in a report last week that new deaths and cases will fall sharply by the end of July and continue dropping after that.

Nurse Administers COVID-19 Vaccine
In this April 29, 2021, file photo, nurse Natasha Garcia administers a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Monica Villalobos in a mobile clinic set up in the parking lot of a shopping center in Orange, Calif. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have tumbled to an average of just over 600 per day — the lowest level in 10 months — with the number of lives lost dropping to single digits in well over half the states and hitting zero on some days. Jae C. Hong/AP Photo