U.S. COVID-19 deaths fall for third week as cases see steep drop


FILE PHOTO: A man receives the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test, distributed by the Wisconsin National Guard at the United Migrant Opportunity Services center, as cases spread in the Midwest, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S., October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski/File Photo

(Reuters) - Deaths from COVID-19 in the United States fell for a third straight week last week, as cases and hospitalizations both showed steep drops.

The positive trends come as the U.S. death toll from the pandemic hit 500,000, though health experts have warned about a possible resurgence in cases due to new and more contagious variants of the coronavirus.

Deaths linked to COVID-19 fell 37% in the week ended Feb. 21 to 13,636, according to a Reuters analysis of U.S. state and county reports. Excluding a backlog of deaths reported by Ohio in the prior week, deaths on an adjusted basis fell 17%.

The country reported more than 491,000 new cases last week, but that was down 23% from the previous seven days. New cases have fallen for six straight weeks and are down 72% from their peak in early January. Compared to the previous week, new cases rose in only seven out of 50 states.

(Open https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR in an external browser to see a state-by-state graphic.)

However, with the country logging 70,000 new cases on average per day, residents may be wearing masks into 2022, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told CNN last week.

"That's still very high level of virus in the community," he said.

The average number of COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals fell 17% to 61,400 last week, the lowest since mid-November, according to a Reuters analysis of data from the volunteer-run COVID Tracking Project.

Nationally, 5.3% of COVID-19 tests came back positive for the virus, the lowest level since the week ended Oct. 18, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. The positive test rate remained above 20% in four states: South Dakota, Kansas, Alabama and Idaho.

(Graphic by Chris Canipe, writing by Lisa Shumaker, editing by Tiffany Wu)

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