Brighter outlook for US as vaccinations rise and deaths fall

FILE - In this March 17, 2021, file photo, health worker administers a dose of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Grand Yesha Ballroom in Philadelphia. More than three months into the U.S. vaccination drive, many of the numbers paint an increasingly encouraging picture as dozens of states have thrown open vaccinations to all adults or are planning to do so in a matter of weeks. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - In this March 17, 2021, file photo, health worker administers a dose of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Grand Yesha Ballroom in Philadelphia. More than three months into the U.S. vaccination drive, many of the numbers paint an increasingly encouraging picture as dozens of states have thrown open vaccinations to all adults or are planning to do so in a matter of weeks. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

More than three months into the U.S. vaccination drive, many of the numbers paint an increasingly encouraging picture, with 70% of Americans 65 and older receiving at least one dose of the vaccine and COVID-19 deaths dipping below 1,000 a day on average for the first time since November.

Also, dozens of states have thrown open vaccinations to all adults or are planning to do so in a matter of weeks. And the White House said 27 million doses of both the one-shot and two-shot vaccines will be distributed next week, more than three times the number when President Joe Biden took office two months ago.

Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said Wednesday he isn’t ready to declare victory.

“I'm often asked, are we turning the corner?” Fauci said at a White House briefing. “My response is really more like we are at the corner. Whether or not we're going to be turning that corner still remains to be seen.”

What's giving Fauci pause, he said, is that new cases remain at a stubbornly high level, at more than 50,000 per day. The U.S. on Wednesday surpassed 30 million confirmed cases, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. The number of deaths now stands at more than 545,000.

Nonetheless, the outlook in the U.S. stands in stark contrast to the deteriorating situation in places like Brazil, which reported more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day for the first time Tuesday, and across Europe, where another wave of infections is leading to new lockdowns.

The gloom in Europe is compounded because the vaccine rollout on the continent has been slowed by production delays and questions about the safety and effectiveness of AstraZeneca's shot.

Public health experts in the U.S. are taking every opportunity to warn that relaxing social distancing and other preventive measures could easily lead to another surge.