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New cases of COVID-19 in the United States declined for the third week in a row, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), amid slowing vaccination rates that officials worry could hamper efforts to reach herd immunity.
According to data compiled by the CDC, the country on Monday registered a seven-day weekly average of 52,528 new cases, a 16.2 percent decline from the previous week.
Deaths from COVID-19 also fell 8.2 percent from the previous week, to an average of 658 daily deaths, on par with the number of deaths in July last year.
Nearly a third of the US population has been fully vaccinated and slightly more than 43 percent has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC.
But there are concerns about a recent decline in vaccination rates, which dropped 10 percent from the previous week.
Asked when the nation might reach herd immunity, President Joe Biden said on Monday, “I think by the end of the summer we’ll be in a very different position than we are now … My plea to everyone – get vaccinated now, please.”
More than 32 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 since the virus began spreading last year and more than 577,000 have died – the highest numbers in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
But a recent decline in infection rates has prompted some state and local leaders to ease some coronavirus-related restrictions.
On Monday, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced that they would lift most capacity restrictions on businesses, including retail stores, food services and gyms, beginning on May 19.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the decision was based on a steady decline in the positive rate of COVID-19 tests and hospitalisations.
The percentage of New Yorkers testing positive for the coronavirus dropped 50 percent during the last month, and hospitalisations decreased by nearly 40 percent during the same period, he said on Monday.
“New Yorkers have made tremendous progress,” Cuomo said. “It’s time to readjust the decision made on the science and on the data.”
Amusement parks, salons and offices are among the other businesses that will soon no longer be subject to state-imposed capacity restrictions, although all businesses can still set their own restrictions.
“We were able to announce the elimination of business restrictions due to a nation-leading vaccine distribution program which benefits all Connecticut residents, and our neighbors in New York and New Jersey,” Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said in a joint statement with Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
The May 19 reopening in New York pre-empts a plan that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio outlined just days ago to fully reopen the city on July 1.
Also on Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced he was signing an executive order that overruled and suspended all local COVID-19 emergency orders, saying that widespread vaccination made it safe to do so.