(CNN)America has never been closer to the end of this pandemic, which has inflicted the most universally experienced crisis and assault on national morale since World War II.
The near-miraculous vaccines have the virus — which has ravaged the nation — in retreat. Deserted cities that once echoed at night to the wail of ambulance sirens are stirring. Travelers are taking to skies and once again filling un-mothballed jets. Life, nervously for many — and unbelievably for almost all — is being restored.
Americans are getting used to seeing each other inside, unmasked, and learning how to hug and smile again. Grandparents are reuniting with far-flung family. Vaccinated older teens joyfully skip off to sleepovers. Sports arenas are filling for NBA and NHL playoffs.
A renaissance that started with tentative steps a few weeks ago is now moving with perceptible speed. Theme parks are opening. Welcome back to rush hour gridlock. The office beckons for those who are ready. Date night doesn’t have to be in some heated restaurant tent. Back-to-school might actually mean something in September for Generation Zoom. And on Broadway, the show will soon go on.
It’s now at least possible to believe Dr. Anthony Fauci’s assurances in the dark days of winter that pandemics do end, even though it’s natural after so much pain and deprivation to wonder whether the virus is just taking a timeout.
That was the story last summer, when premature reopenings across the Sun Belt goaded by then-President Donald Trump triggered a deadly wave of infections.
But the waning crisis is clear in medical data that for so long painted a devastating daily story of death and a pernicious virus running out of control.
New Covid-19 cases are falling in 36 states. As of Monday, the average daily rate of new infections is 25,270. The seven-day average of new cases was last below 25,000 per day in mid-June 2020.
The swift declines in new Covid cases seen in other nations that were ahead of the US in their vaccine rollouts are now being seen here. And severe illnesses are also decreasing, thanks to highly effective shots.
“It means a lot. It means that the summer is looking bright,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine and associate division chief of the division of HIV, infectious diseases and global medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
Gandhi added that before long, the country could approach the threshold of 10,000 new cases a day, which Fauci said would signal the pandemic was almost over.
“That’s where we’re getting to. So it’s very good news,” she told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Monday.
The difference this summer is that tens of millions of Americans — 131 million, to be exact — are fully vaccinated. Nearly 300 million doses have been given, vastly draining the pool of people likely to get sick. Half of the states have fully vaccinated more than half of their adult residents. There are concerns about young people yet to be vaccinated driving infections. But 12- to 15-year-olds are now eligible to get the Pfizer shots.
“I think the great news is that the 1.2 million kids that have gotten vaccinated this week are on their way to a carefree summer,” said Andy Slavitt, the White House coordinator for Covid response, on CNN’s “Newsroom” on Monday.
Remembering a time of loss
The improving public health situation is beginning to power an economy that was roaring when the pandemic hit but was turned off almost overnight. CNN Business’ Back-to-Normal Index, in partnership with Moody’s Analytics, shows the US economy
A vaccine marvel is bringing America back
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