Photos of the week 02/18/2021: Pandemic. In the north the codvid cases decrease. Storm … cold

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 28: View of a home decorated in honor of Dolly Parton, with a "Vaccine, Vaccine, Vaccine, Vacciiiine!!!" sign meant to evoke the lyrics of Parton's song "Jolene" on January 28, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling traditional Mardi Gras activities, New Orleanians are decorating their homes and businesses to resemble Mardi Gras floats. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 28: View of a home decorated in honor of Dolly Parton, with a "Vaccine, Vaccine, Vaccine, Vacciiiine!!!" sign meant to evoke the lyrics of Parton's song "Jolene" on January 28, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling traditional Mardi Gras activities, New Orleanians are decorating their homes and businesses to resemble Mardi Gras floats. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images)
A woman wearing a face mask rides a bicycle with a child, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 8, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song
A man walks along Lake Michigan as the sun rises in Chicago, Illinois, on February 7, 2021. – According to the National Weather Service, dangerous wind chills can bring temperatures to up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit below zero in the Chicago area on Sunday. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP) (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
SHIJIAZHUANG, CHINA – FEBRUARY 07: Medical workers cheer for residents who will conclude quarantine at a hotel and return home for Spring Festival holiday on February 7, 2021 in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province of China. (Photo by Ren Quanjun/VCG via Getty Images)
Cars line up at a drive-thru coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination station for people aged 90 years or older at Pacaembu stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil February 8, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli
Medical workers move a patient at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Sotiria hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Athens, Greece, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL JANUARY 30 – A general view of Ipanema beach is seen as thousands gathered to cool off during a hot day in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on January 30, 2021. The thermal sensation reached 42 degrees in the city. Military Police try to avoid crowding people on Ipanema beach. Brazil has 1,279 deaths in the last 24 hours total exceeds 223 thousand deaths. (Photo by Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A doctor is seen as patients receive medical treatment in a hospital for people infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Kyiv, Ukraine January 26, 2021. Picture taken January 26, 2021. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

One month ago, the CDC published the results of more than 20 pandemic forecasting models. Most projected that COVID-19 cases would continue to grow through February, or at least plateau. Instead, COVID-19 is in retreat in America. New daily cases have plunged, and hospitalizations are down almost 50 percent in the past month. This is not an artifact of infrequent testing, since the share of regional daily tests that are coming back positive has declined even more than the number of cases. Some pandemic statistics are foggy, but the current decline of COVID-19 is crystal clear.

What’s behind the change? Americans’ good behavior in the past month has tag-teamed with (mostly) warming weather across the Northern Hemisphere to slow the pandemic’s growth; at the same time, partial immunity and vaccines have reduced the number of viable bodies that would allow the coronavirus to thrive. But the full story is a bit more complex.

Mask and social-distancing thing.

“If I were ranking explanations for the decline in COVID-19, behavior would be No. 1,” says Ali Mokdad, a global-health professor at the University of Washington, in Seattle. “If you look at mobility data the week after Thanksgiving and Christmas, activity went down.”

Other officials have pointed to Google mobility data to argue that Americans withdrew into their homes after the winter holidays and hunkered down during the subsequent spike in cases that grew out of all that yuletide socializing. New hospital admissions for COVID-19 peaked in the second week of January—another sign that social distancing during the coldest month of the year bent the curve.

Our cautious behavior evidently requires the impetus of a terrifying surge. In the spring, southern and western states thought they had avoided the worst of the early wave, and governors refused to issue mask mandates. Then cases spiked in Texas, Florida, and Arizona, and mask-wearing behavior in the South increased. When cases came down again, people relaxed, cases went up again, and the awful do-si-do continued.

The lesson is not to let today’s good news become tomorrow’s bad news, again. Until much of the population is vaccinated, don’t interpret the decline in cases as a green light to resume your pre-pandemic behavior.

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