U.S. COVID-19 deaths drop to lowest level since March 2020, but young adults are a growing challenge

(Image credit: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

There was encouraging news about America's COVID-19 pandemic on Monday. Deaths from the new coronavirus have dropped to an average of 292 a day, from more than 3,400 a day in mid-January, according to Johns Hopkins University's data, and about 11,400 new cases are reported each day, down from more than 250,000 a day in early January. COVID-19 vaccines are the main cause of the shrinking pandemic in the U.S., and as of Monday, at least 150 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

Even with the pandemic hitting its deadliest point in January, COVID-19 has dropped below accidents, strokes, Alzheimer's, and chronic lower respiratory diseases as a leading cause of death this year, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers show. Last year, the CDC says, COVID-19 was the No. 3 killer in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.

About 45 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, more than 53 percent has gotten at least one dose of the vaccines, the CDC says, and Virginia became the 16th state to hit 70 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced. But the CDC also found that young adults are declining to get vaccinated in numbers that will make it incredibly hard to reach herd immunity.

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While 80 percent of U.S. adults over 65 had been immunized as of May 22, that number was just 38.3 percent for Americans 18 to 29, a CDC analysis found. The vaccination rate among young adults has dropped sharply, and in a separate CDC study, nearly half of the 2,726 respondents under 40 said they are unsure or have no plans to get vaccinated, "with 18- to 24-year-olds being the least likely to have been vaccinated and most likely to be unsure about getting a shot," The Washington Post reports.

The study, conducted from March to May, also found that people with a college degree who live in higher-income households in metropolitan areas were the most likely to be vaccinated, while Black people under 40 with lower incomes, less education, and no insurance who live outside of metropolitan areas were the least likely to say the will get inoculated.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.