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EDITORIAL: Good news: Virus numbers are beginning to decline

Good news is a rare commodity during these trying times, so here’s a promising bit of hopeful information: Coronavirus cases are falling throughout most of the United States.

In Nevada, the seven-day average of new cases — which exceeded 1,000 during the July spike — has dropped below 600. This trend mirrors the rest of the country.

Nationally, the seven-day average is now 42,600 new virus cases per day, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s a significant reduction from the 70,000 new daily infections the country was experiencing in mid-July. Recall that, back in June, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Congress that we could soon hit 100,000 cases per day. That has not come to pass.

Even states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona — which came under intense criticism from many progressives because their GOP governors did not buy into the “lockdown” mentality — are now experiencing large drops in new infections and have suffered nowhere near the death count experienced in New York during the early weeks of the pandemic.

As the number of new cases falls, fatalities can be expected to follow. The seven-day average of daily deaths has dropped 20 percent nationally since early August to under 1,000 and has remained far below its peak of more than 2,000 in late April. In addition, as more testing has been performed and the virus infects a younger population, the percentage of those diagnosed with COVID-19 who later succumb to the disease has declined by almost 50 percent since early May, according to the ourworldindata website.

Health professionals are quick to credit mitigation measures — such as business closings, mask mandates and other restrictions — for the decline. But perhaps it’s not that simple. As Reason magazine’s Jacob Sullum pointed out this week, case counts and deaths are dropping in many places regardless of how strictly their governments issued behavioral decrees.

“It is difficult to disentangle the impact of government edicts from the impact of increased voluntary precautions,” he argues, “both of which can be expected in response to spikes in cases. … One thing seems clear from recent COVID-19 trends: The curve can be flattened without general lockdowns, without statewide mask mandates and even (as in Georgia) without new, post-lockdown restrictions on businesses.”

These positive developments aside, nearly 180,000 American deaths and counting stand as tragic testament to the seriousness of this disease and the importance of taking common-sense precautions and respecting the potential vulnerabilities of others. There will be plenty of time for a post-mortem on this pandemic and the response to it. For now, however, continued improvement is the fastest path back to normalcy.

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