As for the virus itself, the country has averaged less than 15,000 new coronavirus cases a day for almost a month, the lowest since testing became widely available, and a fraction of what was reported in January when the nation routinely more than 200,000 identified cases in one day.
Over the past few days, however, the national average number of new cases has been trending slightly upwards, largely due to localized outbreaks in places with low vaccination rates, including parts of Missouri, Arkansas, and Nevada.
With the Delta variant spreading around the world, the World Health Organization recently reiterated its longstanding recommendation that everyone, vaccinated or not, wear masks as a precautionary measure. In the United States, however, the CDC has not changed its recommendation that fully vaccinated individuals can skip masks in most situations.
US health officials have suggested that the WHO’s blanket proposal was influenced by its global reach, as many countries had far less access to vaccines than the United States.
In New York City, efforts to monitor the spread of the virus have been scaled back, reflecting consistently low case numbers and a feeling by many people that the virus is a less of a threat. More than 51 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, according to city data, although much of the city still has lower rates. Coupled with concerns about Delta, some public health experts and elected officials fear the city may withdraw its surveillance measures prematurely.
On Tuesday, the White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden government was unlikely to impose new national containment measures, even if cases increase.
“The states need to make assessments and the local communities need to make assessments, which is in their best interests,” she said.
Mitch Smith and Sharon Otterman contributed to the coverage.