Fewer than 800 coronavirus deaths are being reported each day in the United States, the lowest daily average since before the Omicron variant took hold late last fall. The last time the rate was this low was in mid-August, according to a New York Times database.
Trends in deaths lag behind cases and hospitalizations by weeks because of the time it takes for people to become seriously ill, and the time needed to complete and file death records.
The seven-day average of new cases has also dropped significantly from the height of the Omicron surge. Though the decrease has slowed in recent days, the average has hovered this past week around 30,000 cases per day, a level last seen in July. Coronavirus hospitalizations plummeted in the last two weeks by about 36 percent, to about 18,000 per day. Intensive care unit hospitalizations have fallen too — by about 43 percent — to under 3,000.
But as cases increased in parts of Europe, scientists and health officials have already been warning of another rise in U.S. cases and, with it, the first major test of the country’s strategy of living with the virus while limiting its impact. Top U.S. health officials reiterated concerns last week about the impact of stalled Covid-19 response aid amid the spread of BA.2, a highly transmissible Omicron subvariant accounting for about 35 percent of new U.S. cases and a form of the virus similar to what swept through the nation this winter.
A growing number of U.S. states are reporting fewer daily updates, saying that metrics like hospitalizations and wastewater monitoring have become more relevant than daily case reports. Still, Kentucky, New York, Colorado and Texas are among a few states that are showing a rise in new cases over the past two weeks.
“I think it’s very hard for anyone to give a definitive answer for what’s happening here,” said Gigi Gronvall, a testing expert and a senior scholar at the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, referring to the surge in parts of Europe and what that could portend for the United States. “We don’t know everything there is to know.”
Every state and many municipalities have relaxed many Covid precautions, and officials are mostly encouraging Americans to return to prepandemic routines. On Saturday, Hawaii became the final state in the nation to remove its indoor masking requirement.
In late February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created an online tool that shows Americans whether their area is at high, medium or low community risk for the coronavirus. On Monday, only 53 of the roughly 3,000 U.S. counties were categorized as high risk.
The World Health Organization reported last week that the BA.2 subvariant that is helping to drive another surge of coronavirus cases in Europe is now the dominant version of Omicron around the world.
The United States, with ample vaccine supply, has suffered the highest known total deaths — more than 975,000 — and the coronavirus is killing Americans at far higher rates than people in other wealthy nations, a New York Times analysis showed last month.
Some experts warn of another potential U.S. wave, spurred by BA.2.
“How pronounced that wave is, and what toll it takes on our populations, has a lot to do with how well we pay attention to leading edge indicators, and actually implement a collective, public response to mitigating spread,” said Jason L. Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida who tracks Covid data.
Sarah Cahalan contributed reporting.
LONDON — Reviving a politically dangerous scandal for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the London police on Tuesday levied 20 fines on people accused of breaching Covid lockdown restrictions by attending social gatherings at 10 Downing Street.
The Metropolitan Police Service did not identify who had been fined, prompting an immediate guessing game in British political circles. But the notification that it had issued a first set of fines, known as fixed penalty notices, was confirmation that it had found that the social gatherings at the prime minister’s office had violated the law.
The police had issued a questionnaire to Mr. Johnson, who was present at several of the gatherings under scrutiny. But the prime minister, who has steadfastly denied he violated any rules, was not among those told that they had been fined in the initial round of notices, according to Downing Street.
“We will today initially begin to refer 20 fixed penalty notices to be issued for breaches of Covid-19 regulations,” the police force said in a statement, noting that it may impose additional fines. “We are making every effort to progress this investigation at speed and have completed a number of assessments,” it added.
It was not clear how many people had been cited — it is possible that some people will have received more than one notice — and the police did not say how much the accused would have to pay.
After facing the looming threat of a no-confidence vote, Mr. Johnson’s political fortunes have rebounded markedly in the past six weeks, largely because the war in Ukraine has eclipsed the outcry over the parties. Even some of his harshest critics acknowledge that the time is not right to force out the government’s leader.
President Biden’s budget proposal would increase the Food and Drug Administration’s budget by nearly 34 percent compared with the current fiscal year, with much of the $2.1 billion increase aimed at preparing for another pandemic.
The agency also proposes to tackle a wide range of priorities, such as shoring up the accelerated approval program for certain drugs, registering dietary supplements, forcing importers to destroy rejected goods and requiring baby-food makers to test for heavy metals.
The agency said $1.6 billion of the increase would go to support the Health and Human Services Department’s pandemic preparedness plan. Those funds would help the F.D.A. evaluate vaccines and bolster the rapid development of tests and the supply chain for personal protective gear.
The F.D.A.’s total budget would soar to $8.4 billion under the budget plan. Some parts of the proposal aim to strengthen the agency’s oversight, including in the accelerated approval program, which fast-tracks the marketing of drugs for serious conditions with no other therapy.
The program has been criticized for giving drugs the green light and allowing them to remain on the market — for over a decade in the case of one drug meant to prevent preterm birth — before their effect is proven or the drug is withdrawn. The proposal says it would speed up the follow-up study process, ensure high-quality results and make technical changes to enable the agency to withdraw drugs that do not show a benefit.
The budget proposal also says the agency would begin to register the 50,000 to 80,000 dietary supplements on the market. It would also clarify the agency’s authority to make it easier for the agency to enforce laws against unlawfully marketed supplements. In recent years, the agency has sent out dozens of warnings, for example, about supplements with names like Kangaroo Intense Alpha and Willy Go Wild that contain undeclared quantities of erectile dysfunction drugs.
The F.D.A. is also seeking the authority to force importers to destroy products that are rejected at U.S. borders that pose a significant public health risk.
The budget plan would also address advocacy groups’ findings about toxic metals in baby foods, requiring companies to test the products and share the results with the F.D.A. Other items would aim to end the opioid crisis, enhance cybersecurity in medical devices and force cooperation with remote facility inspections.
— Christina Jewett
Workers are steadily returning to the office, and staying there. Corporate travel spending is a third of what it was before the pandemic, according to the Global Business Travel Association. Some signs suggest that business travel will never return to prepandemic levels.
McKinsey is the latest company to confirm a permanent cut in business travel, the DealBook newsletter reports. The global consulting firm recently decided to reduce its travel by 25 percent from its prepandemic level, according to a company representative. Right now, its workers are not traveling as much as they did before, but as conditions return to normal, the firm has told employees, including senior management consultants and firm leaders, to spend less time on the road.
McKinsey says that less travel will foster collaboration and team building, especially as employees return to the office. Before the pandemic, McKinsey had the ninth-biggest travel budget in corporate America, spending an estimated $265 million on U.S.-booked airfares in 2019, according to Business Travel News.
Climate pledges are another factor that could permanently reduce corporate travel, according to a report released Tuesday by IdeaWorks, a corporate travel consulting firm. The report said because corporate travel represented a large portion of professional service firms’ carbon footprints, many will not be able to meet their climate goals without a significant reduction in travel.
Jay Sorensen, the president of IdeaWorks, said that some business travel is “very durable,” but that there are “a whole lot” of other trips that were once routine but may no longer be taken. “Airlines are planning for a future in which there are fewer business travelers,” he said.
The Biden administration is requiring coronavirus vaccines for some undocumented migrants at the southwest border, a policy change that comes days before the administration’s next review of a public health order that has limited immigration during the pandemic.
Under the plan, officials will start vaccinating undocumented migrants without proof of vaccination who are apprehended by border officials, but not expelled under the public health order, in seven areas including San Diego, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley. A description of the plan was shared with The New York Times.
According to directions given to senior homeland security officials on Sunday, if single adults refuse to be vaccinated, they will be detained and put into deportation proceedings. If they request asylum and cannot remain in detention, they will be released with a monitoring device “with stringent conditions.” If migrant families refuse vaccination, they will also be given monitoring devices with the same conditions.
The White House has said little about whether it will soon lift the public health order, which the Trump administration put in place at the start of the pandemic. The order, known as Title 42, gives border officials the authority to turn back migrants seeking to enter the United States so that they do not spread the coronavirus here, a precaution that public health experts have called unnecessary.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is supposed to review whether the rule is still necessary at this stage in the pandemic, and issue a decision in the coming days.
The administration’s decision to start vaccinating some undocumented migrants appears to be an acknowledgment that there are measures other than the public health order that can be taken to minimize the spread of the coronavirus across borders.
Previously, the administration has resisted vaccinating undocumented immigrants, despite multiple proposals from the Department of Homeland Security over the past year on how to do it.
President Biden’s domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice, has privately raised concerns that it would provide an incentive for more undocumented migrants to try to cross the border, according to three current and former government officials with knowledge of the continuing discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.