Coronavirus infections in the United States have plummeted to unrecorded rates in more than 11 months, sparking optimism that vaccination campaigns are curbing both severe cases of COVID-19 and the spread of the virus.

With cases, hospitalizations and deaths declining this week, the country appears to be returning to pre-pandemic life. Hugs and maskless crowds returned to the White House, a Mardi Gras-style parade marched through the port city of Mobile, Alabama, and even states that have maintained restrictions due to the virus were preparing to lift them.

However, health experts have warned that there are not enough vaccinated Americans to completely extinguish the virus, leaving the potential for new variants that could spread the pandemic.

The average number of new cases for a seven-day period fell below 30,000 a day this week, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC for its acronym in English), noted that the number of infections had not been this low since June 18, 2020.

The death rate in the past seven days also fell to 552 – a rate not recorded since July of last year. It’s a drastic crash since the pandemic reached a devastating peak in January.

“As the weeks go by and the progress continues, that data gives me hope,” Walensky said at a news conference on Friday.

Health experts credit the effective launch of the vaccination campaign for the turn of events. More than 60% of the population over 18 years of age have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and nearly half are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

But the demand for vaccines has fallen across much of the country. The federal government is trying to convince other Americans to register to be vaccinated, using an encouraging message that inoculation offers a return to normalcy.

On Friday, White House health officials even offered dating advice for couples. They are collaborating with dating apps to put vaccination badges on profiles and bonuses for those who have been vaccinated.

The governments of Ohio, New York, Oregon, and other states are encouraging people to get vaccinated with lottery prizes of up to $5 million.

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