Delta may be peaking but we're in a 21st century cold war

A Boston University staff member helps arrange returned COVID-19 test swabs from students, staff and others at the university's COVID testing collection kiosk on campus on Aug. 26, 2021.

Kent Sepkowitz is a CNN medical analyst and a physician and infection control expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)Just when it seemed that the latest surge of the Covid-19 pandemic might overwhelm the United States, things have begun to improve.

After two months of dramatically rising cases, the rolling 7-day average of new daily cases in the US is trending down, decreasing from about 165,000 at the end of August to less than 125,000 or so now. Even better, the decrease in cases is happening in more than a dozen states.
Dr. Kent Sepkowitz
That's the good news. The bad news is that Covid-19 related deaths -- known to lag several weeks after cases -- have not yet decreased. And for many states, having a "stable" infection rate is to remain in an untenable, if not worsening, situation: In virtually half the states, the rate of positive diagnostic test results is still above 10%, with Idaho (39.4%), Iowa (36.2%) and Kansas (31.5%) leading the way. By way of comparison, Massachusetts (2.3%), California (2.9%) and New York (3.2%) sit among the very bottom, with rates approaching what might allow safe resumption of a normal-ish life.
    It remains quite uncertain whether the recent decline in new infections will be sustained. After all, the impact of countless unmasked elementary school kids returning to in-person classrooms has yet to be fully experienced. But if we are indeed at a moment when the Delta variant is beginning to fizzle, at least a little bit, what does that mean for everyday life? Are we finally (almost) in the clear?
      Of course not. If we have learned anything -- and it's debatable whether we have -- it is that the Covid-19 pandemic isn't going to miraculously disappear. We jumped the gun in the summer of 2020 by celebrating what looked like a maybe-this-is-ending-soon moment before the emergence of the Alpha or B.117 variant. We did it again this spring before the Delta variant galloped from shore to shore, and we now appear to be getting itchy again to call the whole thing off.
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