Population and society
There were 1.8 million coronavirus cases reported in March, the lowest monthly total since the 1.9 million cases recorded in October 2020. Thirty states showed a month-to-month case decline, led by Arkansas and Kansas, where cases dropped 71% and 68% since February respectively.
But in Michigan, cases nearly tripled from 35,000 in February to 101,000 in March. Three other states — Rhode Island, Minnesota, and North Dakota — had more than a 50% increase in cases.
Monthly COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.
The national seven-day average for cases was trending downward until the last week of March. The month ended with a seven-day average of 60,600, up 21% from 49,900 on March 23.
Deaths, however, have been declining since the start of the year when there were over 3,000 deaths a day. The seven-day average dropped to 836 deaths a day by the end of March, down 59% from the end of February.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 51 million Americans, or 15% of the population, have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The country currently averages over 2.5 million doses distributed per day. More than 195 million doses have been distributed and 76% of them have been administered.
New Mexico, Alaska, and South Dakota currently lead the nation in vaccination rates, fully vaccinating over 20% of their populations. Utah, Georgia, and Alabama currently have the lowest rates of vaccination, with less than 14% of the population fully vaccinated.
Most states considered three major factors when prioritizing vaccines: age, occupation, and health risks. White Americans make up more of the 65 and over population than Black and Hispanic Americans. Yet, Black and Hispanic people work a significant portion of the occupations that have been prioritized for vaccination.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black people made up 12.1% of the workforce in 2020, but they comprised 25.3% of the 4.8 million jobs in vaccine-prioritized healthcare occupations. Hispanic people are comparatively over-represented in farming and agriculture. While Hispanic people made up 17.6% of the overall workforce in 2020, they made up 43% of the one million jobs in farming, fishing and forestry.
Black and Hispanic Americans are also more likely than white Americans to have many of the health conditions that permitted early vaccination. According to the CDC, Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to have diabetes, while Black and Mexican Americans are more likely to have chronic kidney disease.
For the most recent data on vaccination demographics, see the USAFacts Vaccine Progress Tracker.
The CDC recently released estimates showing the proportion of coronavirus strains circulating in the United States. During the two weeks ending January 2, variants that increase transmissibility, severity, treatments, or impact of vaccine effectiveness made up an estimated 4% of cases.
Preliminary estimates on the two weeks ending March 13 show that those strains made up 39% of the cases during that period. The B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the UK, accounted for 27% of the cases during the period, the most of any strain. Other common variants — B.1.351, first detected in South Africa, and P.1, first detected in Brazil — each account for less than 1% percent of cases. According to the CDC, the UK variant is notable for increased transmissibility and increased risk of death. There is no evidence suggesting that it increases severity of symptoms or decreases effectiveness of vaccine.
March 2021 was the first month since March 2020 that US airport security checkpoints reported a daily average of over a million passengers, collectively. The 1.2 million daily average for March 2021 is 9% higher than the 1.1 million daily average the previous March. The latest monthly average is also 10 times higher than April 2020’s average of just under 110,000 passengers a day.
While air travel is far from pre-pandemic levels — the daily average in March 2019 was 2.4 million passengers — the checkpoint data is another sign that Americans are venturing further from home. The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey collected from March 3 to March 15 estimated that 62% of adults were taking fewer trips to the store than normal. That figure is down from 74% of adults who were asked the same question between December 9 and December 21 in 2020, during a surge of COVID-19 cases.
An experimental dataset from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that the total number of trips in the week preceding December 26, 2020 was at the lowest level during the pandemic. The total number of trips taken in the week preceding March 20, 2021 was the highest during the pandemic, about 50% above than the pandemic low.
The Household Pulse Survey has asked multiple mental health questions since starting early in the pandemic. The latest release with answers from March 3 to March 15 found anxiety and depression measures were down from earlier highs. Based on the responses, more than 22% of adults felt down, depressed, or hopeless during more than half of the days in the previous week. (The high was 25% based on responses between July 16 and July 21 in 2020).
Another set of questions asks how people address mental health. In the most recent survey, 8% of adults reported receiving counseling or therapy from a mental health professional, 9% said they needed counseling or therapy but didn’t get any, and 16% said they took prescription medication to help with emotions or other mental health issues.
In a 2019 National Health Interview Survey from the CDC, 19% of adults reported receiving mental health treatment in the previous year including 16% in the form of medication and 9% through counseling. Since the time frames of both datasets are different, it is hard to directly compare the two.
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