Vaccine drive gains speed, but maskless fans fuel worries

The drive to vaccinate Americans against the coronavirus is gaining speed and newly recorded cases have fallen to their lowest level in three months, but authorities worry that raucous Super Bowl celebrations could fuel new outbreaks

More than 4 million more vaccinations were reported over the weekend, a significantly faster clip than in previous days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Newly confirmed infections have declined to an average of 117,000 a day, the lowest since early November. That is a steep drop from the peak of nearly 250,000 cases a day in early January.

The number of Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 has also fallen sharply to about 81,000, down from more than 130,000 last month.

Health officials say the decline in hospitalizations and new cases most likely reflects an easing of the surge that was fueled by holiday gatherings, and perhaps better adherence to safety precautions.

COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are still running at close to all-time highs, at an average of about 3,160 per day, down about 200 since mid-January. The death toll overall has eclipsed 460,000.

And the sight of fans, many without masks, celebrating the Super Bowl in the streets, in sports bars and at game-watching parties has sparked worries of new outbreaks.

“This isn’t how we should be celebrating the Super Bowl,” the mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, Rick Kriseman, tweeted after a maskless party was hosted by Rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson in a hangar at the city’s airport, not far from where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the title.

“It’s not safe or smart. It’s stupid. We’re going to take a very close look at this, and it may end up costing someone a lot more than 50 cent.”