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Health Highlights: Feb. 22, 2021

By Robert Preidt HealthDay Reporter

U.S. COVID Hospitalizations at Lowest Level Since November

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States late last week was the lowest since early November, data from The COVID Tracking Project show.

There were about 59,800 COVID-19 patients in hospitals nationwide on Friday, a 55% decrease from a peak of more than 132,470 on Jan. 6, and the first time since Nov. 9 that the number was below 60,000, CNN reported.

Since hitting all-time highs around mid-January, daily new cases and deaths have also been decreasing.

Despite these positive trends, public health experts are urging faster vaccinations before more transmissible variants have a chance to spread and possibly reverse recent progress against the pandemic, CNN reported.

"This is why we're telling people to not stop masking, not stop avoiding indoor social gatherings quite yet, because we don't really know what's going to happen with this variant," Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency medicine physician with Rhode Island's Brown University, told CNN on Saturday. "And we saw what happened last winter when we didn't take COVID seriously enough."

The United State's test positivity rate -- the percentage of tests taken that turn out to be positive -- averaged about 4.8% over the last week as of early Saturday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

That's the first time the average has dropped below 5% since October, and it's far below a winter peak of about 13.6% near the start of January, CNN reported.

All British Adults Should Have First COVID-19 Shot by July 31: Government

Every adult in Britain should get a first coronavirus vaccination by the end of July, instead of the previous target of September, the British government said Sunday.

It also said everyone aged 50 and older and people with underlying health conditions should get the first of their two shots by April 15, instead of the previous goal of May 1, CBS News reported.

The early success of Britain's vaccination effort is welcome news for a country that has had more than 120,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. More than 17.5 million people, a third of U.K. adults, have had at least one vaccine shot since inoculations began on Dec. 8, CBS News reported.

Britain is delaying giving second doses until 12 weeks after the first, rather than three to four weeks, to give more people partial protection quickly. The approach has been criticized in some countries -- and by Pfizer, which says it does not have any data to support the interval -- but it is backed by the U.K. government's scientific advisers.The announcements were made as the government prepares a "cautious" reopening plan that will be outlined in Parliament on Monday.

As of March 8, many children will return to school and nursing home residents will be able to have one visitor. However, it's unlikely that nonessential shopping and outdoor socializing will be given the green light before April, CBS News reported.

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