01.27.21—As of this writing, there have been more than 25 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 400,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. In the last week, the number of new cases and related hospitalizations have begun falling across the U.S., though public health experts continue to express concern about a number of fast-circulating variants, The New York Times reports.

Even as overall U.S. hospitalization rates are slowing, a recent Associated Press analysis found that two out of five Americans—largely residents of the South and the West—live in areas that are running out of intensive care unit (ICU) space, with only 15 percent of ICU beds still available.

The pace of U.S. vaccinations has risen above more than 1 million vaccinations a day—as of this writing, at least 18.5 million Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine—although questions remain about whether there will be adequate supplies to maintain progress, and some hospitals are already running out of vaccines.

On a longer time horizon, many forecasts continue to project to a steady decline in cases later this winter and into spring. And the U.S. is on track for herd immunity for COVID-19 by next summer assuming vaccine distribution continues at roughly the same pace, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said recently.

But for the immediate future, hospitals and health systems will continue to face an outlook similar to what they have seen since last March: sizeable financial and operational challenges due to the pandemic, and high levels of uncertainty about the days, weeks, and months to come.

In Brief