COVID cases falling, but trouble signs arise as winter looms

Virus Outbreak

Tumbling COVID-19 case counts have some schools around the U.S. considering relaxing their mask rules, but deaths nationally have been ticking up over the past few weeks, some rural hospitals are showing signs of strain, and cold weather is setting in.

The number of new cases nationally has been plummeting since the delta surge peaked in mid-September. The U.S. is averaging about 73,000 new cases per day, dramatically lower than the 173,000 recorded on Sept. 13. And the number of Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 has plummeted by about half to around 47,000 since early September.

In Florida, Miami-Dade County's mask mandate could be loosened by the end of October if the encouraging numbers continue, and nearby Broward County will discuss relaxing its requirement on Tuesday. The superintendent in metro Atlanta said he will consider waiving mask requirements at individual schools.

A high school outside Boston became the first in Massachusetts to make masks optional after it hit a state vaccination threshold. With about 95% of eligible people at Hopkinton High inoculated, school leaders voted to allow vaccinated students and staff to go maskless for a three-week trial period starting Nov. 1.

Still, there are some troubling indicators, including the onset of cold weather, which sends people indoors, where the virus can more easily spread.