U.S. Covid cases hit lowest level since June as nation looks toward Memorial Day, summer travel

People crowd outdoor dining at a restaurant as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are eased in Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S., April 4, 2021.

Emily Elconin | Reuters

Covid cases in the U.S. have dropped to their lowest level since June as the nation prepares for Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer travel season.

The seven-day average of new infections is about 26,000 as of Sunday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That is the lowest number since June of last year.

The decline of cases is a hopeful sign, especially as many Americans plan to travel, spend days at the beach and gather with friends and family over the summer. It is the latest in a series of milestones that signal a reopening economy and a gradual return to a more typical way of life.

Cases of Covid have fallen as more people across the country get vaccinated. About 49% of the U.S. population has received at least one shot of a vaccine, and 39% of the population is fully vaccinated as of Saturday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those age 18 and older, 61% are at least partially vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Retailers, including Target, Walmart and Macy’s said this week that consumers’ purchases reflect that people are becoming more mobile and social again. They said a growing number of customers have returned to stores to browse or bought merchandise they previously skipped over, from new outfits to from teeth whitener.

The CDC’s new public health recommendations also ushered in change earlier this month for Americans who had been wearing masks for months. The federal agency said people who are fully vaccinated do not need to cover their face in most indoor and outdoor settings. That prompted many retailers and some states, including New York, to drop mask requirements for those vaccinated and align with the new policy.

(With inputs from CNBC)