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Coronavirus cases decline across U.S., but experts urge caution

In the last 14 days, according to data compiled by NBC News, coronavirus cases have declined to varying degrees in all 50 states.
Syringes loaded with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are delivered to medical workers inoculating people at Central Falls High School in Central Falls, R.I., on Feb. 13, 2021.Joseph Prezioso / AFP - Getty Images

The average number of daily new coronavirus cases in the United States fell below 100,000 Friday for the first time in months, according to an NBC News tally, but experts warn that infections remain high nationwide and Americans must continue to follow precautions to slow the spread of the virus.

In the last 14 days, according to data compiled by NBC News, coronavirus cases have declined to varying degrees in all 50 states, as well as in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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Ten states and Puerto Rico saw a slight decrease between 10 and 25 percent. Forty states, plus the district and the Northern Mariana Islands, experienced a more significant decrease of 25 percent or more, according to the data.

California, which has been hit hard by Covid-19 in recent weeks, saw a particularly dramatic decline of roughly 48 percent over the last 14 days.

The encouraging trend lines were reflected in the average daily new cases nationwide. The seven-day average for cases dipped to 99,052 at the end of Friday — a sizeable drop from even a month ago, when the U.S. was averaging 239,284 cases a day.

The seven-day average of new infections went above 200,000 for much of December and climbed to around 250,000 in January, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In another potentially encouraging sign, the U.S. recorded 779 deaths Sunday night — the first time since Nov. 29 that fewer than 1,000 people in the country have died from the coronavirus in a single day. It is worth noting, however, that single-day numbers are not good indicators of actual trends.

Meanwhile, public health experts and top government officials have warned that the coronavirus remains a threat and precautions must remain in place.

"We are still at about 100,000 cases a day. We are still at around 1,500 to 3,500 deaths per day. The cases are more than two-and-a-half-fold times what we saw over the summer," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

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"It's encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they're coming down from an extraordinarily high place," she added.

Walensky said that new variants — including one first detected in the United Kingdom that appears to be more transmissible and has already been found in more than 30 states — will likely lead to more cases and more deaths.

“All of it is really wraps up into we can’t let our guard down,” Walensky said. “We have to continue wearing masks. We have to continue with our current mitigation measures. And we have to continue getting vaccinated as soon as that vaccine is available to us.”

In total, the U.S. has recorded more than 27.7 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 487,00 deaths.