U.S. COVID-19 holiday wave slowing

The latest surge in coronavirus cases is starting to ease in the U.S., prompting some states to pull back public health restrictions.

Last month, as the disease spread over the holidays, states like California and New York went under partial shutdowns, with stay-at-home orders, but this week there has been some improvements.

Severe COVID-19 infections are starting to decline, although the death toll mounts.

Hospitalisations have fallen nearly 18 percent from the beginning of January, a key indicator of the disease's slowing pace, spread and severity.

Citing the improvements, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted economic restrictions in areas where infection rates had been high and soon plans to reopen New York City restaurants.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Cuomo said "At this point it's safe to say the holiday surge was anticipated, the holiday surge did happen, but the holiday surge is over."

In California this week, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted stay-at-home orders in much of the state.

The decision reopens hair salons and outdoor dining, although indoor worship services remain banned.

The state's most densely populated county, Los Angeles, is looking to reopen schools within two or three weeks, according to an LA Times report on Wednesday.

Although, it's unclear when the final decision will be made as teachers unions and school districts must agree on when and how to re-open.

Meanwhile, U.S. leadership is overseeing a choppy rollout of vaccines amid an emerging threat of more infectious COVID-19 variants from Brazil, the U.K. and South Africa.

President Joe Biden warned earlier this week, "It's going to take months for us to turn things around."