The number of new cases reported daily peaked above 70,000 in July and has been falling since. The decline now seems to be slowing, with the daily number hovering near 40,000 for more than a week, a review of nationwide data showed Tuesday. That is one sign that the infection may be leveling off.

Although that is good news, the numbers suggest continued high levels of infection and a long road ahead, particularly as cold weather and the flu season approach. Without a vaccine or a major advance in treatment, significant reductions in new cases would probably require voluntary or mandated changes in behavior that experts say are unlikely six months into the public health crisis…

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said he no longer thinks it makes sense to talk about “waves” of virus spread. Instead, he said, there will be spikes followed by plateaus.

“This is just one big forest fire of coronavirus, and it will burn hot wherever there is human wood to burn,” he said. “If you don’t put the fire out completely, and then you walk away from it, it’s going to start burning again in days.”