The Pandemic Is Crashing Through the South and the West

The Pandemic Is Crashing Through the South and the West

Five states—Arizona, California, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas—account for 40 percent of all new cases reported in the past seven days.

We’ll begin with the good news: In every midwestern state—and in several others—COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining. Elsewhere, however, the picture is mixed. In several large states, already large outbreaks appear to be rapidly worsening—and despite intense interest in how Thanksgiving gatherings affected reported cases, even public-health experts have found it difficult to interpret the numbers we’ve seen.

Other news this week is tragically easy to interpret: As of yesterday, December is already the deadliest month since the beginning of the pandemic in the United States. The 3,379 deaths states and territories reported yesterday pushed December’s total to 57,638 COVID-19 deaths, for an average of 2,506 deaths reported per day in December. For comparison, in April, when the country was still reeling from the pandemic’s initial surge, we saw an average of 1,842 deaths reported each day.

This week also includes what we expect to be the last useful data of the year for cases, tests, and deaths. We expect that Christmas and New Year’s holiday reporting gaps and backlogs will obscure the realities of the country’s many outbreaks. We hope to see these metrics largely recover from the holiday effects by the second week of January, but until then, we will rely largely on hospitalization data to understand what is happening in the pandemic.