Daily cases didn’t decline until September as the nation recovered from a summer boom.
But infections roared back in ways that had not previously been recorded.
Wednesday saw the highest single-day total infection rate in the US (over 143,000) and the seven-day average for new daily infections (over 127,000), according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
That average is more than 3.5 times higher than on September 12, when it hit a low of 34,198 after the summer.
And it’s well above summer’s highest seven-day average, which was 67,100 on July 22nd.
There was good news recently, with a vaccine candidate reportedly found to be more than 90% effective, and the U.S. Secretary of Health said vaccines could be widespread in the second quarter of 2021. And the Food and Drug Administration this week approved a new antibody treatment that may lower the risk of patients being hospitalized with mild to moderate illness.
With colder weather potentially leading to risky indoor gatherings and with no vaccine currently available, experts warn that daily infections leave room for growth.
“It won’t surprise me if we see over 200,000 new cases every day for the next several weeks,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN on Monday.
We should emphasize that the chart captures reported cases. Studies have estimated that infections, especially at the start of the pandemic, were severely undercounted, in part due to the limited availability of tests.
Some health experts have said hospitalizations can be a more accurate measure of the severity of the pandemic – although rising cases are a red flag as a patient’s hospitalization can well come after diagnosis.
A test positivity rate is the percentage of people who are tested and turn out to be infected. And the US rate has been rising in the past few weeks.
The country’s test positivity rate averaged 8.7% for seven days early Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
This is above the highest seven-day summer average of around 7.9% in mid-July.
The World Health Organization advised governments in May not to reopen until the test positive rate was 5% or less for at least 14 days. And the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, has suggested that community positivity rates should be below 5% in order to comfortably open schools. White House’s coronavirus task force coordinator, Dr. Rate is the statistic that is watching you closest as it is “the most sensitive indicator” of how the coronavirus situation is evolving at any given time and place.
It is reported that there are currently more Covid-19 patients in US hospitals than at any previous point in the pandemic.
There were around 65,300 coronavirus patients in these facilities as of Wednesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
That’s more than double what it was on September 20, when the country hit a post-summer low of 28,608.
And it’s beyond the summer peak of 59,718 on July 23 and the spring peak of 59,940 on April 15.
“The new hospital stay record underscores that we have reached the worst time for the pandemic since the original outbreak in the northeast,” wrote two co-founders of the COVID Tracking Project in an online post on Wednesday.
“These hospital stay figures show that the current increase in Covid-19 cases is not only due to increased screening of asymptomatic people. The cases we have identified are rather a leading indicator that many people are seriously ill,” it says Contribution.
Some hospital systems have said in the past few days that they are almost overwhelmed.
17 states reported hospitalization records in Covid-19 on Tuesday: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming, tracking Project said.
Hospital stay numbers have likely become more accurate over time – Florida didn’t report its hospital stays until July 10, the COVID Tracking Project notes.
The country’s recent Covid-19 deaths are not at record levels, but they are skyrocketing.
The average number of deaths per day over a week rose above 1,000 for the first time since summer this week.
That average was 1,055 on Wednesday – the highest since August 2, according to Johns Hopkins data. More than 1,430 deaths were reported on Wednesday alone.
The U.S. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Projects at the University of Washington could see an average of more than 1,650 deaths per day by December 1 and more than 2,200 deaths per day by January 1, if leaders maintain current social distancing mandates and even add some.
That would be reminiscent of the numbers seen at the start of the pandemic, when more than 2,000 deaths were reported daily for a period in April. The highest daily average for a week was 2,241 on April 24th.
Infections currently appear to kill fewer people on average than they did at the start of the pandemic, in part due to changes in the way the disease is treated and an increase in the proportion of younger people becoming infected.
However, as hospital stays break records, daily death rates could continue to rise.
“The ratio of hospital stays to deaths has fallen enormously since spring,” said the article by the COVID Tracking Project on Wednesday. “But it’s also true that wherever hospitalizations happen, deaths rise two to three weeks later.”
CNN’s Brandon Miller contributed to this report.