Oct 20, 2020 - Health

The next wave of the coronavirus is gaining steam

Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive is rising across the country, including in states that are also seeing a spike in cases.

Why it matters: High positivity rates indicate a worsening outbreak, and put together with the rise in cases and hospitalizations across the country, suggest that the U.S. is in bad shape.

The big picture: The virus is spreading throughout the U.S. It's not concentrated in any one region, as it was during the previous waves.

  • It's unlikely to spread only among young, healthy people. The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living released a report yesterday highlighting the link between community spread and nursing home cases, and showing a recent uptick in both.

By the numbers: Nationally, the positivity rate was 5.3%, on average, over the last 7 days — an increase from the 4.7% positivity rate over the prior 7 days.

  • For context, the World Health Organization recommended in May that the positivity rate remain below 5% for at least two weeks before governments reopen. 17 states and D.C. currently met that threshold over the last week.
  • Idaho, Nevada, South Dakota and Iowa each had a positivity rate greater than 25% over the last 7 days. Nearly half of coronavirus tests in Iowa are coming back positive.

The bottom line: The virus already has a firm foothold in most of the country, and cold weather — which is right around the corner — will likely accelerate today's trends.

  • This all means more deaths, more economic devastation, and more isolation and psychological strain. If we'd gotten the virus under control during the summer, we'd have saved ourselves from a lot of this coming pain.
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