Nov 26, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10 percent in the final week before Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.

Why it matters: Travel and large holiday celebrations are most dangerous in places where the virus is spreading widely — and right now, that includes the entire U.S.

By the numbers: On average, roughly 170,000 people per day were diagnosed with coronavirus infections over the past week.

  • That’s a new record, a 9.7% increase over last week, and the 11th straight week that the U.S. has been heading in the wrong direction.
  • The number of new daily cases increased in 28 states.
  • Testing was up significantly — by about 16% — over the past week, potentially driven by pre-Thanksgiving precautions. The U.S. is now conducting nearly 1.8 million COVID-19 tests per day.

Between the lines: The U.S. outbreak is worse than it might look on this map.

  • Our map is a snapshot of change over the past week, and a handful of states are doing better this week than they did last week. But they are, for the most part, states that have seen astronomical increases throughout the fall.
  • Iowa, for example, is now averaging about 2,800 new infections per day. That’s an 18% improvement over last week, but it’s still about 250% higher than where Iowa stood at the beginning of October and leaves the state with far too many cases.
  • Hospitals remain overwhelmed in some parts of the country, especially in rural areas.

What’s next: Infections and hospitalizations are already skyrocketing nationwide, and experts fear that the Thanksgiving holiday could give it even more fuel as people travel and gather indoors.

  • It can take a while for waves of new cases to show up in the data, because most people don’t experience symptoms right away.
  • The holiday will probably lead to some additional reporting delays and other data quirks over the next few weeks, as the COVID Tracking Project notes. If there is a Thanksgiving-driven surge in new cases, it may not show up in these statistics until mid-December.

The bottom line: Cases are still rising nationally and are still at crisis levels in several hard-hit states. Cases and hospitalizations are both at record highs. This is going to be a long, dark winter.

Each week, Axios tracks the change in new infections in each state. We use a seven-day average to minimize the effects of day-to-day discrepancies in states’ reporting.

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