Updated Jan 14, 2021 - Health

America is tuning out the coronavirus at the peak of its destruction

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

The U.S. is now averaging nearly 250,000 new coronavirus cases per day — a crisis of staggering proportions, even though many Americans have tuned it out.

The big picture: It's not even sufficient to say the pandemic is “still going on,” as if it’s a fire that hasn’t finished burning out. The pandemic is raging. Its deadliest and most dangerous days are happening right now. And it keeps getting worse.

Everywhere you look, day-to-day vigilance is fading.

  • You see it up close, as social distancing falls by the wayside, masks dangle on people’s chins, and friends and family let their guard down to socialize indoors.
  • Americans are traveling, restaurants are at max capacity, some sports teams have fans in the stands, and some colleges are bringing students back to campus. People were ignoring news coverage of the virus even before new crises pushed it off the front page.

But at the same time Americans are taking the virus less seriously, it is becoming more serious.

  • The U.S. averaged 244,519 new cases per day over the past week, a 13% jump from the week before.
  • Hospital capacity is dangerously strained in several parts of the country. Coronavirus patients now occupy 40% of all the hospital beds in Arizona, 33% in California and Nevada, and 26% of all the beds in Georgia and Texas.
  • December was the deadliest month of the entire pandemic, and January is on track to beat it. The virus has already killed roughly 35,000 Americans just in the first 13 days of this month.

What’s next: This will keep getting worse before it gets better.

  • Each of the 244,519 people infected every day can each go on to infect several more. That’s been our problem this whole time, and newly discovered variants of the virus appear to spread even more easily.
  • More cases lead to more hospitalizations, and more hospitalizations lead to more deaths.
  • And it will be months, at least, before most Americans can protect themselves with a vaccine.

How it works: 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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