Jan 21, 2021 - Health

New coronavirus cases down, but more bad news ahead

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

The pace of new coronavirus infections fell significantly over the past week, but the virus is still out of control, and a more contagious variant is gaining ground.

By the numbers: The U.S. averaged roughly 198,000 new cases per day in the final week of the Trump administration — a 19% drop from the week before, but still a ton of cases.

  • The number of new daily cases fell in 44 states, compared to the previous week. South Carolina and Virginia were the only states whose outbreaks got worse over the past week.
  • The U.S. is now conducting almost 2 million tests a day, on average.
  • Hospitalizations are generally holding steady. Roughly 123,000 people are in the hospital today for COVID-19 infections.

What’s next: There’s little reason to believe the U.S. is about to turn the corner on the pandemic, or that this one week of good news will make the Biden administration’s job any easier.

  • 198,000 cases per day is a staggering number of cases — more than enough to continue overwhelming hospitals in some parts of the country.
  • And experts say a more contagious variant of the coronavirus will soon become the dominant strain in the U.S., allowing the virus to spread even more easily.

As the winter surge peaks, “we may see 3-4 weeks of declines in new cases but then new variant will take over,” former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted recently. “It'll double in prevalence about every week. It'll change the game and could mean we have persistent high infection through spring until we vaccinate enough people.”

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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