May 12, 2022 - Health

Deaths from COVID begin to rise again

Change in reported COVID-19 cases per 100k people in the last two weeks
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Deaths from COVID-19 are on the rise again after several weeks of upward ticking case rates sparked by Omicron variants.

Driving the news: The U.S. averaged roughly 365 daily deaths, up 7% from about 342 two weeks ago. That's still a fraction of where things stood several months ago when the daily average was in the thousands.

  • This week, the U.S. will likely reach 1 million deaths from COVID. As the milestone nears, President Biden said that "we must not grow numb to such sorrow. To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible."

Yes, but: The increase in deaths comes after several weeks of declines. While increasingly transmissible Omicron variants have generally not appeared to cause more serious illness, some people are still dying.

  • Waning immunity and low booster uptake has also meant a growing share of the deaths are among the vaccinated, officials warn.

By the numbers: There were roughly 77,000 new daily cases over the last week, up 44% from about 53,000 two weeks ago.

  • Reported cases rates remained highest in the Northeast, with Rhode Island marking 67.3 new cases per 100,000 people, up from 38.4 per 100,000 two weeks ago.
  • Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine were the four states with 50 or more new cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.
  • On the flip side, 15 states reported having 10 or fewer new cases per 100,00o people over the same time, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.
  • Five states reported declines in COVID case rates, including Montana, which reported 5.2 new cases per 100,000 people, down from 5.5 per 100,000 two weeks ago. Alaska, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Washington also reported dips. D.C. also reported a drop, however, the CDC said Wednesday the District had a two-week lapse in reporting, Axios' Chelsea Cirruzzo reports.

Reality check: As we've warned before, the data on new cases are getting less reliable as the public testing infrastructure continues to wind down and home test results are less likely to be reported to officials.

  • But it still offers a window into the broad trends of COVID spread in the states.

The bottom line: As variants spread, warm weather returns and more people let their guard down, cases are on the rise. While numbers appear far better than what they once were, officials warn the virus isn't done with us yet.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with a statement from President Biden.

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