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

New coronavirus infections surged by roughly 20% over the past week as cases continued to climb in every region of the country.

Why it matters: All signs indicate that the pandemic will keep getting worse throughout the winter, making it harder and harder to eventually control — even if there's a new president, and even with a vaccine.

By the numbers: Over the past seven days, the U.S. averaged about 85,000 new cases per day. That's a 20% increase from the week before, and it's the highest caseload of the entire pandemic.

  • Cases rose in 35 states, held steady in 10 and declined in just five.
  • The pandemic continued to get worse in almost every critical swing state as Election Day approached. The number of new infections rose over the past week by 14% in Wisconsin, 16% in Florida, 21% in Pennsylvania, 37% in Ohio and 56% in Michigan.

Testing improved over the same period. The U.S. is now conducting over 1.2 million tests per day. That's a 5% increase over the week before — hardly enough to explain the much larger surge in cases.

What we're watching: Hospitalizations are also on the rise nationwide, prompting renewed fears in some pockets of the country that local hospital capacity won't be able to handle the rising tide of the pandemic.

  • Most experts believe the virus will continue to gain a bigger and bigger foothold over the winter, killing thousands of people.

What's next: Joe Biden has vowed to change America's course in the pandemic.

  • But the outbreak will likely be so much worse by Inauguration Day, and politically motivated resistance to public health measures is already so deeply entrenched, that a vaccine may be the only real way to accomplish that.

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.

Go deeper

11 hours ago - World

Putin says Russia will begin large-scale COVID-19 vaccination next week

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he has directed officials to begin large-scale vaccination against COVID-19 as early as next week, according to state media.

Why it matters: Russia, which has the fourth-largest coronavirus caseload in the world with more than 2.3 million infections, would be the first country to begin mass vaccination. Experts have criticized the lack of scientific transparency around the vaccine and the haste with which the Kremlin approved it.

Updated 16 hours ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The U.K. government announced Wednesday it approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine that's found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

The pandemic is causing an unprecedented drop in health spending

Expand chart
Reproduced from Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker; Chart: Axios Visuals

The coronavirus pandemic has caused national health care spending to go down this year — the first time that’s ever happened.

The big picture: Any big recession depresses the use of health services because people have less money to spend. But this pandemic has also directly attacked the health system, causing people to defer or skip care for fear of becoming infected.