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

The pace of new coronavirus infections leveled off over the past week, but the nationwide caseload is still dangerously high.

The big picture: Throughout the fall, new cases skyrocketed to record levels. It's good news that they're no longer skyrocketing, but holding steady at record or near-record highs is nothing to cheer about.

By the numbers: The U.S. averaged roughly 209,000 new cases per day over the past week, a modest 1.8% increase from the week before.

  • The nationwide totals held steady even as the number of new infections fell in 19 states — including Iowa, South Dakota and several other states that were hit especially hard by the fall surge.
  • A handful of more populous states recorded some significant increases, which is why the national total is still so high. California, for example, averaged roughly 32,500 new cases per day over the past week, an increase of almost 40% over the previous week.

What's next: Reduced caseloads in small, largely rural states should help alleviate some of the crushing burden on local hospitals.

  • For now, though, hospitalizations remain at a record high; roughly 113,000 people are in the hospital today for severe coronavirus infections.
  • And if many Americans travel for the holidays, cases could pick right back up.
  • Vaccines will eventually help contain the virus, but it'll be several months before the general public can start getting vaccinated, and lax safety measures in the meantime will only heighten a crisis that has already claimed 300,000 American lives.

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

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Germany to impose travel restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus variants

Border police officers check passports and COVID-19 tests at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Thomas Lohnes via Getty Images

Germany announced Friday that it was imposing new travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Details: All non-German residents traveling from countries deemed "areas of variant concern," including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland, Brazil, Lesotho and Eswatini, will be banned from entering the country, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.