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

No state in America could clear the threshold right now to safely allow indoor gatherings.

The big picture: This is bad as the pandemic has ever been — the most cases, the most explosive growth and the greatest strain on hospitals. If businesses were closed right now, it would not be safe to reopen them. And holiday travel will be risky no matter where you’re coming from or where you’re going.

By the numbers: Over the past week, the U.S. averaged more than 154,000 new cases per day, the highest rate of the entire pandemic.

  • The number of new infections rose in 46 states, held steady in three, and declined in only one — Hawaii.
  • This week's nationwide totals are a 30% increase over last week, which was a 40% increase over the week before that. Daily infections have been rising by at least 15% for the past six weeks.
  • Testing was up about 11% over the past week. The U.S. is now conducting about 1.5 million tests per day. That’s a lot, but cases clearly are still rising faster than testing.

Between the lines: Whatever metric you might use to decide whether it’s safe to have a large Thanksgiving get-together, or to sit inside a bar or restaurant, the answer is probably no.

  • Experts recently told The Atlantic that they wouldn’t feel comfortable attending an indoor dinner party at all, but that it would be least risky in areas with only about 10-25 new cases per day, per 100,000 people.
  • At most, only about 27% of American counties meet that standard.

Back in the spring, when businesses were closed and the Trump administration laid out the criteria for opening them, it said states should only open restaurants after seeing a 14-day decline in new infections — and even then, only at highly limited capacity.

  • That was then and this is now, but if you consider that measurement as a rough guide for safety, it’s a bar the U.S. absolutely cannot clear: No state has seen two straight weeks of improvement since September.
  • Reopening was also supposed to be conditioned on hospitals’ capacity, which is now nearing a breaking point in many parts of the country.

The CDC’s travel guidelines aren’t as specific, but they advise Americans to consider both their potential exposure at home and the caseload at their destination.

  • Outbreaks are bad and getting steadily worse in every state except Hawaii, so as long as you’re not coming from or going to Hawaii, both your starting point and your destination would be in high-risk states, no matter where you’re going.

The bottom line: Eating and drinking indoors with large groups of people, at a time when 150,000 people are contracting the virus every day, is about as risky as it gets.

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 29, 2021 - Health

NYC set to restart indoor dining in February, weddings in March

Outdoor dining in New York City in January. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that if the current coronavirus positivity in New York City holds, indoor dining will reopen at 25% capacity on Feb. 14, one of the busiest dining days of the year.

Why it matters: The forced closure of indoor dining in December caused major backlash, as New York's struggling restaurant industry had already been hit hard by pandemic restrictions. Restaurants will still be required to close at 1o p.m.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Louisiana officials find "probable" Omicron case in cruise ship COVID outbreak — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private employers — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy.
  4. World: U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
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.