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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

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot" — The recovery needs rocket fuel.
  2. Health: CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use" — Death rates rising across the country — Study: Increased testing can reduce transmission.
  3. Economy: U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows — America's hidden depression: K-shaped recovery threatens Biden administration.
  4. Cities: Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order ahead of state mandate
  5. Vaccine: What vaccine trials still need to do.
  6. World: UN warns "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Former FDA chief Rob Califf on the vaccine approval process.
14 hours ago - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

12 hours ago - Health

Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order ahead of state mandate

Golden Gate Park. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty

Counties around the San Francisco Bay Area will adopt California’s new regional stay-at-home order amid surges in cases and ICU hospitalizations, health officials said Friday.

The big picture: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a three-week stay-at-home order on Thursday that would go into effect in regions with less than 15% ICU capacity. Despite the Bay Area’s current 25.3% ICU capacity, health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and the city of Berkeley are moving ahead with a shelter-in-place mandate in the hopes of reducing risk.