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

The pace of new coronavirus infections fell significantly over the past week, but the virus is still out of control, and a more contagious variant is gaining ground.

By the numbers: The U.S. averaged roughly 198,000 new cases per day in the final week of the Trump administration — a 19% drop from the week before, but still a ton of cases.

  • The number of new daily cases fell in 44 states, compared to the previous week. South Carolina and Virginia were the only states whose outbreaks got worse over the past week.
  • The U.S. is now conducting almost 2 million tests a day, on average.
  • Hospitalizations are generally holding steady. Roughly 123,000 people are in the hospital today for COVID-19 infections.

What’s next: There’s little reason to believe the U.S. is about to turn the corner on the pandemic, or that this one week of good news will make the Biden administration’s job any easier.

  • 198,000 cases per day is a staggering number of cases — more than enough to continue overwhelming hospitals in some parts of the country.
  • And experts say a more contagious variant of the coronavirus will soon become the dominant strain in the U.S., allowing the virus to spread even more easily.

As the winter surge peaks, “we may see 3-4 weeks of declines in new cases but then new variant will take over,” former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted recently. “It'll double in prevalence about every week. It'll change the game and could mean we have persistent high infection through spring until we vaccinate enough people.”

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 19 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters, WHO says — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker
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.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.