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

In the final week before Election Day, new coronavirus infections have soared to an all-time high — virtually guaranteeing that the pandemic will be the most prominent issue in America as voters prepare to choose the next president.

The big picture: Cases are surging and local hospitals are straining at the very moment that voters are choosing between President Trump, who continues to insist that the pandemic is almost over, and Joe Biden, who has made the crisis a centerpiece of his campaign.

Where it stands: On average, nearly 72,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus every day over the past week. That’s the highest seven-day average on record.

  • Twice in the past week, the U.S. has set a new record for the most cases in a single day.
  • The virus gained strength over the past week in 41 states, including nearly every important battleground state.
  • New infections were up 16% in Arizona, 21% in Florida, 22% in Ohio, 23% in Wisconsin, 25% in Michigan and 33% in Pennsylvania.
  • The only exception was North Carolina, where infections held steady at about 2,200 per day.

What’s next: This third wave of infections is already beginning to strain hospitals’ resources in some parts of the country, and will inevitably lead to more deaths. It has already killed nearly 220,000 Americans.

  • Wisconsin, for example, reported new single-day records for cases, hospitalizations and deaths — all in the same day.
  • This will almost certainly get worse before it gets better. The virus is expected to spread more easily as colder weather causes people to move their socializing indoors.

The bottom line: Eight months into this pandemic, not only has the U.S. failed to contain the virus, it’s spreading faster than ever.

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 22 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

13 hours ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Nov 25, 2020 - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

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