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

New coronavirus infections fell by almost 15% over the past week, continuing a steady downward trend.

Why it matters: The standard caveats still apply — progress can always fall apart, the U.S. is climbing down from a very high number of cases, and this is far from over. But this is undeniably good news. Things are getting better.

Where it stands: The U.S. is averaging roughly 41,700 new confirmed cases per day, down from about 49,000 per day last week and 65,000 per day at the height of the summer outbreak.

  • The pace of new infections fell in 20 states, including the summer hotspots of Arizona, Florida and Texas. California, which has been a stubborn holdout, finally saw a significant drop (31%) this week.
  • A handful of states across the South and Midwest headed in the wrong direction this week, as did Massachusetts, which was hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic but has since managed to keep the virus reasonably well contained.

What we’re watching: Any number of things could undermine this progress, from widespread outbreaks stemming from college campuses to complacency about the need to maintain social distancing.

  • And the U.S. is continuing to pull back on testing. We averaged about 690,000 tests per day last week, down roughly 5% from the week before.
  • Scaling back the number of tests has helped people get test results faster, which is important. And the drop in cases is significantly bigger than the drop in testing, suggesting that it’s real improvement and not just a function of testing.
  • Still, as fewer asymptomatic people are able to get tested, there’s always a risk they’ll spread the virus.

How it works: 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.

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