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Expand chart
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.

Go deeper

Dec 4, 2020 - 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.

Dec 4, 2020 - 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.

Dec 4, 2020 - World

UN: "2021 is literally going to be catastrophic"

David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme. Photo: Souleymane Ag Anara/AFP via Getty Images

Next year is "going to be catastrophic" in terms of worldwide humanitarian crises, World Food Program executive director David Beasley warned on Friday, per Reuters.

Driving the news: The stark outlook comes as many countries contend with not only the coronavirus pandemic, but also possible famine, economic instability, conflict and other humanitarian crises. A record 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection next year, a nearly 40% increase from 2020, the UN projected earlier this week