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Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking ProjectHarvard Global Health Institute; Cartogram: Danielle Alberti and Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 100,000 Americans are now in the hospital with coronavirus infections — a new record, an indication that the pandemic is continuing to get worse and a reminder that the virus is still very dangerous.

Why it matters: Hospitalizations are a way to measure severe illnesses — and severe illnesses are on the rise across the U.S. In some areas, health systems and health care workers are already overwhelmed, and outbreaks are only getting worse.

By the numbers: For weeks, every available data point has said the same thing — that the pandemic is as bad as it's ever been in the U.S.

  • Yesterday's grim new milestone represents an 11% increase in hospitalizations over the past week, and a 26% jump over the past two weeks.
  • Hospitalizations are rising in 38 states, in some cases reaching unsustainable levels.

A staggering 29% of all the hospital beds in Nevada are occupied by coronavirus patients, the highest rate in the country.

  • That represents an enormous influx of new patients, on top of all the other people who are in the hospital for other reasons — which puts a serious strain on hospitals’ overall capacity, and on the doctors and nurses who staff them.
  • Fueled by that surge in coronavirus patients, 77% of Nevada’s inpatient beds and 80% of its intensive-care beds are now in use, according to federal data. And coronavirus infections are continuing to rise, so many more beds will soon be full.

Between the lines: Many rural areas already have more patients than they can handle, prompting local hospitals to send their coronavirus patients to the nearest city with some capacity left to spare. But as cases keep rising, everyone’s capacity shrinks.

  • In New Mexico, for example, coronavirus patients are using 27% of hospital beds. To put that number in perspective: It’s a surge that has left the entire state with just 16 ICU beds left to spare.

Coronavirus patients are also filling 20% of the hospital beds in Colorado and Arizona. And in 32 more states, at least 10% of all hospital beds have a coronavirus patient in them.

How it works: Each week, Axios has been tracking the change in new coronavirus cases. But the Thanksgiving holiday disrupted states’ reporting of those numbers, and we’re afraid that could paint a distorted picture this week.

  • The holiday led to some significant reporting delays, which would make the number of new cases seem artificially low — and then when states report that backlog of data all at once, the spike in cases could be artificially high.
  • Hospitalization data is not subject to the same reporting issues, so we’re using that this week as a more reliable measure of where the pandemic stands.

Go deeper

Jan 20, 2021 - Health

Amazon offers to help Biden administration with COVID vaccine efforts

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at the White House with Jill Biden in 2016. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Amazon's worldwide consumer CEO Dave Clark has offered to help the Biden administration with its coronavirus vaccination goals by mobilizing efforts to inoculate its employees, according to a letter sent to President Biden on Wednesday.

Why it matters: As demand for the coronavirus vaccine is outstripping supply, Amazon has about 800,000 employees, many of whom are essential workers. The Biden administration wants to vaccinate 100 million Americans in 100 days.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
34 mins ago - Podcasts

Net neutrality on the line under Biden

Federal net neutrality rules are back on the table in the Biden administration, after being nixed by Trump, but now might be complicated by the debate over social media companies' behavior.

Axios Re:Cap digs into why net neutrality matters and what comes next with Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge and host of the Decoder podcast.

House grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.