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Data: N.Y. Times; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Coronavirus infections continue to climb all across the U.S., with few new solutions on the horizon.

The big picture: There are some initial signs that things may be starting to get better in the South, which has experienced the worst of this wave, but America’s springtime dreams of putting the pandemic behind us seem a lot less realistic now.

By the numbers: On average, about 160,000 Americans now test positive for COVID-19 each day — a 14% increase, nationwide, over the past two weeks.

  • A small handful of hotspots, including Florida, Louisiana and Missouri, have begun to improve over the past two weeks, although cases are still rising in 44 states.
  • The biggest increases remain clustered largely in the Southeast, along with Indiana, West Virginia and South Dakota.

What we’re watching: Nationwide, COVID-19 hospitalizations are beginning to tick down, largely due to improvements in the South, Bloomberg reports. That could be a momentary blip, or it could signal that the fourth wave is about to recede.

  • Even so, hospital capacity still remains dangerously strained in some parts of the country. Five Southeastern states — Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Florida and Arkansas — are still using over 90% of their ICU beds, per CNN.
  • And in Kentucky, the National Guard has been deployed to help overburdened hospitals keep their operations running.

Vaccinations gained some steam over the course of August, as cases and hospitalizations spiked. About 60% of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated, and roughly 72% have at least one shot.

The bottom line: More vaccinations will keep more people alive and out of the hospital, even as the Delta variant continues to circulate.

Go deeper

Oct 25, 2021 - World

U.S. releases updated vaccination, testing rules for foreign travelers

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Foreign travelers will be allowed entry to the U.S. beginning Nov. 8 if they can provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with a shot authorized by the World Health Organization and a negative test within three days of departure, the White House announced Monday.

Why it matters: The updated guidance, which exempts children under the age of 18 from the vaccine requirement, is intended to provide further clarity for airlines and foreign nationals who have been restricted from traveling to the U.S. since early 2020.

Oct 25, 2021 - Health

DeSantis touts bonuses for unvaccinated police who relocate to Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference Friday in Kissimmee, Fla. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans Sunday to "hopefully sign" legislation to provide a $5,000 bonus to police officers who relocate to Florida in order to avoid COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The governor's pledge during an appearance on Fox News comes amid escalating tensions with the Biden administration over its upcoming vaccine requirement for federal workers.

16 hours ago - Health

New York City police union files lawsuit against vaccine mandate

Combination images of New York City Patrolman Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images/David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

New York City's biggest police union filed a lawsuit Monday against Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all NYC public employees.

Why it matters: The mandate requires all city employees to have had at least one dose by this Friday. They must show proof of vaccination or they'll be placed on unpaid leave. The Police Benevolent Association of New York tweeted Monday that it's seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the mandate, pending the outcome of its lawsuit.