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Data: WHO; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Over the past several weeks, the coronavirus has killed Americans at six times the average rate in other rich countries. And we’re recording about eight times more infections.

Why it matters: The virus burned through the rich world like wildfire in the spring, but this new data confirms that the U.S. is one of very few wealthy countries that have failed to suppress it since then.

Breaking it down: The World Bank’s list of “high-income economies” includes 83 countries and territories, ranging from Austria to Bermuda to Chile. Their populations add up to 907 million — 2.7 times America’s.

  • As of July 1, they’d collectively recorded virtually the same number of cases as the U.S., and 1.6 times as many deaths.
  • Since then, however, 75% of all new cases and 69% of all deaths recorded anywhere in the rich world came in the U.S., which accounts for 27% of the group's population.
  • The U.S. is conducting more testing than many other countries. But that's only a small part of the story.

How it happened: Other rich countries saw pandemic peaks that were just as terrifying as America’s. But while they climbed down afterwards, the U.S. remained trapped near the summit.

  • Italy, for example, had recorded 34,767 deaths as of July 1 but has seen just 458 since.
  • The story is similar in other European countries that had devastating first waves. Despite occasional flare-ups, the current numbers hardly register compared to those we saw in the spring. 
  • That's also true of some parts of the U.S., like New York, but certainly not of the country as a whole.

The other side: A few high-income countries in Latin America and the Middle East — Chile, Panama, Israel, Oman — have actually seen sharper increases in cases and deaths than the U.S. this summer.

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios
  • Others that managed to avoid large initial outbreaks, like Australia or Hong Kong, have seen their caseloads multiply far more quickly than America's — but from low starting points.
  • Even some countries that have seen dramatic improvements since the spring, like Spain, are now responding to worrying hotspots.
  • America remains an exception in that it was hit so hard so early, and has never truly recovered.

Where things stand: Daily case counts in U.S. have declined recently, but are still the second-highest in the world, behind India. Of the 10 countries currently recording the highest daily caseloads, the U.S. is the only high-income country.

Editor's note: Our data excludes three high-income economies with very small populations — Channel Islands, Nauru and Palau — for which the WHO does not list COVID-19 data.

Go deeper

Nov 24, 2020 - Health

France to end second lockdown after three weeks

Photo: Marc Piasecki via Getty

France will begin a three-stage plan to phase out its second COVID-19 lockdown of the year, President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.

Why it matters: Last week’s virus cases across the country amounted to one-third the number of cases seen in early November, the New York Times reports. Health experts have warned France not to repeat its mistakes from the spring as the nation moves to ease restrictions.

UPS and Ford prepare for vaccine distribution with ultra-cold freezers

Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty

UPS and Ford Motor Company have both announced they ordered portable, ultra-low temperature freezers for storing coronavirus vaccines when they become available.

Why it matters: While the promising vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is 95% effective, it can only be stored at or around -70 degrees Celsius.

Health expert: Black and Latino homelessness will spike without pandemic relief package

Photo: Axios

Black and Latino Americans are facing “terrible financial problems” due to COVID-19, health expert Robert Blendon said on Tuesday at a virtual Axios event.

Why it matters: The pandemic has hit communities of color harder than white Americans, and the population of homeless Black Americans and Latinos will only increase if there is no emergency federal aid, Brendon said.