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Data: COVID Tracking Project, Harvard Global Health Institute; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Coronavirus hospitalizations have declined in many states — another indication that social distancing has been effective at curbing the virus' spread.

Why it matters: Hospitalizations are an important metric to watch to gauge the severity of the outbreak, especially because testing shortfalls have skewed some other measurements. Those numbers aren't falling everywhere, and any approach to reopening needs to be carefully managed to prevent them from spiking yet again.

Between the lines: Hospitals need to report this data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention daily, but we still don't have real-time numbers, due in part to the failures of the country's electronic health data infrastructure.

What the data show: Among the 40 states that have consistently provided data, COVID-19 hospitalizations are taking up a smaller percentage of all occupied hospital beds in many states, including hotspots like Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.

  • No more than 25% of hospital beds in any state are occupied by coronavirus patients.

Yes, but: Hospitalization rates aren't dropping, and in some cases are rising, in several states, including Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico and Virginia.

What's next: Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator of infection, because it takes a while for people to feel sick and seek intensive care — so the coming weeks will provide a clearer picture of whether some states and hospitals are getting hammered again.

Even in states like Vermont — where there have been very few hospitalizations and aggressive social distancing protocols — health care officials are treading carefully with reopening businesses and restarting elective medical procedures.

  • "Mitigation bought us time we really needed," said Stephen Leffler, an ER doctor and president of the University of Vermont Medical Center, which has two of the state's five current COVID-19 inpatients. "Now we're planning for the next phase, which is for COVID to be part of the new normal."

Go deeper: High-risk states are seeing fewer new coronavirus cases

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Aug 22, 2020 - World

South Korea reenters lockdown after spike in coronavirus infections

A coronavirus test being done in Seoul. Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

South Korea is shuttering nightclubs and churches and cancelling professional sports and large social gatherings after an uptick in COVID-19 infections, AP reports.

The state of play: Health Minister Park Neung-hoo enacted the new rules on Saturday after 332 new cases were confirmed. To date, South Korea has seen 17,002 confirmed coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins University. Most of the outbreak is centralized in Seoul, but it is spreading to major cities throughout the country. South Korea has consistently been one of the strictest countries on COVID-19 precautions.

  • Seoul was placed under stricter lockdown rules earlier this week.
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Axios-Ipsos poll: Federal response has only gotten worse. The swing states where the pandemic is raging.
  2. Health: The coronavirus is starting to crush some hospitals. 13 states set single-day case records last week.
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota COVID cases traced to 3 Trump campaign events
  6. World: Unrest in Italy as restrictions grow across Europe.
  7. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.