The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A third of states are still seeing new cases at at least 75 percent of their peaks

Masks are displayed in CV19 Essential, a New York City store that specializes in goods to help fight the outbreak of the coronavirus on Monday. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The United States is poised to see its 200,000th confirmed death from the coronavirus shortly, if it hasn’t already happened by the time you read this. That’s confirmed deaths; the country has already certainly experienced far more than 200,000 deaths as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, as made obvious by the country’s year-over-year increase in deaths.

President Trump is eager to suggest that this unhappy metric is beside the point. The point, he likes to say, is that the country has “turned the corner” on the pandemic and put this thing mostly behind us as we look to the future. It’s a claim that he makes independent of how the pandemic progresses. To Trump, we have rounded the corner now as surely as we had 100,000 deaths ago.

Assuming that we reach 200,000 confirmed deaths on Monday, the pattern we’ve seen on fatality is grim. The most recent 10,000 deaths will have been added in nine days, three fewer than the 10,000 deaths that preceded those. It’s taken about 12 days on average for each of the last 10 10,000-death intervals, a fairly static death toll that keeps pushing higher.

On a positive note, fewer of those infected with the virus are dying than earlier in the pandemic. But the ongoing addition of new cases means an ongoing addition of new deaths. And cases keep being added.

As it stands, the country is adding more than 40,000 new cases each day — more than were recorded in the spring when testing was scarce and more than were being added even 10 days ago. We’re now double the 20,000 plateau we reached in June, right before the second surge in new cases. And while the ongoing addition of cases is lower than it was in the middle of the summer, it still translates into nearly 1,000 deaths a day.

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In fact, if we consider when each state hit its high in its seven-day average of new cases, fully a third of the country is still at or above 75 percent of that mark. Take Arkansas, for example: it hit a new peak in its seven-day average this month and is still seeing new cases at 83 percent of that level. (Click a state below to see its data.)

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Four states are currently at high points in their new case totals, according to Washington Post data, including Wisconsin. Another six states are at high points in the number of deaths they’re seeing each day (though three of them are small states with relatively few deaths). More concerning: 11 states are still seeing test positivity rates at 10 percent or higher, indicating continued uncontrolled spread of the virus.

To date, six states — California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington — have been responsible for 43 percent of cases and 48 percent of deaths. The balance of where the most Americans have died is shifting, with Texas, Florida and Arizona now accounting for a higher percentage of deaths nationally than New York.

New York is one of a handful of states where the initial surge in cases has faded and not gone back up. In many states, an initial peak was followed by a plateau or a summer peak that still hasn’t completely gone away.

If the pace of new infections continues as it has and the number of deaths does so as well, the United States will see more than 240,000 deaths by Election Day. That was the upper limit of the boundary set by the White House in March as the highest number of deaths that would be seen with effective containment.

Meaning that, unless the number of deaths suddenly plunges, the United States — by the White House’s own measure — will not have effectively contained the virus.

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