The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

New coronavirus cases reach highs in 31 states

Patrick Foye, chairman and CEO of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, hands out face masks Tuesday in the World Trade Center’s transportation hub. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Through Monday, The Washington Post has tallied about 11.2 million coronavirus cases in the United States since the first infections were detected early this year.

Of those 11.2 million confirmed cases, 1 in 11 had been confirmed over the previous seven days.

The numbers are unquestionably grim. As of Monday, 31 states were seeing more cases added each day than at any previous point in the pandemic. The third surge of infections — following the one at the pandemic’s outset and the one that ripped through the South over the summer — has been the most pervasive. In about a third of states, there are now more people hospitalized with the virus than at any previous point.

This interactive demonstrates the current moment more effectively than can words.


March 1 SURGE 1

If you flip to the display showing cases as a function of population, you can see the third surge originating in the Dakotas in mid-September, about a month after the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.

The good news for now is that deaths, which trail new infections by about two weeks, are still rising only modestly. The bad news is that Iowa, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin are all seeing more deaths per day on average than at any previous point in the pandemic.

Since August, the average number of deaths each day has consistently represented about 1.7 percent of the number of new cases 16 days previously. That suggests that by the beginning of December, we’re probably going to see as many deaths each day as we saw during the worst period last spring — or even more. At that point, the massive surge of cases in the New York City area overwhelmed hospitals and exacerbated the death toll. Now, while we know more about treating the virus effectively, the same sort of overwhelming of medical facilities risks increasing the death toll more substantially.

It’s also likely that, within a few weeks, one or two viable vaccine candidates will apply for and receive emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, meaning that front-line health-care workers and those most at risk from the virus will soon be receiving protection against it. But it will be months before most of the public receives the vaccine.

In the meantime, more than 1,000 people a day are dying of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. More people have died of the virus since the beginning of October than were estimated to have died in car accidents in the United States in all of 2019. Yet our current approach to the pandemic is something like hurrying to participate in drag races before car manufacturers finish implementing the installation of air bags.