National numbers, September 12

COVID-19 cases appear to be going down in the U.S., though some of that drop may be due to Labor Day reporting delays. Chart from the CDC, retrieved September 12.

In the past week (September 4 through 10), the U.S. reported about 960,000 new cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 137,000 new cases each day
  • 291 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 13% fewer new cases than last week (August 29-September 3)

Last week, America also saw:

  • 82,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals (25 for every 100,000 people)
  • 7,500 new COVID-19 deaths (2.3 for every 100,000 people)
  • 99% of new cases now Delta-caused (as of September 4)
  • An average of 700,000 vaccinations per day (per Bloomberg)

Last week, I wrote that national U.S. COVID-19 cases were in a plateau. The pattern has continued this week: cases are down 13% from last week, new hospitalized patients are down 4%, and deaths are down 11%.

It’s important to note here, though, that Labor Day likely skewed these numbers. As is typical of COVID-19 reporting on holidays, many local public health agencies—the initial source of case counts and other metrics—took the weekend off, leading those counts to get delayed. We may see higher numbers next week as reports catch up.

Even as the national numbers drop, though, some states are seeing record case counts and overwhelmed hospitals. South Carolina is one example: this state is now seeing the highest case rate in the U.S., with 680 new cases for every 100,000 residents in the past week, per Community Profile Report data. Kentucky and West Virginia are ranking highly too, with 625 and 586 new cases for every 100,000 people in the past week, respectively.

Both South Carolina and Kentucky have record numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitals right now, while West Virginia is approaching its winter 2020 numbers. In Idaho, another state seeing record hospitalizations, state public health leadership placed several northern hospitals under “crisis standards of care,” meaning that clinicians could ration limited resources and prioritize those patients who are deemed most likely to survive.

All of these states, of course, have low vaccination rates—under 50% of their populations are fully vaccinated. While vaccination rates rose nationally in August, dose counts now seem to be going down again: from a daily average of one million last week to 700,000 now.

The Delta variant continues to dominate America’s COVID-19 surge. For several weeks now, this variant has been causing over 99% of new cases. And, while the Mu (or B.1.621) variant has made headlines, this variant appears not transmissible enough to compete with Delta. The CDC COVID Data Tracker Weekly Review noted this week that the Mu variant “reached its [U.S.] peak in late June,” causing under 5% of cases, and “has steadily decreased since.” It’s currently causing just 0.1% of cases, the CDC estimates.

Also, we still aren’t doing enough testing. The overall national PCR test positivity rate is 9.1%, while rapid tests—increasingly popular during the Delta surge—are difficult to find in many settings. A lack of testing makes it difficult to identify all breakthrough cases and look out for future variants that may arise.

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