National numbers, January 16

The entire country has extremely high COVID-19 transmission right now. Chart via the January 13 Community Profile Report.

In the past week (January 8 through 14), the U.S. reported about 5.5 million new cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 783,000 new cases each day
  • 1,669 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • One in 60 Americans testing positive for COVID-19
  • 33% more new cases than last week (January 1-7)

Last week, America also saw:

  • 144,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals (44 for every 100,000 people)
  • 12,100 new COVID-19 deaths (3.7 for every 100,000 people)
  • 98% of new cases are Omicron-caused (as of January 8)
  • An average of 1.3 million vaccinations per day (per Bloomberg)

The U.S. once again broke COVID-19 records this week, reporting about 5.5 million new cases in total. Last winter, the highest number of cases reported in a single week was about 1.7 million; this past week, the country reported over one million cases just on Monday (though that number included backlogs from the prior weekend).

Last week, I wrote that one in eighty Americans had tested positive for COVID-19. This past week, that number is one in sixty—again, not including people who tested positive on rapid, at-home tests.

The U.S. also broke last winter’s hospitalization record this week: 157,000 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19 across the country, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Last winter’s record was about 125,000. But this number doesn’t capture the dire situations in ICUs, staff shortages, and other issues that hospitals are facing right now. (More on that later in the issue.)

Northeast states continue to report the highest case numbers: Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, and Florida all reported over 2,000 new cases for every 100,000 people in the week ending January 12, according to the latest Community Profile Report. Some of the earliest Omicron hotspots appear to have peaked; in New York City, for example, the weekly case rate is back under 2,000 new cases per 100,000 in the week ending January 11, down from a height of 3,500 new cases per 100,000 on January 3.

But talking about specific state hotspots obscures from the fact that every single state is seeing insane COVID-19 numbers right now. Only four states reported fewer than 1,000 new cases per 100,000 last week—Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Maine—but their cases are climbing fast. Remember, the CDC threshold for high transmission is 100 new cases per 100,000.

Speaking of hotspots: I have a new story in FiveThirtyEight this week, explaining that the most important Omicron hotspots actually can’t be seen on case maps. Right now, we need to identify outbreaks among the people most vulnerable to severe disease and those most capable of shutting down society; but the deluge of cases right now makes it hard to see and protect those people.

Here’s the kicker of the piece:

Still, the toolkit for addressing omicron hot spots is the same as it has been throughout the pandemic, said [Julia Raifman, a professor of health law, policy and management at the Boston University School of Public Health]. New federal requirements for vaccinations, masks, testing and ventilation would help protect the people most vulnerable to severe symptoms while also reducing case numbers in settings that can shut down society.

“Federal guidance on mask mandates tomorrow would likely reduce deaths by tens of thousands,” Raifman said. “The perfect doesn’t need to be the enemy of the good, you don’t need every state to pass it. But you can put in place a mask policy during the surge, and it will reduce transmission and reduce the harms to health care workers and businesses.”

In other words: When you can’t pinpoint specific hot spots, you need broad measures that can impact everyone. That strategy was made harder on Thursday, as an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that would have required around 80 million workers to get vaccinated or comply with regular testing was blocked by the Supreme Court. Without this rule, low-income workers will continue to face heightened risk of COVID-19 infection — and their cases will continue to ripple out.

One thought on “National numbers, January 16

Leave a Reply