COVID cases are rising steeply throughout the southeastern US

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COVID cases are rising steeply throughout the southeastern US

Click here to see all of PopSci’s COVID-19 coverage.

This post is updated weekly.

We are well into year two of the COVID-19 pandemic, which officially began on March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared the viral outbreak a global event. That came just two months after WHO announced on January 5, 2020, that there was a mysterious virus emerging in Wuhan, China. Since then, more than 620,000 Americans have died from the virus.

Today, the state of the pandemic looks far different than it did even a few months ago. We now have a handful of vaccines to prevent the infection, and more than 60 percent of US adults have completed their vaccination regimens. But it’s still crucial that we maintain our awareness of the severity of this crisis. Here’s a quick overview of the most recent essential stats and figures.

Current US vaccination numbers

The number of daily vaccines administered had plateaued at around half a million doses toward the end of July, but are slowly on the rise again. On August 16, the seven-day average of vaccines administered was up about 7 percent from the previous week, to about 765,000 doses per day nationwide. Still, that’s 77 percent lower than when vaccinations peaked on April 13, at 3.38 million doses per day.

More than 60 percent of US adults are now fully vaccinated, and 60 percent of the entire population has now received at least one dose.

On May 4, President Biden set a goal of having 70 percent of American adults with at least one vaccine shot by July 4. The US reached the benchmark about one month late. And that number has barely crept up in the last week: Currently just 72 percent of all adults nationally have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine, though vaccination rates still vary widely by state and region.

These are the top five states for percentage of total population with at least one dose:

  1. Vermont at 75 percent
  2. Massachusetts at 74 percent
  3. Hawaii at 73 percent
  4. Connecticut at 72 percent
  5. Maine at 70 percent

Every state has reached a rate of at least 35 percent complete vaccination, with Vermont leading the way at 67 percent and Alabama and Mississippi tied last at 36 percent.

[Related: Questions about booster vaccines, answered]

Latest US COVID-19 case counts

The United States has now reported more than 36.9 million cases in total, and there were 141,365 new daily cases on average as of August 16, which is up 64 percent over the last two weeks. In the past month, the average number of new cases per day has more than tripled. Case numbers had drastically declined from our third—and by far largest—peak so far, reaching a pandemic low for much of June. Although cases are still below January’s peak, they have been rising steeply since early July and are now on par with numbers from last November.

COVID-19 testing has continued to increase since mid-July, although the testing rates remain lower than they were over the winter when reported case counts were similar. This means that case numbers may not be directly comparable to the winter counts. National positivity rates had fallen along with case counts in the spring and earlier summer, but are trending back up as the Delta variant remains dominant.

The CDC reports that an average of more than 10 percent of tests nationally have been positive this week.

In order to get this new wave under control and avoid another spike in the magnitude of January’s, it’s crucial that we use all of the tools at our disposal. Get tested if you have symptoms or a known exposure, even if you’ve been vaccinated. Wear a mask in indoor or crowded outdoor public spaces. Most importantly, it’s critical that everyone get vaccinated as quickly as possible. Everyone age 12 and older in the US is currently eligible—this is how we can all contribute to ending the pandemic.

Coronavirus stats around the world

Going by total case counts, the current top 10 countries for COVID-19 are:

  1. US
  2. India
  3. Brazil
  4. Russia
  5. France
  6. United Kingdom
  7. Turkey
  8. Argentina
  9. Colombia
  10. Spain

But what these countries generally have in common is large populations. The list of total cases per 100,000 people tells a very different story (not counting countries with fewer than 100,000 people):

  1. Montenegro
  2. Bahrain
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Maldives
  5. Georgia
  6. Slovenia
  7. Luxembourg
  8. Argentina
  9. United States
  10. Uruguay

Though for a while we were off of the top cases per 100,000, America is also currently the biggest single-nation driver of the new global cases by a factor of nearly three.

Many parts of the world have recently or are currently experiencing a resurgence in COVID cases, driven by the especially infectious Delta variant. The global daily average case count is seven percent higher than it was two weeks ago. In spring and early summer, this global spike was mostly linked with high case counts across Latin America, but is now largely related to resurgences in the US, the Middle East, and Western Europe. Some nations in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean continue to record their largest spikes yet, though. Georgia, Dominica, Cuba, Botswana, Israel, and Malaysia are all currently averaging 60 or more cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.

More than half of all South American nations experienced case spikes in June, and had among the highest rates of new infections and deaths in the world. Peru has reported more than 197,400 COVID-19 deaths, making it the country with the highest death toll per capita in the world by a factor of nearly two. Brazil has reported more than 569,000 deaths, a number second only to the United States.

A recent study, however, estimates the actual death toll in India is well over three million, nearly seven times the official current count of 432,000. The study, conducted by the Center for Global Development, a D.C.-based research group, examined data from the state, international estimates, testing samples, and surveys of people living in India. “True deaths are likely to be in the several millions, not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy,” its authors say.

India is reporting about 36,000 new daily cases and an average of 485 daily deaths. Less than nine percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Worldwide, the vaccination disparity between low and high-income nations is increasingly evident. In developing nations, vaccination rates remain well below 10 percent, while in wealthier countries, more than 60 percent of residents have completed their jab regimens, according to The New York Times.

[Related: J&J vaccine may be less effective against Delta COVID variant]

The most recent COVID-19 hotspots in the US

Case numbers are currently rising steeply in every US state. In South Dakota, daily average case counts are up nearly 400 percent, and have more than doubled in many more places. States with the highest current infection rates per capita include Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas, which all have an average of more than 70 new daily cases per 100,000 people. All except Florida have vaccination rates below 40 percent.

The coronavirus death toll and hospitalization rates

At least 622,200 Americans have now died from COVID-19. An average of 704 people died every day over the week ending on August 16—and nearly all of those who died were unvaccinated.

Although the number of deaths remains close to pandemic lows, the average number of people hospitalized with COVID has been increasing rapidly along with case counts, and deaths are creeping back up as well. Hospitalization rates are at levels not seen since February, and medical systems are becoming regionally overloaded once again, particularly in the Southeast. With the highly contagious Delta variant dominating, and the threat of new variants on the horizon, getting back to the gains made earlier in the summer will be a challenge.

However, it is possible to once again achieve declining infection rates and hospitalizations. All of the US vaccines have demonstrated some level of protection against the Delta variant—crucially, they continue to protect against serious disease. Vaccination, testing, and following appropriate masking and distancing precautions all remain critical.

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