The American outlook
Even if you’ve been following the news of the virus closely, it can be difficult to know which direction the pandemic is heading. To help sort it out, I’ve put together some graphics that give us a clearer picture.
Cases of the virus, which had accelerated rapidly since early July, appeared to have stabilized before Labor Day. There were rumors that maybe the worst of the Delta wave was behind us. The holiday weekend has caused the number of cases to fluctuate wildly, but now that the dust has settled, the United States is more or less in one place.
“The truth is that we are right about 150,000 cases per day, which is lower than the peak this summer,” said Mitch Smith, who follows the virus for The Times. “But it’s still 50 times higher than what we would like.”
The good news is that the national case rate is not rising, even at a time when most of the country is open and schools and colleges are back. Some of the states that have been hit the hardest this summer – including Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia – also appear to be turning a corner.
Cases are increasing in the Mountain West, Northeast, and Upper Midwest. But Mitch said he expects case levels to remain well below those seen in the South this summer. We might even see the number of cases decrease over the next few weeks.
However, the national outlook looks much bleaker when tracking hospitalizations and deaths.
One in four US hospitals now report more than 95% of intensive care beds occupied, up from one in five last month. When all or nearly all of the intensive care beds are occupied, experts say it can become difficult to maintain standards of care for the sickest patients.
Most concerning, Mitch said, are the number of deaths and what they will look like in the weeks to come.
“We are quickly approaching 2,000 deaths per day on average, and we never wanted to be near that number again,” said Mitch. “Unfortunately, the number of hospital cases suggests that the death rate is not going to start dropping for some time. And, tragically, we are now approaching 700,000 total deaths. (The United States recently took another grim milestone: 1 in 500 residents have now died from Covid-19.)
Unvaccinated Americans are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid than those who are vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Simply put, vaccines save lives. Unlike most countries, the United States has more than enough for everyone. This means that many of the recent deaths were preventable.
The Opinion section of the New York Times set out to quantify the number of lives that could have been saved in the last wave if all states had succeeded in vaccinating their residents as quickly as the state with the highest vaccination rate ( generally Vermont).
The return that was not
New York Times photographers in the United States have spent the past six months documenting the coronavirus economy as the start of summer shifted from an apparent return to normalcy to a much darker and more uncertain situation.
Today, the finish line still seems out of reach. Take a look at what our photographers have seen, month by month, here.
What else we follow
What are you doing
I finally learned that the deep pain and anger that I was facing – being surrounded by a lot of people who don’t hide and many people who are not vaccinated – really comes from feeling part of a community that don’t care about me, my family or others. A community should be a group of people who work together to create a safe and pleasant place to live. My community is the biggest threat to my family right now, and that’s sad. How and when I will recover, I don’t know.
– Celeste Huggins, Idaho Falls, Idaho
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