By nearly all measures, it has been a horrible week, a horrible month (10 days in), and a horrible year. The United States this week set records in all three metrics that gauge the pandemic’s severity, with a total of 1.4 million new cases and 15,966 deaths. Yesterday, states and territories reported 3,088 deaths from COVID-19—a record no one wanted to see—and the average number of deaths per day over the past 7 days exceeded 2,000, surpassing the highest average we saw in the spring’s deadly first surge. More than 106,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
If the patterns we’ve traced since the spring hold true, the worst is yet to come. Given the rapid increase in the number of new cases, we expect the metrics for hospitalizations and deaths to continue rising in the coming weeks—especially if in-person gatherings over Thanksgiving weekend led to increased spread of the coronavirus, as public-health experts warned would happen.
A crucial bit of muddiness remains in the data themselves: Some of the reported deaths we are seeing now are likely related to the post-Thanksgiving backlog we’ve written so much about in the past couple of weeks. What’s not exactly clear is how many of these deaths are following the case increases that occurred before and during the holiday week. Either way, we expect that deaths will climb steeply given current case and hospitalization numbers. Test reporting, too, is probably still slightly low because of the holiday effect. Case numbers appear to be largely back online following the holiday reporting disruption, however, which makes sense—historically, case numbers have been quicker to recover from holidays and weekends than tests and deaths.