Yesterday, hospitalizations in the United States fell below 60,000 for the first time since November 9, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic. This milestone is not just another round number. In the spring and summer waves, hospitalizations peaked at just fewer than 60,000 both times.
In other words, for the first time in three months, the spread of COVID-19 has receded enough that it now matches the worst of the early pandemic. As welcome as this change might be—it’s a relatively rapid decline from the peak of 132,474 hospitalizations on January 6—it also indicates how far we have to go.
During the winter surge, every U.S. region hit a peak almost simultaneously, whereas the spring and summer peaks represented increases in just two regions. The decline has been rapid for similar reasons: It’s happening everywhere. By the COVID Tracking Project’s conservative definition of falling, meaning down more than 10 percent from the prior week, hospitalizations in 41 states are falling while those in nine states and the District of Columbia are staying the same. Only hospitalizations in South Dakota are increasing, and in raw numbers it’s from 82 patients to 95.
The death toll has finally caught up to this trend as well. On February 18, the seven-day average of deaths was 1,998, the first time that number fell below 2,000 since December 4, and down from 3,302 on January 26.