The Pandemic Is Crashing Through the South and the West


At the national level, we’re seeing mixed indicators: Reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have declined very slightly since last Wednesday, while reported tests declined a little bit more. The United States now has more than 119,000 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, a rise of 5 percent from last week. States and territories reported 18,690 COVID-19 deaths this week—an average of 2,670 per day.


Four bar charts showing weekly COVID-19 metrics in the U.S. Cases and tests declined slightly this week, while hospitalizations and deaths rose about 5 percent each.


A regional breakdown reveals that the four main census regions of the country are now reporting very different experiences of the pandemic. The nation’s case increases are now being driven by the South and the West, while the Midwest continues its rapid decline, and the Northeast appears to have reached a plateau.


Four bar charts with seven-day average lines overlaid, showing new COVID-19 cases by U.S. region over time. The Midwest is seeing declining cases, but the South and the West are still growing quickly.


Continued hospitalization declines in the Midwest provide additional evidence that the outbreaks there have eased, while the Northeast’s hospitalizations are no longer rising as consistently as they had been. The South and the West are reporting hospitalization numbers much higher than their summer-surge peaks, and are still rising sharply.


Four bar charts showing COVID-19 hospitalizations by U.S. region. The Midwest has declined from the early December peak, but the South and the West continue to rise.


Seventeen states have seen sharp drops in the number of new cases reported since December 9, and every state in the Midwest has reported fewer cases now than two weeks ago. That this has not caused substantial drops in the national case count is due to a handful of states reporting very sharp case rises. Among these states are the nation’s three most populous, California, Florida, and Texas.


Block map of U.S. states showing the change in seven-day average COVID-19 cases for Dec 23 versus Dec 9. Only a few states are seeing rapid rises, but those states are populous (California, Georgia, Florida).


Case increases are not limited to these populous states—13 of 17 jurisdictions in the South posted case increases in the past two weeks—but taken together, Arizona, California, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas account for 40 percent of all new cases reported in the past seven days.


Stacked bar chart showing COVID-19 cases by week for the U.S. Arizona, California, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas account for 40 percent of this week's cases.


In California, cases are up an astonishing 68 percent since December 9, with the state reporting 292,995 new COVID-19 cases this week alone, while hospitalizations soar and ICU capacity wanes. COVID Tracking Project contributor Whet Moser reported on the state’s wrenching situation this week in The Atlantic. We took a closer look this week at what we can learn about which communities have been most affected in the state’s outbreak, using data from the COVID Racial Data Tracker.

Throughout the course of the pandemic in California, the virus has disproportionately affected Latino people. To date, 789,553 COVID-19 cases in California have been among Latino people, 56 percent of all cases for which race or ethnicity is reported.


Bar charts showing COVID-19 cases in California by race and ethnicity and by age. Latino people have suffered many more cases than white Californians.


More than one in 100 Latino people in California aged 80 or older have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and Latino Californians from the ages of 35 to 50 are nearly eight times as likely to have died as white Californians in the same age range.

Young Black Californians have also suffered proportionately more deaths than did their white neighbors. Black Californians from the ages of 18 to 34 are nearly seven times as likely to have died as white Californians in the same age range.


Jobber Wiki author Frank Long added to this report.