Deaths from COVID-19 in the United States fell for a third straight week last week, as cases and hospitalizations both showed steep drops.
The positive trends come as the U.S. death toll from the pandemic hit 500,000, though health experts have warned about a possible resurgence in cases due to new and more contagious variants of the coronavirus.
Deaths linked to COVID-19 fell 37% in the week ended Feb. 21 to 13,636, according to a Reuters analysis of U.S. state and county reports. Excluding a backlog of deaths reported by Ohio in the prior week, deaths on an adjusted basis fell 17%.
The country reported more than 491,000 new cases last week, but that was down 23% from the previous seven days. New cases have fallen for six straight weeks and are down 72% from their peak in early January. Compared to the previous week, new cases rose in only seven out of 50 states.
However, with the country logging 70,000 new cases on average per day, residents may be wearing masks into 2022, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN last week.
“That’s still very high level of virus in the community,” he said.
The average number of COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals fell 17% to 61,400 last week, the lowest since mid-November, according to a Reuters analysis of data from the volunteer-run COVID Tracking Project.
Nationally, 5.3% of COVID-19 tests came back positive for the virus, the lowest level since the week ended Oct. 18, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. The positive test rate remained above 20% in four states: South Dakota, Kansas, Alabama and Idaho.
As of July 27, reports of COVID-19 cases and deaths are sourced to Reuters reporting in order to streamline data reconciliation efforts when discrepancies arise. Testing data continues to come from The COVID Tracking Project.
About the data: On July 27, this page began using case and mortality data collected by Reuters after previously relying on The COVID Tracking Project. By tracking data in-house, Reuters is able to account for and follow up on reporting discrepancies on a state-by-state basis. This page will continue to rely on The COVID Tracking Project’s testing data.
Reuters collates and checks this data by hand and the figures largely come from state, county and territory government/public health department websites. Reuters also occasionally sources information from press conferences, press releases and verified tweets and social media posts by state officials. While some states and counties report fresh numbers daily, others only update on weekdays or less frequently.
Reuters’ total cases and deaths include both confirmed and probable cases and deaths where data is available. If probable cases and deaths are not reported, only confirmed cases and deaths are shown.
As testing numbers are not reported in a standardized format nationally, states vary in the way they record testing figures. Some include all tests performed while others only count the number of individuals tested. The COVID Tracking Project only includes polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which detect current coronavirus infections. Antibody tests, which may indicate a past exposure to the virus, are excluded from the overall count if they are reported separately.
A change in reporting methodology in Iowa on Feb. 19 resulted in a one-time increase of over 27,000 new cases.
A spike observed in deaths in Ohio and nationally in early February 2021 is due to Ohio including 4,275 probable deaths from earlier in the pandemic.
On Feb. 9, Wyoming changed their total reported test results from 704,836 to 595,970, which made it impossible to calculate a positive rate for the week ending Feb. 14.
A spike observed in deaths in Indiana and nationally in early February 2021 is due to Indiana including over 1,500 probable deaths from earlier in the pandemic.
Missouri cases and deaths for the week ended Jan. 31 include a one-time increase due to Reuters including data reported by St. Louis County.
Texas began reporting probable cases on Dec. 11. The change resulted in a one-day increase of roughly 65,000 cases.
On Sept. 2, Massachusetts adopted a more restrictive definition for probable cases, which resulted in a significant fall in the number of cases. Reuters has reconciled all historical data to reflect this change in methodology
Cumulative deaths in Michigan fell by one on Aug. 9 as the state continued its data review to remove fatalities recorded in error.
Virginia reported a large backlog of positive infections on Aug. 7, resulting in an abnormal spike in cases.
On July 30, Minnesota began reporting the total number of people tested instead of total specimens tested. This changed the state total by more than 173,000 tests for July 31.
A spike observed in deaths in New Jersey and nationally in late June is due to New Jersey including over 1,800 probable deaths from earlier in the pandemic.
Wyoming’s spike in late April is due to the inclusion of probable cases.
Reporting by Emily Isaacman, Arundhati Sarkar, Yajush Gupta, Sabahatjahan Contractor, Chinmay Rautmare, Roshan Abraham, Lisa Shumaker, Christine Chan, Wen Foo, Aditya Munjuluru, Anurag Maan, Nikhil Subba, K. Sathya Narayanan, Ahmed Farhatha, Aniruddha Chakrabarty, Mrinalika Roy, Abhishek Manikandan, Arpit Nayak, Chaithra J, Shaina Ahluwalia, Shreyasee Raj, Shashank Nayar, Nallur Sethuraman, Harshith Aranya and Gautami Khandke. Additional reporting by David Gregorio and Aurora Ellis.
Sources: Deaths and cases data from state and local governments and health authorities; Reuters reporting; U.S. Navy; Testing and hospitalizations data from The COVID Tracking Project
Editing by Tiffany Wu