Erin Kissane is a co-founder of the COVID Tracking Project, and the project’s managing editor.
This week, about 435,000 Americans were diagnosed with COVID-19. This is our fourth week of big increases in the number of new cases, and the results of this case surge are becoming clear. As of July 15, more than 56,000 people are currently in the hospital with COVID-19 in the United States. This week, states reported that 4,872 more people have died of COVID-19, an increase of nearly 29 percent from the previous week.
There are no surprises in these new death numbers: people are dying of COVID-19 in the same places where cases have been surging and COVID-19 hospital admissions have spiked. Fourteen states reported more than 100 COVID-19 deaths in the last week, and eight of those states were in the South, the region so far hit hardest in the second surge of cases. Slightly fewer than half the deaths were reported by the four states with the biggest outbreaks—Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas—and most of the rest were distributed down the Eastern Seaboard and across the South.
Our national view of how many people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 is clearer now that Florida has finally released current hospitalization data. With hospitalizations from Florida’s outbreak accounted for, the national hospitalization figures are approaching their previous peak levels from April of this year.
Hospital data has been in the news for other reasons as well. The US Department of Health and Human Services has directed hospitals to report COVID-19 data directly to HHS, rather than to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At The COVID Tracking Project, we compile all our data from official state and territorial sources—not from any federal agency. Nevertheless, we have already seen state-level hospital data go dark in at least one state, Idaho, as a result of the new HHS directive. We hope and expect that hospital reporting through many states will continue uninterrupted, and we'll be reporting what we learn about states' experience with the new directive.
Outside of the five states with the biggest outbreaks, several other states posted alarming data this week. In several states across the South, case growth is smaller in absolute terms, but the trends we see this week mirror those we saw in Arizona and Florida a few weeks ago. We hope not to see those trends continue and result in the huge case spikes—and subsequent large increases in hospitalizations and deaths—that we saw in the states worst hit in the pandemic’s second surge.
Public health interventions in these states have varied widely this week. In Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, new mask orders and other restrictions have gone into effect. North Carolina has been under a mask order since June 25, and has reported a less explosive rise in new case growth than the other four states we're watching in this group of southern states. In Georgia, the governor has explicitly voided local mask orders in Georgia cities and counties.
This week, US states and territories reported more than five million COVID-19 tests in a single week—a major achievement amid continuing testing shortages in many areas. For context, the Harvard Global Health Institute estimates that the United States will need to perform at least 8.4 million tests per week to slow the spread of the virus, and 30 million tests per week to suppress the pandemic.
You can learn all about our data compilation process, including an overview of our collection and publication process, our data sourcing policy, and exact definitions of the data points we track here on our website and in our API. To keep up to date on our work, follow us on Twitter and join our low-frequency email list.