Covid Focus Shifts to California, West as Vaccine Rollout Starts

The latest Covid-19 wave is engulfing America’s West, with populous California contributing far more daily cases than any other state and Nevada leading the nation in coronavirus hospitalizations per capita.

As a region, the West is on the cusp of surpassing the Midwest as the worst area by cases per million residents, according to Covid Tracking Project data. The region -- as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau -- posted a record seven-day average of 708 new cases per million people.

The average in the Midwest, the hardest-hit region since September, has dropped by 19% from its Nov. 19 high and is now at 742 per million, its lowest since Nov. 10. The Northeast is America’s third-worst area at 617 daily cases per million, but the figure has dropped 1.7% from its Dec. 9 peak. (It’s too early to interpret that as a trend reversal, with Northeast current hospitalizations still at a record.)

Covid Focus Shifts to California, West as Vaccine Rollout Starts

In California, hospitalizations have jumped more than 50% since the start of the month to a record 13,960 patients, according to state health-department data. Three of the state’s five designated regions -- Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley and Greater Sacramento -- are under mandatory lockdown orders after intensive-care capacity slid below 15%, while much of the San Francisco Bay area has imposed its own stay-home requirements.

The alarming momentum in Western states is likely to keep the number of national Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths elevated as the country begins the daunting task of vaccinating front-line health-care workers and the vulnerable residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Vaccine access remains months away for most of the general public.

Nationally, the U.S. posted 186,884 new Covid-19 cases, pushing the seven-day average to a record 211,494, Covid Tracking Project data show.

As of early Monday, there have been at least 299,246 deaths attributed to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

One characteristic of Covid’s latest wave has been its outsize impact in rural America. As of last week, the virus has now officially killed more people per capita in rural places than in metropolitan areas, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on the National Center for Health Statistics’ Urban-Rural Classification Scheme. That’s been a massive and swift reversal of fortunes some nine months after Covid first swept through New York City.

According to Covid Tracking Project data:

  • Tennessee was the only state to post a single-day record in cases Sunday, but figures are typically lower on weekends.
  • On a per-capita basis, Tennessee also had the most new cases in the past week.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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