Four States Have Already Surpassed Their COVID-19 Peaks

Just a month ago, even as signs of the fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in the U.S. were blossoming in the lower Midwest, the memory of a long, miserable winter kept us warm. Even places with burgeoning case rates were far below their catastrophic peaks over the holidays when a combination of cold weather and defiant travelers contributed to the third wave in infections and deaths that drowned out the previous two spikes in April and July of 2020.

This is regrettably no longer the case. In four states—Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida—the current number of daily new COVID-19 infections, averaged across seven days, has surpassed that winter peak, even with a substantial percentage of the population having received a complete dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine (though not nearly as many as public officials would prefer).

Hawaii is an anomaly, as its winter peak was not nearly as high as in colder, more accessible regions. But several other states threaten to join this quartet shortly. Oregon’s daily rate of new infections is 36.5 per 100,000 residents, or 99% of the peak value on Dec. 3, 2020. Nationwide, the rate is 37.7, just under 50% of the winter peak of 76.5.

While plenty of states remain far below the winter peaks, as the Delta variant tears across the country, we can expect more and more states to experience the fourth wave that crests higher than the third, even as new outbreaks are inspiring more vaccine holdouts to hold out their biceps and breakthrough infections. In contrast, frightening and non-trivial remain reasonably rare.

What is perhaps most sobering about this surge is that COVID-19-related deaths, which typically lag behind case surges by about two weeks, are starting to rise again. No state has yet surpassed the winter peak in fatalities, but at 65%, Louisiana very well may. That figure is still 15% nationwide, well below the Jan. 13, 2021 peak of 1.04 fatalities per 100,000 people. It is currently at 0.16.

When it comes to the pandemic, no one wants to sound like Chicken Little. The sky might not be falling. But neither is the national case rate nor the number of people dying.

The Coronavirus Brief. Everything you need to know about the global spread of COVID-19

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Write to Chris Wilson at chris.wilson@time.com.


Tyson Houlding
Tyson Houlding is a 28-year-old associate at a law firm who enjoys walking, writing, and learning new languages. He is creative and bright, but can also be very unfriendly and a bit lazy.He is an Australian Christian who defines himself as straight. He has a post-graduate degree in law.