10 states COVID-19 may hit the hardest by Christmas: Mayo Clinic forecasts

COVID-19 cases nationwide are surging as delta remains the dominant strain and the threat of omicron looms. 

As of Dec. 16, new daily cases were averaging more than 124,000 — a 31 percent increase over the last two weeks — data compiled by The New York Times shows. Hospitalizations are also up, averaging more than 68,000 on Dec. 16. 

Health officials have warned about the potential for a winter surge for months, well before omicron's debut in late November. While the strain appears to cause less severe illness, it's spreading faster than any other variant and a rise in cases overall would inevitably lead to more hospitalizations and deaths, health officials say. 

"Even if omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, World Health Organization director-general, said during a Dec. 14 news conference. 

Omicron will likely outpace delta and become the dominant strain at some point in January, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Dec. 16 event held by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. 

"Besides the toll of suffering and death, which will inevitably go up if in fact we have that convergence in the winter months of flu and omicron and delta, we could get our hospital systems overwhelmed," Dr. Fauci said, adding that vaccinations and boosters should offer strong protection "at least against severe disease." 

By Dec. 25, Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 map forecasting tool predicts the nation's average for daily cases could hit more than 143,000. Here are 10 states projected to have the highest number of average daily COVID-19 cases on Christmas: 

New York — 13,578 average daily cases

Ohio —  8,895

Pennsylvania —  8,398

Illinois — 7,767

California — 7,309

Massachusetts —  7,140

Wisconsin — 6,614

Michigan — 6,351

Texas — 5,364

Indiana — 5,338

Note: Mayo Clinic uses a Bayesian statistical model to forecast future cases that automatically updates as new data becomes available. There is an uncertainty interval for forecasted values, with lower and upper bounds that are not included in this list. To learn more about the data Mayo Clinic uses to forecast hot spots, click here. Becker's pulled the forecasted values on Dec. 17 at 7 a.m. CST. 


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