COVID Tracking Project: The 3rd surge has likely begun 

The number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reported this week suggest the third surge of the pandemic is underway in the United States, according to analysis from the COVID Tracking Project. 

The COVID Tracking Project is a volunteer organization launched by The Atlantic and dedicated to collecting and publishing the data tracking COVID-19's spread in the United States. Its analysis suggesting the third surge is based on the official data it compiles from 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. 

New cases of the virus increased by 18 percent this week, with a seven-day average topping 51,000 cases a day. The spike in new cases was distributed across the country, rather than concentrated in a few states, with 17 states posting new case records this week. 

Single-day new case counts are seen by data analysts as an imperfect data point, since some states don't report them consistently or encounter testing backlogs. But the COVID Tracking Project says that of all the states to report record highs this week, only Washington's appears to be the result of reporting irregularities.

"The other 16 states all showed alarming overall case and hospital trends in the past week," it notes. 

This week, COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by more than 14 percent from the week prior. Every state in the Midwest except North Dakota reported more hospitalizations this week than they did the last. The COVID Tracking Project has recorded two previous hospitalization peaks in national data: the first from mid-March to mid-June, when hospitalizations rose to 60,000 and then gradually declined to just under 30,000 — mostly in the Northeast. The second was from June 21 to mid-September, when hospitalizations surged in the South and West. 

"The surge in hospitalizations we're seeing now looks a little different," write the members of the project. "It's less abrupt, and much more geographically widespread. And this time, more states that experienced major outbreaks earlier in the year are seeing hospitalizations rise again."

Since Oct. 7, states have reported 4,796 COVID-19 deaths — that's up by about 3 percent over the previous week.

"Since the start of the pandemic, we have typically seen reported deaths lag behind reported cases by three to four weeks, although reporting delays seem to have worsened in some states, including Florida and Texas," the authors said.

Almost all data the COVID Tracking Project compiles is taken directly from the websites of local, state or territory public health authorities. When data is missing from those websites, the project supplements available numbers with information from official news conferences with governors or public health authorities.

Read the COVID Tracking Projects analysis here, via The Atlantic


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