Clinicians work on intubating a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital on August 10, 2021 in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Mario Tama | Getty Images
On average, more than 2,000 Americans die from Covid every day, a bleak threshold the country has not seen in more than six months.
The seven-day average of reported Covid deaths in the United States was 2,031 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. While new infections have plateaued, deaths continue to rise, up 13% from the previous week and 43% since the beginning of the month. The last time the average daily death toll in the US was over 2,000 was on March 1. The country came back from a record winter spike in cases and record deaths averaging 3,426 per day in mid-January.
Covid-19 officially became the deadliest outbreak in recent American history on Monday, surpassing estimated US deaths from the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Average daily deaths were also over 2,000 when the outbreak began in April 2020, and limitations on testing at that point mean the country’s first peak of 2,245 average daily deaths on April 24 this year could be an outnumbered.
Reported deaths are currently highest in major US states like Florida, which recorded an average of 376 daily deaths over the past week, and Texas, which reports a daily average of 283. Taken together, this makes up about a third of the nation’s deaths from average.
On a population-adjusted basis, Alabama, Florida, and West Virginia report the highest average daily deaths per 100,000 population.
The rise in the daily death toll follows the country’s recent surge in infections, which is showing some signs of easing but remains worryingly high. The U.S. reports about 135,000 daily cases over the past week, and while the trend has been obscured for much of the month due to inconsistencies in state reporting around the Labor Day holiday, the 7-day average is around 18 from September % decreased. 1.
Hospital stays are also increasing, but decreasing. About 91,500 Americans are currently hospitalized with Covid, according to a seven-day average from data from the Department of Health and Human Services. At the beginning of the month there were just under 103,000.
Any change in the trend of reported cases and hospital admissions typically doesn’t show up in the death toll for weeks as it takes time for people to contract the virus and then get so sick that they need urgent care.
“I think if the curve and the cases go down, the deaths should follow,” said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He added that treatments for Covid have also improved, with better therapies today than a year ago.
Despite encouraging signs in the nationwide trend, the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant continues to increase in some states.
The Ohio Department of Health warned Wednesday that many hospitals in the state “have reached or have reached peak capacity,” with the increase being largely driven by unvaccinated patients. The number of cases there has risen by 33% to an average of 6,771 per day since the beginning of the month.
The case numbers in Alaska and West Virginia are also at or near all-time highs. The average of 857 daily cases in Alaska is a pandemic record for the state, although daily deaths of two per day are roughly the same as on September 1. West Virginia, where the 26 deaths a day as of Tuesday represents a 157% increase since the beginning of the month, was not spared a surge in the death toll.
However, infectious disease experts say the results could be worse if it weren’t for the development of Covid vaccines.
“If we didn’t have vaccines and suffered this delta, the death rate would be dramatically higher,” said Dr. Bruce Farber, director of infectious diseases at Northwell Health in New York. “Hundreds of thousands of people would have died, probably in the millions. And I think we’ve seen that in every country where the delta has spread rapidly without adequate vaccination.”
Nearly 55% of the US population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.