Because of the way states report data for nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and other long-term-care facilities, our figures for COVID-19 in these facilities refer to the week beginning January 8. These numbers remain very alarming: For the second week in a row, LTC facilities reported the highest death toll since we started gathering long-term-care data last May—more than 7,000 residents and staff. The number of known deaths reported this week may include backlogged figures from the winter holidays, and they also got a boost from a change in Iowa’s death reporting that increased that state’s reported figure.
There is also tentative good news from long-term-care facilities: The number of new cases was down by about 15,000 this week. It remains unclear whether case data have fully normalized from the reporting delays associated with the holidays, but next week’s data should confirm whether this case drop indicates a real improvement in the situation in long-term-care facilities.
Regional hospitalization and case data
A closer look at current COVID-19 hospitalizations offers good news for most U.S. regions. Hospitalizations remain very high but are declining modestly across the South and the West and continuing their substantial declines in the Midwest. In the Northeast, hospitalizations have plateaued.
At the state level, hospitalization data remain encouraging: Hospitalizations are declining or flat in every state but New York.
Cases, too, are falling in every region. In the Midwest’s “West North Central” division—which includes many of the states that had the worst per capita outbreaks late last fall—cases have very nearly returned to the levels reported at the beginning of October 2020.
A breakdown of weekly reported COVID-19 deaths by census regions and subregional divisions shows that although deaths are falling modestly across the country, they remain painfully high in most regions.
States we’re watching
Case and hospitalization declines are unquestionably good news. At the same time, in the country’s worst hot spots, states are still reporting very high numbers.
Arizona’s case count has fallen from last week, but per capita, the state’s case numbers remain the highest in the country at a seven-day average of 958 per million. The state is now nearly tied with South Carolina, where cases are rising rapidly. In Yuma County, Arizona, home to many of the state’s seasonal laborers, the Associated Press reports that the county has a positivity rate of 20 percent, compared with 14 percent for the state as a whole, and county public-health authorities said last week that they had run out of vaccines.
Hospitalizations lag behind cases, and Arizona’s per capita hospitalizations remain by far the highest in the country. Arizona’s hospitals are under severe strain, with 92 percent of all ICU and inpatient beds occupied as of Wednesday, accompanied by a surge in pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations. Nursing homes are also experiencing an increasing number of cases and deaths, and Fox 10 Phoenix reports that 40 percent of Arizona COVID-19 deaths have come from nursing facilities. Despite this, delays in the distribution of vaccines mean that many facilities (and patients) are still waiting for the first doses.