Over the last month, some observers and leaders have attributed the third wave of the COVID-19 epidemic that has been crashing upon the United States to increased testing, and spread among young people that are not likely to suffer severe disease. These are both certainly factors in the overall case load. The number of people hospitalized for the virus tells a different story, however, climbing an estimated 46 percent from a month ago and raising fears about the capacity of regional health care systems to respond to overwhelming demand.
Twenty-six states are at or near record numbers for new infections. More than 500,000 cases have been announced in the past week. No states are seeing sustained declines in case numbers. And while the escalating case numbers had not been accompanied by a steep rise in deaths, that trend is starting to change. About 800 deaths are now being recorded across the country each day, far fewer than in the spring but up slightly from earlier this month.