COVID Cases Are Soaring Once Again with New Omicron Subvariant BA.2.12.1
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When the first U.S. case of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, was confirmed on Jan. 21, it appeared to be contained — the patient was a man living near Seattle who had recently returned from Wuhan, China and immediately isolated himself, and the local health department had conducted contact tracing to make sure that anyone he had encountered was now quarantining at home.
But as more people returned to the U.S. from China, and then Italy, the site of the second major outbreak, the number of cases started to tick upwards. And due to the nature of the virus — which is highly contagious but can present without symptoms — it began to spread in communities where there were no known cases and no testing measures in place.
From there, the number of cases soared — up to 1,000 by March 26, to 1 million by April 28, 3 million by July 8, 3.5 million by July 17, 5.2 million by August 13 and 7 million by September 25. Cases went up by 2 million over the month of October, and over the four weeks of November, they increased by more than 4.3 million. December and January saw what had been the largest surge yet, with the U.S. repeatedly breaking its record for most new cases in a single day.
February brought hopeful progress, as cases finally started to decline for the first time in more than three months, but they plateaued to about 55,000 a day in March before again ticking upwards, particularly in the upper Midwest and New York area.
Then in April, May and June, as the three approved COVID-19 vaccines became available to every American aged 12 and up, new cases steeply declined to their lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic. The U.S. hit a low of just over 11,000 cases a day in late June, but when the delta variant, the most contagious one yet, took over while large populations of the country declined vaccination, cases jumped back up to more than 150,000 a day in August and September.
Cases dipped down in October, but when the weather turned colder — and the new, highly contagious omicron variant, which seems to largely evade the vaccines, hit the U.S. — the number of infections reached levels never seen before. The current record is from Jan. 10, when the U.S. reported a stunning 1,433,977 new cases, according to The New York Times. As of spring 2022, cases are again rising as omicron mutates and subvariants such as BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 infect the nation.
Hospitalizations and deaths, though, have stayed low during the omicron surges, with the vaccines providing around 95% protection against severe COVID-19 illness or death. Still, with just 66% of the country fully vaccinated, around 350 Americans are dying a day.
That is well below the 2020-2021 holiday surge when about 4,000 Americans were dying each day. January 2021 was the deadliest month of the entire pandemic, with more than 95,245 deaths, and in late February the death toll surpassed 500,000. By mid-December, after the delta variant led to the deaths of thousands of mostly unvaccinated Americans, the toll hit 800,000. The U.S. will hit the somber milestone of 1,000,000 COVID deaths in May.
The COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. can be seen in the above graphic, which shows how the virus circulated through the country over the last few months. Each state pops up when they have identified their first case of COVID-19, and then shows, day by day, how their number of cases grows.
The color of the circles also shows the percentage of the population that has tested positive and the inner black dots represent those who have died.
The graphic can also be sorted by three different measures — the number of cases, the number of deaths and the percentage of cases in relation to the state’s population.
The graphic will continue to update each day with new cases, and states may shuffle places if their cases increase.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.