On April 28, the number of recorded cases of COVID-19 in the United States surpassed 1 million. Even as the exponential spread of the virus has begun to slow somewhat, the virus continues to infect 20,000 to 30,000 people nationwide each day, with possibly many more going undiagnosed because of a shortage of tests.
Reviewing how the coronavirus is spreading in each state reveals a more complicated situation. In some states, new cases appear to be peaking. In Louisiana, one of the hardest hit states, the number of cases per 100,000 residents increased by just 8% in the past seven days. However, in nearly half of all states, the number of new cases per 100,000 rose by at least 25% over that same period, including an 86% increase in one state.
To determine the states where the number of confirmed cases per capita is growing the fastest right now, 24/7 Wall St. compiled and reviewed the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths for the seven days through April 29 from state and local health departments.
Even as case numbers continue to rise in every state, roughly a dozen U.S. states have stay-at-home orders set to expire in the coming week or have explicitly announced plans to reopen parts of the economy in the near future.
More announcements regarding easing measures taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus are likely coming as the long-term economic effects of maintaining social distancing and closing nonessential businesses are expected to be severe and as state lawmakers face pressure from constituents.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Mark Seidner, associate professor of infectious diseases at Harvard University and clinician at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained that while factors such as population density and initial point of infection have been important in determining where outbreaks occurred in states, he noted that there are two main factors in determining how state infection rates will change over time.
“How good is the state doing in testing, and how strictly is a state enforcing social distancing?” He added that he and his colleagues are going to keep a watchful eye on how states are going to relax social distancing measures in the next week or two and how these changes would impact the progression of the outbreak.
Notably, all of the hardest hit states, including New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, have plans to keep nonessential businesses closed and to maintain statewide stay-at-home orders at least through the second half of May.
A number of states with the largest increases in COVID-19 cases in the past week have no statewide stay-at-home orders, such as Nebraska and Iowa, which reported a 70% and 86% increase, respectively, in new cases per 100,000 residents over the seven days ending on April 29.
Other states that are actively planning on easing restrictions are also reporting some of the largest increases. In Minnesota, where Governor Tim Walz opted to allow select businesses to resume operations on April 27, the number of new cases per capita rose 53.7% over the past seven days. These are the states with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.
Severe symptoms do not typically begin to develop until the second week of infection. Because of this delay, there will also be a substantial delay between when these states reopen and when it will be possible to assess the effect of these decisions.