State of the Facts
The US recorded about 6.3 million new COVID-19 cases (about 205,000 a day) in December, up from 4.3 million (or 144,000 a day) in November.
There were 74,864 coronavirus- related deaths recorded in December, up from 36,222 in November. There were nearly 340,000 known COVID-19 deaths for all of 2020.
While North Dakota and South Dakota had the highest case rates during fall, case rates spiked elsewhere in December. Rhode Island and Tennessee had the highest case rates for the month, both with more than 3,100 new cases per 100,000 residents.
New COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people
In fact, 32 states and Washington, DC recorded more cases in December than any other month. Seventeen of the other states had cases peak in November. Hawaii, however, had its worst month in August.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two COVID-19 vaccines. Almost 6 million people have taken the first of two required doses as of January 7. About 17.3 million doses were distributed nationwide.
In West Virginia, 74,000 adults received their first vaccine dose, representing 5.2% of adults — the highest percentage of any state. On the other end of the spectrum, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi had less than 1.3% of adults begin inoculation.
The FDA approved emergency use of a vaccine developed by Moderna for people 18 years old and over on December 18. That followed the December 11 approval of a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 16 and older. In both cases, vaccination is complete after a person receives two doses three to four weeks apart. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allocates doses for distribution every week.
During the first five days of January, the daily average of COVID-19 hospitalizations was 130,660, according to data from the HHS. During the summer surge, no day had more than 74,500 coronavirus patients hospitalized.
As of January 4, HHS estimated that 71.3% of all inpatient beds were occupied, with COVID-19 patients occupying 17.7% of them.
Meanwhile, 63.2% of ICU beds were occupied. The agency does not provide information about the number of patients in ICU beds because of COVID-19.
The strain on hospitals varies state by state. In California, COVID-19 patients occupied 32.6% of all beds while 88.4% of all ICU beds were occupied. In Vermont, 2.6% of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and 56.7% of ICU beds were occupied overall.
According to preliminary weekly data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) available as of January 6, 2021, 3,187,086 people died from all causes between January 1 and December 26, 2020. The last eight weeks of 2020 data is incomplete, as the agency has a delay in getting all death certificate information.
According to the same CDC estimate, 2,852,609 deaths took place in 2019.
The nation also lost 140,000 jobs last month, the first decrease since April.
A $900 billion stimulus package, also signed into law in December, includes an unemployment insurance boost of $300 a week. It included extensions of two unemployment insurance programs that differ from the regular state programs. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) provides 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits for those who exhausted their regular state or federal benefits. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provided unemployment benefits to people who wouldn't otherwise qualify for unemployment, most notably self-employed workers. Both programs were set to expire at the end of 2020, but were extended to April 5.
State and federal governments provided 19.2 million weeks’ worth of unemployment claims across all these programs the week of December 19. That's down 42% from a high of 32.9 million the week of June 20.
While the drop in the number of people receiving traditional state benefits and PUA is notable, the number of people on PEUC peaked the week of December 12 at 4.8 million. That indicates the number of people who have been on unemployment for several months (usually more than 26 weeks) increased since the summer.
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