The Weekly Digest collects the most engaging data points and visuals from recent USAFacts stories. Dive into each report for more metrics, or skim here for a quick understanding of the numbers behind the news.

Tracking the Delta variant

In mid-April, the Delta variant was less than 1% of all new US COVID-19 cases. By early July, it was the nation's dominant coronavirus strain. An estimated 83% of new cases during the two weeks ending July 17 were due to this more transmissible variant.

  • Delta variant concentration varies by region. In New England, Delta comprises approximately 38% of cases, while in the four-state block of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska, 87% of cases are Delta-based.
  • The federal government classifies COVID-19 variations into three categories of increasing need for attention or action: variant of interest, variant of concern, and variant of high consequence. 
  • The Delta variant (or B.1.617.2) is considered a variant of concern and may impact the effectiveness of antibody treatments and vaccines. It is more transmissible than older variants, including the Alpha variant.
  • Also considered a variant of concern, the Alpha variant (or B.1.1.7, formerly called the UK variant) has a 50% higher transmission rate than older versions of the virus. The CDC says there is no impact on the effectiveness of antibody treatments and little effect on vaccine efficacy. The Alpha variant, previously the most prevalent strain since March, was 8% of cases at the end of June.

USAFacts will update this data every other week

Data to understand the opioid lawsuit settlement

Last week, news broke that pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and three major drug distributors would pay a $26 billion settlement with states to resolve thousands of lawsuits regarding the country's opioid crisis.

So, what are the numbers behind the opioid crisis? USAFacts combed through PDF reports spread across law enforcement, public health, and substance abuse agencies for a fuller picture of who is seeking treatment and much more.

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  • Prescription painkiller availability peaked in 2012 at 81 prescriptions per 100 people. Efforts to curtail over-prescription lowered that to 51 prescriptions per 100 people in 2018. Prescription rates vary; in some counties, the prescription rate was six times higher than the national average.
  • In 2017, 2.1 million people reported using heroin or abusing painkillers and 32% of them sought treatment at reporting treatment facilities. Treatment for opioid abuse has surpassed alcohol abuse at these treatment facilities nationwide.
  • Cost was the biggest barrier among people who reported needing treatment but not receiving it. In 2017, 41% of people in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that they either lacked health insurance, their health insurance did not cover addiction treatment, or if it did, their share of the cost was still unaffordable.

See more, including how opioids compare to other causes of death nationwide, in this report.

Right to carry laws explained 

The Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, but gun owners must abide by laws regulating that right. State laws cover if/how a person may carry their firearms in public, whether they can bring their guns across state lines, and more. It all makes for a patchwork of laws across the nation, but this explanation at USAFacts can help shed some light on them. 

  • All but eight states allow for open carry of some or all firearms. California, Florida, Illinois, and Washington, DC generally prohibit people from openly carrying firearms. And for states that do allow it, the laws vary. For example, New York and South Carolina prohibit openly carrying handguns but not long guns.
  • Extreme risk protection order laws (or "red-flag" laws) allow family members or law enforcement to petition courts for temporary removal of someone's firearm if they pose a danger to themselves or others. Nineteen states and Washington, DC have some form of a red-flag law.

USAFacts has more on this topic, including information of ghost guns and attempts to enforce laws on them. Click here for more.

One last fact

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The US Census categorizes states in four regions: Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. Last year, the Midwest, a swath of states from Ohio to North Dakota, lost citizens for the first time. See more about the US population in the State of the Union in Numbers.