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Coronavirus Cases Are Peaking Again. Here’s How It’s Different This Time.

The first wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States never really ended, and cases are surging again. But this time, a different and much bigger swath of the country is feeling the effects.






New York City and suburbs

New York City and suburbs

New York City and suburbs

The current surge in cases has swept through the rural South and West.


Note: Symbol sizes are based on the number of people per 1,000 who have tested positive or have a probable case of the coronavirus in each county or parish in the preceding two weeks, which may differ from where they contracted the illness. Symbols are not shown for places with fewer than one case per 1,000 people.

The first peak came at the beginning of April: About 30,000 cases were reported per day, but the biggest hotspots were concentrated in just a few regions. With the right steps, public health experts said, there was still a chance the outbreak could be contained.

That didn’t happen, and new infections in the United States plateaued before roaring back again in late June as the virus spread to the rest of the country. Daily case counts are well above 30,000 now, and nearly 10 times as many counties are hotspots — where at least one person per thousand was diagnosed in the last two weeks — making the prospect of containment all the more unlikely.


Note: Cases shown for a given date are those reported in preceding two weeks.

Some rural counties in the South, West and Midwest, where the virus seemed like a distant threat just two months ago, are seeing hospitals approach capacity for the first time.

The numbers of new cases in some Florida counties, including Miami-Dade and Duval, have more than tripled in the past two weeks. In Texas, more than 6,000 new cases are diagnosed every day. Hospitals in Houston are so full that patients are being transferred to other cities.


Note: Seven-day averages. Sources: State and local health agencies and hospitals

In New York City, meanwhile, overwhelmed hospitals saw a drop in coronavirus patients in May so sharp it was “like someone turned off the hose,” and new infections have stayed low.

The geographic shift of the outbreak also means new groups are now experiencing its effects.






Where new cases have been reported

Counties outside large metros

Counties that are less white

Counties Donald Trump won

Counties in large metro areas

Counties that are whiter than avg.

Counties Hillary Clinton won

Where new cases have been reported

Counties outside large metros

Counties in large metro areas

Counties that are less white

Counties that are whiter than avg.

Counties Donald Trump won

Counties Hillary Clinton won

Where new cases have been reported

Counties outside large metros

Counties that are less white

Counties Donald Trump won

Counties in large metro areas

Counties that are whiter than avg.

Counties Hillary Clinton won


Note: Seven-day averages. Large metros are defined as those with more than one million residents. Sources: State and local health agencies and hospitals, 2018 American Community Survey five-year estimates, U.S.D.A. Rural-Urban Continuum Codes.

In early April, most new cases were in large metro areas. The New York City area had almost half of all new cases some days. Other early outbreaks hit New Orleans and Detroit. But the current surge in cases has swept across more rural and suburban parts of the country, leaving few counties untouched in much of the South.

Some demographic trends remain the same, even as the virus spreads. People of color have disproportionately borne the brunt from the beginning, and the latest spike is no different. Among the areas currently seeing a rapid increase in cases are majority-Hispanic counties along the Southern border, Native American reservations in the Southwest, and majority-Black counties in the Southeast.

But the political geography has clearly changed: Many counties where Donald Trump won in 2016 are being hit for the first time. Following months during which decisions to lock down and reopen states often fell along party lines, and wearing a face mask became politicized, some Republican governors have abruptly begun imploring residents to wear masks.

The rapid spread of the virus in regions that had previously avoided much of its impact has caused some state and local governments to reverse plans to reopen.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona ordered bars, gyms and other businesses in the state to close for 30 days. The governors of Florida, Texas and California also reimposed restrictions on bars and other businesses after a sharp rise in cases. Even in New York City, where the reopening time frame has been more cautious, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that plans to allow indoor seating at restaurants would be delayed indefinitely.


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