Coronavirus cases and deaths peaked in April in the U.S. but remain at dangerous levels, according to a new federal report.
In late January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention learned that a Washington state man had been diagnosed with COVID-19 after traveling to China, in what was the first reported case of the virus in the U.S. Between Jan. 22 and May 30, health officials reported more than 1.76 million COVID-19 cases and 103,700 deaths, according to the new CDC report. Tracking seven-day moving averages, the number of new daily cases peaked on April 12 at 31,994, while deaths peaked at 2,856 nine days later, on April 21.
And while those levels have fallen, moving averages indicate the U.S. still has “ongoing community transmission,” with 19,913 new cases and 950 deaths as of May 30, the report says. Trends vary across the country, though, and recent data from an NPR tracker indicates new daily cases are rising in 27 places, including Oklahoma, South Carolina and Arizona.
The new report also underscores significant gaps in knowledge about COVID-19 in the U.S., despite the CDC’s efforts to track the virus – “an enormous, new public health threat,” the report notes. Researchers knew race and ethnicity for just 45% of 1.3 million lab-confirmed cases, whether patients had an underlying health condition in 22% of cases and whether they had symptoms in 47% of cases.
“Despite limitations, national case surveillance of COVID-19 serves a critical role in the U.S. COVID-19 response: these data demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing public health crisis in the United States that continues to affect all populations and result in severe outcomes including death,” researchers said.
For patients with available data, the most common underlying medical issues were cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease, the report found. Patients with underlying conditions were six times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and 12 times more likely to die than those who had no underlying health issues.
Overall, 14% of coronavirus patients with available data were hospitalized, including 2% who were admitted to an intensive care unit, and 5% died. People 70 and older were most likely to experience severe outcomes, regardless of whether they had another medical issue.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be severe, particularly in certain population groups,” researchers said.
About 4% of patients with relevant data in the new report didn’t have any symptoms of the coronavirus, but the study authors noted that asymptomatic people are less likely to be tested, potentially skewing these results. Separate research shows that up to 45% of all infected people may show no symptoms.
“Persons without symptoms might be less likely to be tested for COVID-19 because initial guidance recommended testing of only symptomatic persons and was hospital-based,” researchers said. “Guidance on testing has evolved throughout the response.”
Despite public concern over how the virus is affecting communities of color – specifically black, Native American and Latino populations – the CDC had no data on race and ethnicity for 55% of cases, while it had no data on patients’ age or sex for 1% or fewer cases. Nebraska and North Dakota are not reporting any racial or ethnic breakdowns, according to separate analysis by the COVID Tracking Project.
The available data showed that Hispanics made up 33% of cases, while 22% were among black Americans and 1.3% of patients were American Indian or Alaska Native – levels that are notably higher than their shares of the U.S. population.
“These findings suggest that persons in these groups … are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” researchers said. Non-Hispanic whites and Asians made up 36% and 4% of cases, respectively.
“These findings highlight the continued need for community mitigation strategies, especially for vulnerable populations, to slow COVID-19 transmission,” researchers said.
The CDC data comes as the pandemic continues. As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. had more than 2.1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and about 115,800 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.