The news of President Donald Trump and members of his inner circle testing positive for COVID-19 has sent shock waves across the country, but it’s not just the White House dealing with an onslaught of cases: Friday’s nationwide case count was the highest daily total in nearly two months, while the weekly average of cases reported has seen an increase.
There were more than 54,000 positive cases of the coronavirus reported on Friday, the highest single-day case count since Aug. 14, when the country recorded just over 64,000 cases, per Johns Hopkins University data.
The country’s daily cases peaked on July 16, when 77,362 positive tests were reported.
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The seven-day rolling average for daily U.S. case counts has risen in recent weeks as well. The moving average has held above 42,000 in recent days, the highest mark since late August, according to COVID Tracking Project data.
Meanwhile, deaths have held relatively steady in recent weeks, as the weekly average is down a bit from a flare-up in late July and early August. Still, 906 Americans were announced dead from COVID-19 on Friday.
Keep up with the latest data in your state: Tracking coronavirus in the US
A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data through late Saturday shows six states – Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming – set records for new cases in a week while two states – South Dakota and Wisconsin – had a record number of deaths in a week.
The spike in Wisconsin has been particularly sharp.
The state, which did not report a weekly average of more than 1,000 cases per day until September, has been routinely reporting more than 2,000 since Sept. 17. Deaths have started to tick up as well – the state reported its highest single-day number, 27, this week.
New York state, once a hot spot for the virus, has experienced a jump in cases as well. After daily case counts held steady in the state for much of the summer, New York is holding its highest seven-day rolling average since early June, per COVID Tracking Project data.
The overall national COVID-19 “positivity rate” in the U.S. has hovered around 5% since the middle of September, according to John Hopkins. At the beginning of August, it was 8%. A “positivity rate” is the percentage of all coronavirus tests that are positive and it is a useful indicator of whether testing is keeping up with infections.
If the number is too high it could mean that health authorities are disproportionately testing sicker patients or missing milder or asymptomatic cases. A low figure suggests the majority of infections are being detected.
The concept can be difficult to grasp and scientists often use a fishing analogy to explain it. If, for example, you catch a fish nearly every time you put a fishing net down in the water, that’s a high rate. It indicates there’s likely a lot of fish around to catch, i.e., a lot of COVID-19 cases. Conversely, if you use the same net but only catch a small number of fish, that’s a low “positivity” rate because your net has likely caught most of the fish in the area.
The World Health Organization says that if a country’s “positivity rate” is around 5% or below for two weeks then it means there is widespread testing going on to a suitable level.
However, the U.S.’s overall 5% rate disguises large discrepancies at the state level.
In fact, 31 of the 50 states have higher positivity rates now than they did in mid-September, a USA TODAY analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows.
In Wisconsin, positivity has surged to about 22%, triple what it was in mid-August, as bars filled up, colleges reopened and pandemic fatigue wore on.
In Florida, the “positivity rate” has been stuck between 11%-12% since the start of September. In Arizona, it was around 6% at the beginning of October, down from 22% at the start of August.
Trump tested positive with COVID-19 last week after returning from a vice presidential debate in Ohio with Democratic challenger Joe Biden. The “positivity rate” in Ohio is currently 2.8%, a drop from 4% in late August.
‘I wish they could see how bad things are getting’: As Wisconsin hospitals fill up with COVID patients, front-line workers sound the alarm
Meanwhile, the nation is staring down at least several more months until a vaccine is widely available. In September, the director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Robert R. Redfield, said a vaccine may not be available en masse to the American people until the middle of 2021.
It’s been over 200 days since the first U.S. death of the coronavirus was announced, and since then, more than 7.3 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and nearly 210,000 have died in the U.S.
Contributing: Michael Stucka, Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: We’re paying a lot of attention to Trump’s case, but the US just recorded the most daily COVID-19 infections in nearly 2 months