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These numbers show just how impactful the latest COVID-19 surge is

People get tested for COVID-19 at a free testing site in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 21 as coronavirus cases surge in the city.
Alex Wong
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Getty Images
People get tested for COVID-19 at a free testing site in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 21 as coronavirus cases surge in the city.

COVID-19 cases are up across the country, fueled in large part by the highly contagious omicron variant.

Even with a surge in cases and a scramble for more testing, a smaller percentage of infected people are winding up in the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms compared to earlier strains.

Dr. Robert Wachter at the University of California, San Francisco, tells NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff that the lower hospitalization rate is likely due to two things: greater immunity among the public from vaccines and prior coronavirus infection, and that omicron might be slightly less severe than delta.

Vaccines don't stop infections with omicron, but they do reduce the risk of hospitalization by about 70% — with a booster shot, that figure is even higher.

However, Wachter cautions: "If you're a person who has no immunity at all, no vaccination and no prior infection or your prior infection was a year and a half ago and it was mild, you're not out of the woods."

"There is a reasonable chance that you will get very sick with omicron," he says.

Throughout the pandemic, NPR has been tracking COVID-19 cases and deaths as well as vaccination rates across the U.S. with data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

See how your state stacks up in terms of cases below (find even more data and details here):

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Here are the latest numbers on vaccination rates (with more details here):

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Note: "Fully vaccinated" in the graphic above does not include booster shots, which public health experts now widely recommend.


A version of this post first published in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for NPR.org and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.
Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Daniel Wood is a visual journalist at NPR, where he brings data and analyses into complex topics by paired reporting with custom charts, maps and explainers. He focuses on data-rich topics like COVID-19 outcomes, climate change and politics. His interest in tracking a small outbreak of a novel coronavirus in January 2020 helped position NPR to be among the leading news organizations to provide daily updates on the growth and impact of COVID-19 around the country and globe.

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