Even as the percentage of wholly Vaccinated Americans approaches 50%, the United States appears to be on the verge of a terrible fourth wave of COVID-19 infections with each passing day. The number of average new daily cases has more than doubled in the last two weeks, rising from 13,200 on July 4 to more than 32,300 on July 18, a spike that has ominous echoes of the second and third waves’ fronts in the summer and fall of 2020.
However, upon closer analysis, this surge appears to be very different from previous ones, and it may very well be worse than it appears on the surface. First, even at its peak last winter, the coronavirus epidemic never hit the United States uniformly. Instead, like a persistent cyclone, it has moved from eruptions in certain urban areas to suburban and rural counties and back. Moreover, as the gap between states’ completed vaccination rates widens—Alabama has only 33.7 percent of residents Vaccinated, compared to nearly 70 percent in Vermont.
As a result, local data, rather than state or national ones, currently provide the most accurate picture of the outbreak’s present situation. Moreover, as Nuzzo points out, the most recent recorded outbreaks are more concentrated in rural areas than the most significant rises in the last 16 months.