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U.S. sets COVID-19 death record for third week, hospitalizations fall

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Patients are held in the hallway as St. Mary Medical Center resorts to using tents outside to handle the overflow at its 200 bed hospital in California

(Reuters) - The United States lost more than 23,000 lives to COVID-19 last week, setting a record for the third week in a row, though the number of new infections and the number of patients in hospitals both fell from the previous seven days.

The country reported more than 1.5 million new cases of COVID-19 in the week ended Jan. 17, down 12% from the previous week, and only eight out of 50 states posted a rise in new infections, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county reports.

(Open https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR in an external browser to see a related graphic)

The average number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals fell 2% from the previous week to about 128,000, the first drop since October, according to a Reuters analysis of data from the volunteer-run COVID Tracking Project.

While some health officials have expressed concerns about a more contagious variant of the virus spreading across the United States, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly took comfort in the fact that California hospitals were admitting 2,500 coronavirus patients every 24 hours, down from 3,500 a day.

Ghaly told reporters last week that it was "the biggest signal to me that things are beginning to flatten and potentially improve."

Cumulatively, nearly 400,000 people have died from the novel coronavirus, or one in every 822 U.S. residents. The country set a single-day record with 4,336 deaths reported on Jan. 12, according to the Reuters analysis of state and county reports.

Alabama had the highest death rate per capita last week at 16 per 100,000 residents, followed by Arizona at 15.5 per 100,000 people.

The United States set a record on Jan. 15 with over 2.2 million COVID-19 tests performed in a single day. Last week, 11% of tests came back positive for the virus, down from 13.3% the prior week, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. The highest positive test rates were in Iowa at 46%, Idaho at 40% and Pennsylvania at 35%.

(Graphic by Chris Canipe, writing by Lisa Shumaker, editing by Tiffany Wu)