These charts show how serious this fall's Covid-19 surge is in the US
Updated 1506 GMT (2306 HKT) November 13, 2020
(CNN)Official Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in the United States are piling up at record rates -- and daily deaths, experts fear, may soon follow.
The following charts show how the fall coronavirus wave has put the US on unprecedented ground by some metrics, and with numbers trending up, point to how the situation could get worse while the country awaits a vaccine and distribution of new treatments.
Daily case counts are reaching new highs
Daily cases were dipping as recently as September, as the nation was bouncing back from a summer surge.
But infections roared back in a way not recorded before.
Thursday brought the United States' highest one-day infection total (above 153,000) and seven-day average for new daily infections (more than 131,000) on record, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
That average is more than 3.5 times higher than it was on September 12, when it was at a post-summer surge low of 34,198.
And it's well above the summer's highest seven-day average, which was around 67,100 on July 22.
There has been good news recently: A vaccine candidate was reportedly found to be more than 90% effective, and the US Health and Human Services secretary said vaccines could be widely available in the second quarter of 2021. And the Food and Drug Administration this week approved a new antibody treatment that may lower the risk that patients with mild to moderate disease will be hospitalized.
But with colder weather potentially driving risky gatherings indoors, and no vaccine available this minute, experts warn daily infections have room to grow.
"It will not surprise me if in the next weeks we see over 200,000 new cases a day," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN on Monday.
We should stress that the chart captures reported cases. Studies have estimated infections were vastly undercounted, especially early in the pandemic, partly because of limited test availability.
Some health experts have said hospitalizations can be a truer measure of the pandemic's severity -- though rising cases are a warning sign, since a patient's hospitalization can come well after diagnosis.
'Most sensitive indicator' of infections is up
A test positivity rate is the percentage of people who get tested and turn out to be infected. And the US rate has been shooting up in recent weeks.
The country's test positivity rate averaged 8.7% over seven days as of early Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
That's above a summer's highest seven-day average of about 7.9% in mid-July.
The World Health Organization in May advised governments not to reopen until test positivity rates were 5% or lower for at least 14 days.
And the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, has suggested that communities' positivity rates should be below 5% to comfortably have schools open.
White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx has said test positivity rate is the statistic she watches the closest, because it is "the most sensitive indicator" of how the coronavirus situation is unfolding at any particular time and place.