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The Virus in Three Charts

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Let’s check in on the state of the coronavirus this morning, with help from three charts. Here’s the first:

As you can see, the number of new virus cases in the U.S. is surging — and not far from this summer’s peak. You’re probably familiar with versions of that blue line. It is the most common metric for tracking the virus.

The rising line mostly reflects reality: The virus is surging, especially in the Upper Midwest. Cooler weather is leading to more indoor activity, which often leads to new cases, and many Americans seem tired of pandemic restrictions.

But you’ll notice that the red line on the chart — the number of Americans currently hospitalized with virus complications — looks less bad. It has risen lately, but it is not close to its peak.

Why? Partly because the number of virus cases is not actually rising as much as the official case numbers suggest.

That brings us to chart No. 2:

The U.S. is conducting a lot more tests than in the summer or spring. More widespread testing means that the official numbers are capturing a larger share of new virus cases than earlier this year.

“We have probably gotten better at finding cases, as testing capacity has increased, and so we can’t directly compare the size of the waves based on case counts alone,” Caitlin Rivers of Johns Hopkins University told me. “That’s a good development.”

The third chart also suggests some encouraging news:

Even as case numbers have soared and hospitalizations have risen, deaths have held fairly steady.

That’s happened as many older people — who are most vulnerable — have been careful about avoiding exposure. A greater share of current new cases is among young Americans.

The quality of virus treatments is also improving. Remdesivir, dexamethasone and monoclonal antibodies all seem to help, as my colleague Donald G. McNeil Jr. points out. Just consider how quickly both President Trump and Chris Christie recovered, despite their age and underlying health risks.

The full picture: There are some silver linings. The statistics on new virus cases that get so much attention are somewhat exaggerating the severity of the current outbreak, because of the rise in testing. And treatments have improved, reducing the death count.

But the virus’s toll has still been horrific — and worse than in many other countries. More than 220,000 Americans have died, and hundreds of people are still dying every day.

The overall situation is also getting worse, as the hospitalization numbers make clear. In some states, hospitals are almost full, and the virus continues to spread. “I’m just waiting to see if our community can change our behavior,” Debra Konitzer, the top health officer in Oconto County, Wis., recently said. “Otherwise, I don’t see the end in sight.”

As Donald McNeil says, “The fall wave has just begun.”


  • Lives Lived: Averting last-minute crises was all in a day’s work for Bess Abell, the White House social secretary during Lyndon Johnson’s administration — like the time Johnson decided to host a party for every member of Congress later that same day. Abell died at 87.

The number of registered Republican voters in several important swing states is rising — and some Republican officials hope it’s a sign that Trump is more popular than polls suggest. How are you supposed to make sense of this?

First, it’s a longstanding trend, Nate Cohn of The Times told me. Many registered Democrats, especially white Democrats, have long voted Republican without changing their registration. In the current polarized time, more of them have changed their registration.

Second, many younger people prefer not to register with either party, even as they vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

Pollsters are aware of these trends and take them into account. Recent Times polls are based on an increasingly Republican group of registered voters — and still show a sizable Biden lead.

But there is one part of the trend that offers some reason for Democratic concern. Until recently, the Biden campaign seems to have put less emphasis on going door-to-door to register voters than the Trump campaign, as Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report has written. If that means that people who prefer Biden are less likely to turn out than Trump supporters, it would be a problem for Democrats next month.

Store-bought rotisserie chicken and gnocchi simmered in a broth of chicken stock and cream make up this weeknight take on chicken and dumplings.

Charleston, S.C., is a top destination wedding locale, and many people hold weddings there at former slave plantations. But that could be changing.

BuzzFeed News reported last year that Pinterest, a social media platform that’s popular for wedding planning, restricted content romanticizing plantations. The actor Ryan Reynolds, who married the actress Blake Lively on a former plantation in 2012, apologized this summer, telling Fast Company: “What we saw at the time was a wedding venue on Pinterest. What we saw after was a place built upon devastating tragedy.”

“What Becomes a Legend Most,” Philip Gefter’s new biography of the fashion photographer Richard Avedon, takes readers inside Avedon’s shoots with celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, James Baldwin and the Beatles. “One of the achievements of Gefter’s biography is to argue persuasively for Avedon’s place, as a maker of portraits, as one of the 20th century’s most consequential artists,” Dwight Garner writes in a review.

How did the Spelling Bee game start and why is it such a hit? This article has the answers. As for yesterday’s edition of the game, the only pangram — the word that used all seven letters — was adjourn.

See if you can find today’s pangram above, as well as any other words that are at least four letters long, use only these letters and always use the letter in the middle. The online version of the Bee is here; you’ll need a subscription to Times Games to do play.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Hairdo goo (three letters).

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. On Thursday, students and teachers can join a live discussion with Times journalists about the Electoral College. The free event starts at 1 p.m. Eastern.

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about a pivotal Senate race in North Carolina. On the latest Book Review podcast, Benjamin Lorr discusses “The Secret Life of Groceries.”

Lalena Fisher, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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