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Increases in new, confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in 15 states this past week. Getty Images

Editor’s note: This story will be updated regularly as new statistics are released.

New confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States continue to decline as the number of deaths related to the disease remains high.

The country recorded 297,000 new COVID-19 cases this past week, a 17 percent decrease from the previous week. It was the fifth straight week of decline.

The number was also well below the 468,000 weekly total reported in mid-July. The country is now averaging less than 50,000 new cases per day for the first time since early June.

Part of the decrease may be attributable to the declining number of COVID-19 cases.

There were 6,700 COVID-related deaths reported in the United States this past week. That’s still close to 1,000 per day but is 9 percent lower than the previous week.

Overall, the United States now has more than 5.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Hospitalizations stand at about 36,000, a decrease from the 40,000 last week as well as significantly below the 50,000-plus numbers posted in late July.

COVID-19 related deaths have topped 177,000.

That number now places the viral illness as the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, trailing behind only heart disease and cancer.

One projection earlier this month estimated that the death toll could reach 300,000 by December 1.

A daily tracking graph from The New York Times shows that 9 states have experienced an increase in new COVID-19 cases in the past 2 weeks.

In 17 states, the cases are mostly the same. There are 24 states with a decrease in the past 14 days.

A weekly tracking graph by Reuters that was updated on Monday lists 15 states where case numbers ticked upward this past week.

The news service reports there was an average of 675,000 people tested for COVID-19 per day this past week. That was the fifth straight week of decline and well below the more than 800,000 cases per day seen in late July.

The rate of positive test results fell from 7 percent the prior week to 6.3 percent this past week. It reached a high of 9 percent in mid-July.

In all, 29 states reported positivity rates of more than 5 percent. That’s the level that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers “a cause for concern.”

South Carolina had the highest positivity rate at 22 percent, followed by Texas, Nevada, and Idaho at 16 percent.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, says this summer’s caseload and deaths can be attributed to the lack of a national strategy and people’s reluctance to follow guidelines such as wearing facial coverings and maintaining safe physical distancing.

“Many people go out in a carefree and not a careful way,” he told Healthcare Website.

Schaffner also doesn’t see COVID-19 receding any time soon.

“I think this virus will go unfettered for some time yet,” he said. “We’re in a new normal. That can be a difficult thing to grasp.”

In terms of percentage, South Dakota showed the largest increase in new confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the Reuters graph.

The state reported 1,002 new positive tests this past week, a nearly 50 percent hike. It was the fifth straight week of increased cases.

Some of the spike is being linked to a large annual motorcycle rally held in Sturgis in mid-August. More than 400,000 people attended the event and few wore masks or practiced physical distancing.

Maine was second with an increase of 32 percent to 167 new cases. Part of the spike may be due to a wedding reception held on August 7 in the small town of Millinocket. Officials report 53 cases linked to the event, including the death of a woman who didn’t attend the wedding but contracted the virus from someone who did.

In terms of sheer numbers, California, Texas, and Florida are still leading the way.

California had 43,077 new cases, a decrease of 33 percent, according to Reuters. There remain concerns over the rising number of cases in the state’s Central Valley.

Texas was second with 38,674 new cases, according to Reuters. That was a drop of about 27 percent from the previous week.

Florida was third with 27,156 new cases, a 33 percent drop.

Georgia had the fourth highest number of new cases with 16,919, a decline of 17 percent.

However, there are concerns that the virus is starting to spread in the Midwest and in rural areas where medical services aren’t as plentiful as in other regions.

In addition to South Dakota, North Dakota recorded an increase of 30 percent in cases, according to Reuters.

Wyoming saw a hike of 24 percent while Illinois reported an 18 percent increase. Iowa saw a 6 percent increase and Minnesota a 4 percent jump.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the decline but still remain high.

On Tuesday, Texas was listed as having 5,274 people hospitalized with COVID-19, a decline from the high of 10,893 reported in late July.

Florida has the next highest hospitalizations with 4,745 patients, a decline from where it was a week ago.

California is third with 4,561 people hospitalized with COVID-19, less than the numbers reported last week.

Georgia has the fourth highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients with 2,408, slightly less than last week.

Illinois, Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina all have more than 1,000 people with COVID-19 in medical facilities.

The New York Times graph shows 12 states where COVID-19 related deaths have risen over the past 2 weeks.

The Reuters graph listed 23 states where deaths have increased this past week.

Wyoming and Delaware had the highest percentage increase at 250 percent.
Both states reported a total of 7 deaths.

Missouri showed a 120 percent increase to 88 deaths.

Tennessee reported a 40 percent hike to 201 deaths.

In terms of sheer numbers, Texas recorded the most deaths with 1,269 this past week, a decrease of 16 percent from the previous week.

California was second with 907 fatalities this past week, an increase of 5 percent.

Florida was third with 875 deaths, a decrease of 31 percent.

Georgia reported 430 deaths, a decrease of 15 percent.

Besides Missouri, the Midwestern states reporting increases in COVID-19 deaths were Iowa, Illinois, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.