To begin to recover from any disaster, an assessment of damages is a necessary first step. In the case of Covid, the damage is not related to a single event. Instead, pandemic-related damages will continue to unfold until an effective vaccine is developed and universally distributed. As such, tracking Covid-related damage will require tracking more than one metric over multiple months. 

This section tracks a select number of highly-vetted indicators to examine the extent of Covid-related damage to lives and livelihoods. It examines how peoples’ lives are faring, and how this impact differs across different sections of society. It also examines damage to livelihoods state by state. 

Much of the current discussion about the pandemic is limited to these types of indicators on the health and economic impacts. In later sections of this report, they serve as a backdrop for a unique analysis of the complex interactions between the pandemic and our nation’s civic health. 

As more data becomes available, additional metrics will be added to this section to better assess how states are doing at protecting lives and livelihoods.

Indicators in this section

  • New Covid cases in past week
  • Age-adjusted Covid-19-associated hospitalization rates by race/ethnicity
  • Total jobs lost

States in the South and West Coast continue to have the highest case rates, while cases are stabilized in the Northeast. Smaller hotspots continue to emerge across the rest of the nation.

Average daily cases per 100,000 people in past week, by county

Analysis of state and local health agencies and hospitals data as of Aug 20, 2020


Source: From The New York Times. © 2020 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved. Used under license.

Despite concerns about turnaround time for diagnostic testing in recent weeks, the rate of new cases still represents the most valid and immediate indicator of Covid’s spread.1,2 Both hospitalization and death rates – while important measures of impact – lag weeks or months after initial diagnosis and fail to capture the full magnitude of the pandemic.3 However, epidemiologists warn that in the absence of widespread random sampling of the population, we will not know the true scale of the pandemic, and will not be able to optimally manage the crisis. The hotspots of new cases in the last week are troubling, and only represent perhaps 20% or less of the actual infection rate.4,5 

Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and other southern states as well as Nevada are experiencing extraordinarily high rates of infection (above 100 new cases in the last week per 100k population), while Arizona and New Mexico’s cases are decreasing to almost manageable levels (75 and 46 new cases in the last week per 100k population, respectively). At the same time, less-impacted states such as Montana, Kansas, and North Dakota, had counties with rates at a whopping 500+ new weekly cases per 100k population. Local leaders attribute those flare-ups to transmission in group quarters such as correctional facilities, and failure to social distance (bars, county fairs, weddings).6,7,8 

American Indian/Alaskan Native, African American, and Hispanic/Latinx individuals are around 5 times more likely to have severe Covid impacts than white individuals.

Age-adjusted Covid-19-associated hospitalization rates, March 1-August 8, 2020 

By race and ethnicity


Source: CDC

Despite ongoing debates about the quality and completeness of data on Covid cases reported by hospitals,1 available data on hospitalizations nonetheless illuminates stark disparities between racial groups. American Indian/Alaska Native, African American, and Hispanic/Latinx individuals are respectively around 5 times more likely to have severe Covid impacts than white people.

New CDC analyses of hospitalization data reveal that the disparity applies to children as well, with cumulative hospitalization rates 8 and 5 times higher respectively for Hispanic and Black children than white children.2

Racial disparities in health outcomes have existed long before Covid, but only partially explain the divide in this pandemic. Emerging research points to occupational exposure as a key driver of higher infection rates.3 Populations of color most impacted by Covid are over-represented in front-line work such as agriculture, food processing, transportation, janitorial work, and caregiving, and thus are not granted the privilege of working from home.4,5,6 Plus the cumulative health impacts of living in unsafe neighborhoods, breathing polluted air, having less access to healthy foods or quality medical care, and a lifetime of experiencing racial discrimination mean that these populations have higher rates of comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity that are associated with greater morbidity and mortality in Covid cases.7,8,9,10 For example, baseline rates of diabetes are nearly 15% among Native Americans, 13% for Hispanics, and 12% for Black Americans, compared to 8% for white Americans according to the CDC’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report.11 

The U.S. has 11 million fewer jobs than one year earlier. 2 states have lost more than 1 million jobs and 8 additional states have lost 500K+ jobs.  

Total jobs by month in thousands, U.S. 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Loss of jobs by state, July 2019 to July 2020

Employment by state, seasonally adjusted


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Note: Data for February 2020, June 2020, and July 2020 are preliminary

The total number of jobs in the U.S. fell from a high of 151 million in February 2020 to a low of 130 million by April 2020. Despite recent rebounds, the total number of jobs remains below  140 million as of July 2020, a level the U.S. hasn’t experienced since September 2015. Nationwide, there are 11 million fewer jobs in July 2020 compared to July 2019. Both California and New York have at least 1.4 million fewer jobs compared to the prior summer.  Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas each lost more than 500,000 jobs compared to a year ago.

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