U.S. records highest weekly COVID-19 deaths since April

FILE PHOTO: Healthcare personnel work with a patient inside a room for people with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a hospital in Hutchinson

(Reuters) - The United States lost 15,000 people to COVID-19 last week, the deadliest seven days since April, and health officials warned that the worst is yet to come.

The number of new coronavirus cases rose 19% to 1.4 million in the week ended Dec. 6, after falling the previous week as many testing centers were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county reports.

Rhode Island and Indiana had the highest number of cases per capita, with more than 700 people diagnosed for every 100,000 residents.

(For a state-by-state interactive, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR in an external browser)

Government and health officials have warned that cases and deaths will rise further in the coming weeks and months due to people traveling and gathering with family -- against the advice of health experts.

"I think January is going to be terrible because you’re going to have the Thanksgiving surge super-imposed upon the Christmas surge," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told Newsweek.

South Dakota and North Dakota led the country in deaths per capita last week. In terms of total deaths, Texas and Illinois had the highest of the states, each reporting over 1,200 deaths.

Across the United States, 10.5% of tests came back positive for the virus, up from 9.8% the prior week, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. Out of 50 states, 34 had a positive test rate of 10% or higher. The highest rates were Iowa and Idaho at 52% and South Dakota at 50%.

The World Health Organization considers positive test rates above 5% concerning because it suggests there are more cases in the community that have not yet been uncovered.

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