The U.S. has settled into an uneasy, drawn-out exit from the delta surge that took hold over the summer.
For many weeks, declining cases and hospitalizations have offered hope ahead of the holiday season, when Americans travel and spend more time indoors, but progress has stalled recently, with cases rising or plateauing in more than 20 states.
In fact, the country's daily average of cases has hovered around 72,000 infections for the past two weeks as outbreaks smolder, particularly in the northern half of the country. About 40,000 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, under half of the peak in early September.
The Mountain West — where vaccination coverage tends to be lower — is the worst off, especially Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Parts of the Southwest and Midwest are also trying to control an uptick.