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These three states have the worst Covid infection rates of anywhere in the world

Arizona currently has the highest per-capita rate of new Covid-19 infections, with 785 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, followed closely by California and Rhode Island.
A healthcare worker directs vehicles to a Covid-19 test area at a drive-thru testing center on Dec. 8, 2020, in Phoenix.Ross D. Franklin / AP file

Arizona, California and Rhode Island are among the hardest-hit places in the world at this stage of the pandemic, with the highest rates of Covid-19 infections per capita, according to a data analysis by NBC News.

The sobering figures, reflected as rolling seven-day averages of new reported cases, highlight just how dire the situation is in the U.S., particularly as a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus has emerged in several states.

Arizona currently has the highest per-capita rate of new Covid-19 infections, with 785 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. That rate not only leads the U.S., but is the highest in the world, according to NBC News data. For comparison, the Czech Republic, the country with the highest per-capita rate of infection, has reported 653 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days.

Rhode Island and California also have higher per-capita rates of infection than any other country. Over the past seven days, Rhode Island reported 671 new cases per 100,000, and California had 658 per 100,000.

The U.S. reported 451 new cases per 100,000 over the past seven days. That is the 10th highest countrywide rate in the world, though several of the nations that are ahead of the U.S. — including San Marino and Lichtenstein — are much smaller.

The staggeringly high rates of infection foretell the challenges that lie ahead, and experts are still expecting to see increases associated with the holidays, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging people to avoid gatherings and limit travel.

The trends are especially worrisome for states that are already under siege. Hospitals in California have been overwhelmed as the state grapples with record numbers of daily deaths and hospitalizations.

In Los Angeles County, which saw its case numbers increase by 905 percent since Nov. 1, 10 people are getting sick with Covid-19 every minute, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday in an interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health said in a statement Monday that the state is likely “to experience in January the worst conditions that we have faced the entire pandemic.” More than 7,600 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 in L.A. County, and 21 percent of these patients are in intensive care, leading to fears that some hospitals may need to start rationing care.

Public health officials have also expressed concerns about the more transmissible strain of the coronavirus that is already spreading in the U.S. Cases involving the variant, which is thought to have first emerged in the United Kingdom and has now been reported in more than 30 countries, have already been confirmed in California, Colorado, Florida and New York.

“It is a very big concern, and it is a strain that is obviously around the world and you are going to find over the days ahead it is in many locations in the United States,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 task force, said Tuesday in an interview with CNBC.

A recent report from the U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care found that the new strain doesn't appear to be more deadly and doesn't cause more severe illness, but it is estimated to be 50 percent to 70 percent more transmissible.

As a result, the U.K., which has recorded more than 50,000 new cases a day for the past week, announced a new nationwide lockdown on Monday in an effort to contain the country’s ballooning outbreaks.

"It is clear that we need to do more to bring this new variant under control," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address announcing the new lockdown. "That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home."

CORRECTION (Jan. 7, 2021, 4:48 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the U.S. per capita Covid infection rate. The rate was 451 new cases per 100,000 over the past week, not 451 cases per 100,000 a day.