The U.S. appears to be cautiously optimistic that COVID-19 cases may be retreating downward as hospitalizations and deaths from the virus decrease. However, that optimism may not be totally felt in colder states, especially as the nation moves closer to the winter months. 

According to The New York Times’ COVID-19 data tracker, the number of hospitalizations and cases has fallen 19% and 24%, respectively. 

The state with the highest increase in COVID hospitalizations is New Hampshire where the 14-day average has gone up 42% followed by Michigan at 22%.

In terms of case numbers per capita, the biggest increases were tracked in Vermont where they are up 26% followed by New Hampshire at 16%. These trends are also present in other northern states that include Alaska, Wyoming and Maine. 

In comparison, warmer states, including Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California, each recorded decreases despite several being at the center of the summer’s surge in Delta variant infections.

During a White House briefing on Wednesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky warned that winter weather could result in a spike in COVID cases.

"Coronaviruses tend to thrive in winter months and colder weather," Walensky said. "So right now is not the time ... to become complacent because we do know colder weather is ahead of us."

Winter coincides with flu season, and the CDC has made it clear that it is possible to get sick with both COVID-19 and the flu. The agency estimates that in 2019-2020, 35 million Americans got sick with the flu and nearly 400,000 ended up in the hospital. On top of these figures, it says 20,000 people died after contracting the flu.

This risk of catching COVID is notably higher for the unvaccinated. The CDC reported 57.2% of eligible Americans are completely vaccinated against COVID-19 while 66.2% have received at least one dose of the COVID shot.