Trends in Number and Distribution of COVID-19 Hotspot Counties - United States, March 8-July 15, 2020

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Aug 21;69(33):1127-1132. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6933e2.


The geographic areas in the United States most affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have changed over time. On May 7, 2020, CDC, with other federal agencies, began identifying counties with increasing COVID-19 incidence (hotspots) to better understand transmission dynamics and offer targeted support to health departments in affected communities. Data for January 22-July 15, 2020, were analyzed retrospectively (January 22-May 6) and prospectively (May 7-July 15) to detect hotspot counties. No counties met hotspot criteria during January 22-March 7, 2020. During March 8-July 15, 2020, 818 counties met hotspot criteria for ≥1 day; these counties included 80% of the U.S. population. The daily number of counties meeting hotspot criteria peaked in early April, decreased and stabilized during mid-April-early June, then increased again during late June-early July. The percentage of counties in the South and West Census regions* meeting hotspot criteria increased from 10% and 13%, respectively, during March-April to 28% and 22%, respectively, during June-July. Identification of community transmission as a contributing factor increased over time, whereas identification of outbreaks in long-term care facilities, food processing facilities, correctional facilities, or other workplaces as contributing factors decreased. Identification of hotspot counties and understanding how they change over time can help prioritize and target implementation of U.S. public health response activities.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*