America is now firmly in the grips of what many are calling the “third wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each day, new COVID-19 cases nationwide routinely approach or exceed 200,000, and associated deaths hover around 2,000.

In reality, however, each wave of the pandemic within the United States has been a regional one. The first wave, in March and April, was centered largely in Greater New York and New England, among the locations where the virus first hit U.S. shores. The second wave, which peaked in July, most affected metro areas in the South and West, after many relaxed their social distancing measures just as the virus began to take root in their communities.

My colleague William H. Frey documents that nearly all metro areas (and rural areas, too) are now experiencing increasing COVID-19 cases. That noted, the third wave thus far has hammered the Midwest most of all. And the region’s metro areas are suffering an associated economic toll, as indicated in the latest data from our Metro Recovery Index, which tracks the real-time economic conditions in 192 metro areas across the United States.

With COVID-19 cases reaching unprecedented levels in November—and many more cold months to come in the Midwest—a robust economic recovery is not in the near-term forecast. Vaccines will take months to sustainably lower virus levels, and even after that, Americans will be understandably cautious in their travel and spending.

The pandemic’s toll on metropolitan health and economic activity—in blue states (Michigan, Minnesota) and red states (Indiana, Iowa), as well as in large cities (Chicago, Milwaukee) and midsized regions (Cedar Rapids, Sioux Falls, S.D.)—provides a stark reminder that places of all sizes and political persuasions need immediate, significant federal assistance to avoid disastrous economic damage, and to safely navigate COVID-19’s latest deadly wave.

Read the full article about COVID-19 in the midwest by Alan Berube at Brookings.