Deaths are not a perfect proxy for total infections, since the fatality rate from the disease depends on the underlying age and health of populations; the availability of various treatments; and the capacity of different health systems themselves. But they remain one of the best available measurements to compare places right now.
This is one of the more useful graph/data combos I've seen yet for figuring out the current Covid-19 situation in a given state1 because it shows deaths to date and current doubling rate. Projecting out a week from today (3/31/20) based on starting point and doubling rate I'm most concerned about New York (17,536), Michigan (2274), and Illinois (950) because they're all looking at an order of magnitude jump in deaths based on current trends. I'm really encouraged to see Washington has a doubling rate of 7 days currently- hopefully we're going to see clear signs in the next week of the doubling rates slowing down further throughout the country.
Or country, although I'm just focusing on the U.S. in this post.