This paper compares and contrasts the spread and impact of COVID-19 in the three countries most heavily impacted by the pandemic: the United States (US), India and Brazil. All three of these countries have a federative structure, in which the individual states have largely determined the response to the pandemic. Thus, we perform an extensive analysis of the individual states of these three countries to determine patterns of similarity within each. First, we analyse structural similarity and anomalies in the trajectories of cases and deaths as multivariate time series. Next, we study the lengths of the different waves of the virus outbreaks across the three countries and their states. Finally, we investigate suitable time offsets between cases and deaths as a function of the distinct outbreak waves. In all these analyses, we consistently reveal more characteristically distinct behaviour between US and Indian states, while Brazilian states exhibit less structure in their wave behaviour and changing progression between cases and deaths.