Post #1085: COVID trend to 3-30-2021

Posted on March 31, 2021

No surprises.

  • U.S. daily new case counts continue to rise.
  • With two or three exceptions, all the states in the Midwest and Northeast are seeing rising case counts.
  • Michigan now has the highest rate of daily new COVID-19 cases in the country.

All of that is just continuation of existing trends.

And yet, I’m not all that worried about this fourth wave of COVID, for the reasons I’ve already laid out.  First, if this is a race between vaccination and the new COVID strains, the math says that vaccination should win (Post #1051).  Second, there just aren’t that may people left who haven’t been either infected or vaccinated (Post #1061).  Even if we haven’t reached that mythical “herd immunity” level.

And so, in this post, I’m going to cherry-pick a few facts to try to make a few simple points.  These are all things that aren’t happening.  Those can be just as important as the things that are happening, but they never make it into the newspapers.

The elderly haven’t stopped getting vaccinated.

As of yesterday, per the CDC COVID data website, in round numbers, literally half of the elderly (age 65+) have been fully vaccinated.  And they haven’t yet reached the limits of vaccine acceptance.  The pace is slowing.  The fraction of the elderly with at least one shot rose just 0.35 percentage points per day over the past two days.  But it continues to rise (and, in fact, the reported pace of vaccination overall slowed in the past two days, with just 2.1M doses per day, compared to a prior pace in excess of 3M doses per day.)

The poop has not hit the fan in Florida.

Let me explain why this matters.

What you’re looking at, highlighted in the graph above, is a U.S. state that is not exactly renowned for restraint and civil order.  For example, this is the state where the Governor’s response to massive COVID-19 college outbreaks was to develop and defend a “right to party” for college students, in order to prevent colleges from taking steps to halt further spread.

Florida in Spring is essentially the perfect Petri dish for COVID-19 spread.  Now toss in the U.K. COVID variant …

Per the Helix corporation COVID-19 dashboard, as of March 17th, 58 percent of the new COVID-19 cases in Florida were the presumably more-infectious U.K. variant B.1.1.7.  (Data sourced from the Helix® COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard. Accessed at on 3/31/2021).  And, based on the simple model that I’ve presented in prior posts, the more-infectious U.K. variant should currently account for about about 75 percent of new case in Florida.

And what happens?  Nothing, really.  Or, at least, not much.  New case counts stopped falling, and are now rising slightly.

Is this just good luck?  Are we just looking too early, and cases will take off soon?

Or maybe it’s the warm weather.  In the U.S., pretty much the entire low-elevation South is doing just fine.  Rates are stable to falling in the South Atlantic region, South Central region, and California.

The regions with broadly rising rates are in the colder climate zones.  (Midwest, Northeast).

I mean, if Florida can dodge this bullet, surely other states can  as well.  And if warmer weather matters, then all that does is help most states as we move into summer.  Whatever it is that has kept the Florida new-case rate in check, I think it bodes well for the U.S.

Maybe Canada makes the best contrast to Florida’s good fortune.  There, vaccination rates are only a fraction of those in the U.S.  And the entire country has a cold climate.  The sharp rise in new case rates in Canada has now erased half of the decline from the prior peak, with no slowdown in sight.

Nobody is looking in the rear-view mirror

As my final bit of peppy non-news, nobody seems to be showing this fourth U.S. wave in context.  Below is a graph of nearly the full history of the pandemic in the U.S., one full year.

Right now, we have a handful of states with high and rising rates.   But the great majority of states appear stable.  Sure, the more-contagious COVID-19 variants continue to grow.  But so does the vaccinated population.  Throw in a little warmer weather, and a little luck, and maybe most states will take a Florida-like trajectory instead of a Michigan-like one.

When I look at the graph below, I just can’t quite see the U.S. returning to anything like the third wave of COVID.  I’m sure that’s no comfort if you live in Michigan.  But when push comes to shove, there seem to be enough people acting with good sense to keep this under control as we wait for the seemingly-mythical “herd immunity” to take over and shut this down for good.