Post #1183: COVID-19 trend to 7/22/2021: Que sera sera.

Posted on July 23, 2021

Today’s case counts show no reduction in the rate of growth of new COVID-19 cases.

My estimate is that the U.S. is now at 14 cases / 100K /day, seven day moving average.

As of today, Louisiana has the highest rate in the nation with a seven-day moving average of 47 new cases /100K /day.

Data source for this and other graphs of new case counts:  Calculated from The New York Times. (2021). Coronavirus (Covid-19) Data in the United States. Retrieved 7/23/2021, from https://github.com/nytimes/covid-19-data.”  The NY Times U.S. tracking page may be found at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html.

Nothing left to say.

At this point, I think I’ve said everything I can say.  You can read my just-prior posts if you want a recap.  As briefly as possible, it looks like we’re going to have a difficult Labor Day this year.

I keep waiting for people to wake up.  I keep being disappointed.  There have been tiny upticks in COVID-19 hygiene in the hardest-hit states.  But for the U.S. as a whole, even now, the trend is toward further relaxing COVID-19 hygiene.

Source:  Carnegie-Mellon University Covidcast, accessed 7/23/2021.

I try to put this into perspective by looking at the entire pandemic.  Things have been worse.  But to me, focusing on the low current rate is like taking heart in the fact that you haven’t impacted yet, after having jumped off a cliff.  It’s an inappropriate focus of attention, given the circumstances.

Below, I’m showing U.S. new case counts for essentially the entire pandemic.  The top graph is in natural units (and so, reflects the absolute number of cases).  The bottom graph is in logs, so that the slope of the line is the rate of growth.  As in my cliff-jumping analogy, I think the important issue isn’t the current location (top graph), it’s the velocity (bottom graph).

Well, then how about this:  It should take some time before the Delta wave takes its place as the worst U.S. COVID-19 wave.  How much time?  Well, if I take each state, and extrapolate using that state’s new case growth for the past week, I can calculate the number of days before each U.S. state exceeds its prior all-time record for daily new COVID-19 cases.

As you can see below, if current trends persist, within a month, about half of U.S. states will have set new records for daily new COVID-19 cases.  In Louisiana, if current conditions persist, that’ll happen less than a week from now.  I’ve even shown the two-week average daily growth just to prove that there’s nothing up my sleeve.  You’d get different results if you used the two-week growth rate, but not hugely different.

My conclusion is that if things keep going as they have been, we’ve still got a month before this is acknowledged as the worst COVID-19 wave ever, for the majority of states.

A lot can happen in a month.

But, as noted in many prior posts, the first half of that month is already locked in, owing to the time lag between infection and that infection being fully reported in the data.  So, it’s really more like two weeks.

A lot can happen in a fortnight?

When you get right down to it, the only thing that cheers me right now is the knowledge that individuals fully vaccinated (either Pfizer or Moderna, and maybe J and J) face only a minimal risk of grievous harm from the Delta variant.

Hence the portrait of Charles Darwin above, courtesy of clipart-library.com.

I’m certainly not going to celebrate the expense, morbidity, and mortality that appear to be headed our way.  But I’ll take some comfort that for this U.S. wave of COVID-19, there was in fact a minimal-effort, costless, and nearly riskless way for individuals to avoid harm if they chose to do so.

And if some people chose not to take that option, well, there isn’t one blessed thing I can do about it.

And there’s nothing the U.S. as a whole can do about it, either, if you get right down to it.  Not at this point.   It’s too late for vaccination to do much of anything for the Delta wave.

Given the apparent timetable for this wave of COVID-19, all the current chatter about vaccination is just so much soothing nonsense.  One shot doesn’t do much against Delta (it’s an estimated 30% effective, per this clinical trial reported in the NEJM), and it takes something like six weeks to get vaccinated and reach full two-shot immunity.  At the current rate, this Delta wave will have come and gone before people being vaccinated today are protected from it.

And so, it is what it is.  If it’s going to be a horrible Labor Day in the U.S.A., then,  that will happen.  And if not, then not.   Que sera sera.