Post #1283: Final COVID-19 update for the week

Posted on October 9, 2021


The U.S. is now 42% below the 9/1/2021 peak of the Delta wave, down 11% in the past seven days. We now stand at an average of 30 cases per 100,000 population per 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 10/9/2021, from”  The NY Times U.S. tracking page may be found at

We’re still waiting for the winter wave to start.  If history is going to repeat itself, then the highlighted lines above should begin to turn sharply upward next week.  That’s my diagnostic for whether or not we’ll have a winter wave.

The most mis-represented number in the game right now.

That’s the fraction of infections that are breakthrough infections.  “Breakthrough” being the term-of-art for infections among individuals who are vaccinated.

Let me start with a little clarity.  Virginia updated its COVID-19 numbers “by vaccination status”, to the week ending 10/2/2021.  They look like this:

Source:  Calculated from Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard data.

Now, before we go a step further, let’s note the obvious.  Note the GREAT BIG SECTION OF THE PIE that is attributable to those who are NOT VACCINATED.

Obvious, right?  Last week, in Virginia, 82% of infections were among un-vaccinated individuals.

A less dramatic but more informative way to present the data is to show both the fraction of the population, and the fraction of infections.  This way, the intelligent reader can correctly infer that INFECTIONS ARE GROSSLY AND DISPROPORTIONATELY CONCENTRATED AMONG THE UN-VACCINATED.

Source:  Calculated from Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard data.

Again, not exactly rocket science to deliver a clear and unambiguous message.

The problem is, this is straight-up dog-bites-man messaging.  Vaccines are supposed to prevent infection, and they do.  Ho hum.  That’s hardly news.

And, to be clear, this is more-or-less the way the state-level numbers look everywhere.  And that’s because, once again, the COVID-19 vaccines work fairly well, regardless of location.

So not only is it boring, it’s the same everywhere you look.

In the modern world, that’s insufficient click-bait.  That doesn’t bring the eyeballs that fuel the advertising revenues that make the news industry run.

And so, inevitably, headlines for half the articles about breakthrough infections have to make it seem as if vaccines don’t work.  The stories themselves always seem to present the facts.  But the headlines come out of a different universe entirely.

I don’t know if the editors who create those headlines really are sympathetic to the nut-o-verse of anti-vaccine forces, and want to give them some (non-factual) basis to sustain their beliefs.  Or, maybe they’re just scrambling for advertising dollars, and figure the contrarian headlines suggesting that vaccines don’t work will help that.  Or maybe it just tickles their fancy to fashion a headline that’s so clearly contrary to the content of the story.

There is a serious public health issue here, beyond the rate of vaccination.  Immunity fades over time, and booster shots will become increasingly necessary if you want to maintain an optimal level of protection.

But, as is clear from the simple graphs above, that’s a far cry from saying that the current COVID-19 vaccines don’t work.  In my opinion, every state health department ought to be producing their own version of the first graph above.

In a world where we all get our information from the internet, sometimes you really need to slap people in the face with the simple, obvious, and correct story.  Because you can be sure that, intentionally or otherwise, somebody else is out there doing their best to muddy up the waters.