JIt was only a month ago that signs of a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections blossomed in the lower Midwest in the United States, memories of a long, miserable winter kept us warm. Even places with rising case numbers fell well below their catastrophic highs over the holidays as a combination of cold weather and defiant travelers contributed to a third wave of infections and deaths that drowned out the two previous spikes in April and July 2020.
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. In four states – Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida – the current number of new daily COVID-19 infections, averaged over seven days, has exceeded this winter peak, even when a significant percentage of the population has a full dose of the COVID. received -19 vaccine (though not nearly as many as officials would prefer).
Hawaii is an anomaly as its winter peak was nowhere near as high as in colder, more accessible regions. But several other states threaten to join this quartet in the near future. Oregon’s daily new infection rate is 36.5 per 100,000 inhabitants or 99% of the high on December 3, 2020. Nationwide, the rate is 37.7, almost 50% of the winter high of 76.5.
While many states stay well below winter peaks as the Delta variant rips across the country, we can expect more states to experience a fourth wave higher than the third, even as new outbreaks inspire biceps and more vaccine dropouts Breakthrough infections, while frightening and not trivial, remain relatively rare.
Perhaps the most sobering thing about this surge is that COVID-19-related deaths, which typically lag about two weeks behind the rise in cases, are starting to rise again. No state has hit the winter high in deaths yet, but Louisiana can do very well at 65%. That number is still 15% nationwide, well below the January 13, 2021 high of 1.04 deaths per 100,000 people. It is currently at 0.16.
When it comes to the pandemic, nobody wants to sound like Chicken Little. The sky may not fall. But neither the national fall rate nor the number of dying.
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