COVID Numbers – Who is Telling it Straight?

The U.S. COVID death average has declined twelve straight weeks. The 7-day average has fallen 79% from 3473/day on January 26 to 727/day on April 16. Deaths are where they were at the start of the third wave last Fall, the lowest since they were at 721/day on October 12.

On the other hand, cases have risen five straight weeks and are up again modestly the past 6 days. So far this week, the case average increased 3.99% increase on top of a 2.78% increase the week before. The media is raising concerns about the rising number of cases, but they are rising very slowly and this is not yet cause for alarm. Examine the numbers for yourself:

Week Ending13-Mar20-Mar27-Mar3-Apr10-Apr17-Apr*
7-day average56,00756,61162,00466,67368,62271,363
% increase from prior week-8.91.089.537.682.783.99
7-day average U.S. COVID cases

*As of Friday, April 16.

Compare the past five weeks to the first five weeks in the third wave last fall. Back then, cases were increasing faster and faster every week:

Week Ending26-Sep3-Oct10-Oct17-Oct24-Oct31-Oct
7-day average41,38543,61848,78156,45967,86381,567
% increase from prior week-0.235.411.8415.7420.220.19
7-day average U.S. COVID cases

Notice the difference in the rate of increase between last Fall and this Spring. The rate of increase now is significantly lower than it was last Fall; furthermore, the increase is steady (linear) today as opposed to an accelerating rate last Fall (exponential). We have also yet to see a double-digit increase in cases the last five weeks, and the increases the last two weeks has been under five percent as opposed to last Fall when the increase was as high as 50% in a single week (between November 28 and December 5).

Furthermore, as cases rise modestly this past five weeks, the death average continues to drop. Deaths are not falling fast enough for any of us and are still relatively high, but the numbers provide hope:

Week Ending 13-Mar20-Mar27-Mar3-Apr10-Apr17-Apr*
7-day moving average1,3181,0801,000873761727
%change from prior week-27.46-18.06-7.41-12.7-12.83-4.47
7-day average COVID deaths in U.S.

*As of Friday, April 16.

Now compare deaths the past five weeks to the first five weeks in the third surge. Last Fall, death numbers flattened two weeks into the surge and then deaths started rising the fourth week into the surge:

Week Ending 26-Sep3-Oct10-Oct17-Oct24-Oct31-Oct
7-day moving average769731731727833872
%change from prior week-4.11-4.940-0.5514.584.68
7-day average COVID deaths in U.S.

Overall, this is good news; we continue to head in the right direction with a falling death rate, but how does our media characterize this recent increase in cases? They mention only the surge in cases and say nothing of falling death rates; they also tell us we should be concerned because “we are going in the wrong direction”. Here are just a couple of sample clips from our ever-so-trustworthy media; all the outlets are all pretty much the same from our “one channel” media:

COVID Vaccine Updates: 30% increase in new cases over the past month in US – ABC7 New York (abc7ny.com)

Map: Coronavirus cases are surging around the U.S. See where the hot spots are. (nbcnews.com)

Here’s how I characterize the numbers from the same data set our media is talking about. My take is very different than theirs:

  • During the first five weeks of wave three last Fall, there was a 97% increase in cases and a 12% increase in deaths; this was only the start of a massive five-fold increase in deaths over a four-month period.
  • During the last five weeks of this latest “surge”, there has been a 27% increase in cases and a 45% decrease in deaths; this is a continuation of a 12-week decline in death numbers which are now lower than they have been in the last six months.

Who do you trust to give you straight talk: me or them?

As I’ve been saying for a few weeks now, we are in a different paradigm because of the vaccine. In the past year, deaths would rise a few weeks after cases rose. Given that the rise in cases is much less this Spring and that we have already vaccinated the most vulnerable (i.e. the elderly), we are seeing far better results even as cases rise. Once the case rate flattens and falls again (I think it will inevitably do so in the next few weeks), death averages will fall steeply. That will be the end of our nightmare. Until then, be patient, quit listening to the garbage one channel media who wants only to manipulate your thinking and listen instead to someone who will tell it to you straight. I give you the whole picture so you can draw your own conclusions.

But What about Michigan (and other states)?

As I mentioned in my post last weekend When Does COVID End? – Seek the Truth (seek-the-truth.com), cases increased 7-fold in Michigan over a two-month period. It is early to project, but in the last week, the rate of increase in Michigan slowed to just 2%. We may be on the verge of a peak in Michigan. If this is not it, the peak will come soon. Once we hit that peak, deaths may rise for a little while still, but deaths too will start to fall a few weeks after the cases peak. I think we can call this latest wave the “Michigan wave”. Michigan is the one state which is seeing big rises in both cases and deaths; no other state gives cause for alarm at the moment.

We have seen a surge in cases in a few other states, but none anywhere near as large as Michigan. Minnesota has the next highest rate of recent increase; it has seen a three-fold increase in cases over a six-week period, but Minnesota appears to have hit a peak and cases are declining again. Furthermore, deaths are still declining in Minnesota as well, having fallen to just 9 per day on Friday. Nine deaths per day in a state of almost 6 million people is is less than the current national average and a relatively low rate at this point in time.

Cases have doubled in few other states, including two large states: Illinois and Pennsylvania. But here as well deaths are yet not creeping up in these states. New York, another state I said we should keep an eye on, is finally turning around as well. Their case average was stuck in the 7000’s and 8000’s for a couple months, but in the last two weeks, it has fallen almost 25% and is down to 6413 cases per day as of Friday. Deaths in New York are also at their lowest level since December (currently 70 per day).

Vaccines:

The vaccination rate in the U.S. is simply incredible. On average, approximately 1% of the total U.S. population is vaccinated daily. Friday, April 16, was another stellar day with more than 4 million vaccinated. In all, 38.5% of all Americans have received at least one dose. We are catching up to the few countries ahead of us. Comparatively, in Israel, 59% have received one dose and in the U.K. the number is 49%. Given the current rate of vaccinations, the U.S. will reach the level U.K. is now at in about 3 weeks and the level Israel is now at in about 6 weeks (this is assuming half of our daily vaccinations go to the first dose and half to the second dose).

We want to be where they are today. Currently, Israel, a country of about 9 million people, has a case rate of just 152 per day, a more than 98% reduction from its peak. Their death rate stands at just 5 per day, a 92% reduction in deaths. These are incredibly low numbers and it appears both numbers could go lower.

The UK, a country of about 68 million people, has a case rate of just 2588/day (96% drop) and a death rate of just 26 per day (98% drop). The U.S. has approximately 5 times as many people as the UK. If we can reach comparable rates in the next three weeks, we would see a case rate of 13,000 per day and death rate of 130 per day. This would put us back to where we were at the very start of the pandemic before we knew how bad it would actually get.

Can we replicate the results in Israel and UK rates in the next three to six weeks? Our results may not be exactly the same, but we have good reason to hope that our numbers will follow similar patterns. It appears likely we get there soon if we continue to vaccinate at the current rate. I’m not backing down on the predictions I made last week. I’m doubling down instead. The prognosis looks good. COVID in the U.S. is on the wane and numbers will fall dramatically throughout the Spring and Summer.

I should also note the latest news regarding the “pause” in the distribution of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine this past week. In the U.S., 7 million J&J vaccines have been distributed and just 6 adverse cases have been reported. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this. I’m not a doctor and I don’t have the whole story, but it makes little sense to pause the vaccine if just one in every million vaccine recipients has an adverse reactions; your chance of being struck by lightning is higher. Every medicine has some risk and we should not expect this one to be exempt. Furthermore, the number of lives saved by rolling out the vaccine vastly outweighs those put at risk.

On the other hand, I wonder if there is more they are not telling us. Perhaps there are more than just six cases? We’ve been lied to about COVID so often in the last year, so it is possible. In any case, the Biden administration should be getting out in front of this and telling us the whole story. Their messaging on this is not good. If there are actually just six cases, the pause should be short and the public should be reassured of the safety of the vaccine. If there are more than 6 cases, then just tell us what you know and stop trying to manage the data flow and manipulate public opinion. We want to be able to trust that our government can at least tell us the truth about the safety of such a significant vaccine which has such import to our future, but I don’t know if we can. I am really bothered by the fact that we cannot trust the current administration; hardly anything we’re being told by them on a variety of topics is reliable, certainly not anything regarding science.

From Another Straight Talker:

Our family pediatrician regularly shares a newsletter which is chock-full of good information. I pass along a few tid-bits from his latest update this week. Like me, he provides optimism and makes some of the same points I have. He also provides some insights from a medical perspective that I cannot provide myself:

  • The United States is now likely past 45% of its population having been vaccinated or previously infected. Couple this with warming weather patterns, effective social distancing and we are still in better shape every day.
  • As with the first newsletter on this topic, keep solace with the fact that there is a 99+% chance of survival for all of us.
  • Will we need to get boosted soon for COVID19 after being effectively vaccinated? In my opinion, no. It is very clear from the literature that we are developing very robust T and B cell responses post mRNA COVID vaccination. (Ellebedy et. al. 2021) It is also clear now that the immunity post vaccination is completely stopping the death and hospitalization nightmares of 2020. (Business Wire 2021) How long does the immunity last is still anyone’s guess, however, the reality is likely somewhere between a long time and many years. I do not suspect that we will need yearly boosters. Every month that passes is another net positive towards long lasting immunity.
  • The only vaccine that needs a yearly booster is the influenza vaccine. And this is purely because the influenza virus has a rapid ability to shift and drift it’s genetic code via an RNA polymerase enzyme thwarting a previous vaccine. (CDC site)(Bouvier et. al. 2008) Coronaviruses have an RNA polymerase as well, however, the speed of variant development is not rapid making the current vaccine strategy quite likely to last for years if not decades. (Denison et. al. 2011)
  • Hospitalizations continue to drop despite an increase in cases in some regions of the United States. This again shows the effectiveness of the vaccinations at reducing the severity of disease nationwide despite the variants. This reduction in hospitalizations will undoubtedly lead to less deaths as one follows the other. (CDC Tracker Site)
  • More great news from Israel! “Mass vaccination has the potential to curb the current COVID-19 pandemic by protecting vaccinees from the disease and possibly lowering the chance of transmission to unvaccinated individuals. The high effectiveness of the widely-administered BNT162b vaccine in preventing not only the disease but also infection suggests a potential for a population-level effect, critical for disease eradication.
  • The fact that cross protection is occurring in non vaccinated individuals in the households of the vaccinated is so important as this slows the rate of disease transmission and ultimately mutation. Let us think about the school setting. Most in school cases came from adult teachers outside the school setting. Now that the teaching adults are vaccinated the risk of in school transmission is relieved. The end result will hopefully be getting children back in school without restrictive masks and other impediments to the normalcy of life. It is likely only a matter of months now.
  • It is time to have the conversation about kids wearing masks while engaging in sport. In an Irish study, they found 1 per 1000 COVID cases could be traced to an outdoor activity. (McGreevy R. 2021) This mirrors the data from other outdoor transmission studies. The issue with transmission remains steadfastly with 20 to 50 year old unvaccinated individuals engaging in activities in crowded indoor environments with poor ventilation over TIME. It is the opinion of this writer that school sport masking in outdoor environments makes less sense now following the data trail.

World Wide Numbers and Variants:

World-wide, COVID cases and deaths are going up at the moment, even while the situation improves in the UK, Israel, and the U.S.. Brazil and India, especially, are having a hard time right now. We need to continue to watch these countries as well. I am hopeful COVID peaks in these countries soon and that the vaccine rollout eventually makes a difference world-wide, but I am afraid it may take the rest of the year before things return to normal everywhere.

There is also talk of variants from the UK, Brazil, and South Africa. I need to do more research on these and report back in a later post, but we’ve been hearing of these variants for months and they don’t yet seem to be impacting the numbers in any significant way. Note also, the comment from our pediatrician above regarding Coronavirus variants: “however, the speed of variant development is not rapid making the current vaccine strategy quite likely to last for years if not decades. (Denison et. al. 2011) “. COVID variants apparently should not be compared to influenza variants.

Insanity Continues:

I thought as COVID wanes and the public demands a return to normality, there would be less need to post on the topic, but the insanity continues this past week as Fauci spouts off again about masks (contradicting himself yet again), CNN cannot do basic math, and a Stanford professor who knows way more about COVID than of the rest of us is censored by social media. I’ll leave these topics for my next post. Please check back at this site soon.

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