Coronavirus dashboard for September 7: the slow ebbing on the way to endemicity continues

Coronavirus dashboard for September 7: the slow ebbing on the way to endemicity continues”

I promised a COVID update, so I suppose I ought to follow through.

Let’s start today with a graph of South Africa’s cases and deaths for the past year:

South Africa is where BA.1 and BA.4&5 originated. You can see the huge spike in cases last December from original Omicron, and the smaller spike this June from BA.4&5. And yet deaths never approached the peak from Delta in summer 2021. 

Even more importantly, both cases and deaths are now as low as, and in the past month have even been lower than at any point since the pandemic started over 2 years ago.

I think this is a foretaste of what the future of COVID is likely to be.

Here is the same information for the US for the past 6 months:

Neither cases nor deaths came even close during the BA.2.12.1 or BA.4&5 waves to their peak from original Omicron last winter (or, in the case of deaths, to their peak during Delta).

And with no new variant showing signs of breaking out, cases have declined by over 40% from their recent peak in July. Deaths, which with the exception of June and July 2021 had always been over 1000/day, have not gotten significantly above 500/day for the past 4 1/2 months.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations have also declined nearly 25% from the July peak:

What is most remarkable is that this is despite the near total abandonment of both government and individual mitigation measures. As shown in the graph below, the % of people who have been fully vaccinated has virtually ground to a halt at a little over 67% since last winter:

Meanwhile total confirmed cases have continued to increase to nearly 30% of the entire population. Since we know that 1/2 or more of cases are asymptomatic, so those people probably won’t bother to get tested, the likelihood is that over 60% of the entire US population has been infected at some point.

Indeed, several months ago, a study of seroprevalence (bloodwork showing reaction to COVID) showed that almost 80% of school age children had at one point or another been infected:

Additionally, we know that since home testing was widely available in January, many symptomatic people haven’t bothered to get “officially” tested either. Biobot wastewater data has shown that since that time something like 2/3’s of all cases are likely not officially confirmed.

Speaking of which, here is their most recent regional update:

After declining 45% nationally, cases turned up a little bit in the past week, mainly in the South and Northeast. That may just be an anomaly due to incomplete data, or it may herald something else. Since there has been no indication that any variant, including BA.4.6, is able to outcompete BA.5, my guess is that it is an anomaly.

With vaccinations and advances in treatment – and also the fact that a large majority of the US population is no longer “immunologically naive” via either vaccination, infection, or both – only about 1 in 750 cases now results in death, with those skewing to the unvaccinated and the elderly. I suspect that we will continue to see slow declines until the cold weather arrives, or else some new even more competitive variant appears.