All of us have had a wild ride over the past eighteen months. Our lives have been tossed about, and more than a few of us are getting tired of it. Whatever was normal seems far, far away. This state of emergency appears to be perpetual. But, is it?
The Latest Emergencies
https://www.aol.com/news/delta-tearing-states-despite-high-115328590-144309086.html. The New England states have some of the highest vaccination rates (between 61.5 and 69.4%) in the United States. This includes Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. New Hampshire is just a few steps behind at number ten on the list. However, the Delta variant arrived and threw all of them into panic mode.
The original thinking was that herd immunity would be possible when the United States reached a 65% vaccination rate. That expectation was raised to 70% (https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-health-coronavirus-pandemic-e33cc7e3eb782ceffdc9107a7cac25ab), and I have seen some best guesses at 80%. Now, we are not sure if 90% is enough to stop the spread of coronavirus.
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/usa/vermont/. The overall trend in the United States is downward for both new COVID-19 cases and daily deaths. Vermont had a coronavirus surge from November 2020 to May 2021 with daily new COVID-19 cases between 100 and 150/day. Please note: all statistics are seven-day averages. The daily deaths rarely exceeded two per day.
Vermont’s new COVID-19 case surge started in August and peaked just after the middle of September, with daily numbers exceeding 200/day. However, daily deaths did not exceed two/day. The good news is that the new case rate spiked significantly, the daily deaths remained no higher than the last surge. Yes, hospitals were challenged. https://vtdigger.org/coronavirus/. The hospital surge appears to be leveling off at a level about 20% less (in the 40s/day) than the height of the last surge (in the 60s/day).
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/usa/connecticut/. Unlike Vermont, Connecticut has not seen the same Delta variant surge. The previous surge of October 2020 to May 2021 saw a rapid increase to new cases exceeding 2,000/day and daily deaths hovering around the mid-30s.
This past summer saw new COVID-19 cases in the 50-70 daily range. This jumped to nearly ten times that amount beginning in mid-July. The new COVID-19 case rate appears to have peaked, and daily new cases are at levels seen at the beginning of August 2021 and dropping.
During this same time, the state saw almost no daily deaths from COVID-19 for several weeks. The latest surge has seen daily deaths remain in the single digits. The death rate continues to rise incrementally; however, daily deaths lag new cases by a week or two. Again, the good news is that daily deaths are twenty to twenty-five percent lower than the last surge.
https://www.ctpost.com/news/coronavirus_tracker/. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were around 1,200/day in the winter of 2020-21. A mini-surge in March-April 2021 saw daily hospitalizations jump from below 400/day to over 500/day then recede down below 40/day until the Delta variant took charge with over 600/day. Since mid-July, the COVID-19 daily hospitalizations have continued to climb.
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/usa/maine/. The surges in Maine have been very pronounced, with the significant surge (over 600/day) occurring last winter, a late spring surge (high 400s/day) nearly equaling the previous surge in daily numbers but not in total time, and the Delta variant surge starting in mid-July.
Daily deaths from COVID-19 have remained in the single digits since the pandemic started except for a few days last winter. The Delta variant has kept the daily death trend in the low single digits.
https://www.wmtw.com/article/maine-covid-19-cases-delta-variant-vaccinations-maps/37526734#. Hospitalizations are a bit different than the other New England states. At the peak of last winter,
Maine saw over 600 hospitalizations/day for COVID-19. The late spring surge had daily hospitalizations approaching 500/day but not exceeding it. The Delta variant surge has daily hospitalizations over 600/day and still growing.
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/usa/rhode-island/. The surge activity due to COVID-19 in Rhode Island was slightly different from the other neighboring states. The winter of 2020-21 and late spring (2021) surges blended into each other. Early December 2020 had over 1,300 new COVID-19 cases/day. That rate dropped to below 800 in late December and climbed back up over 1,000/day in January 2021.
The new COVID-19 case rate plateaued in the 300/day range in early spring and then climbed to over 400/day for about a week before gradually bottoming out around twenty new COVID-19 cases/day. The Delta variant saw new COVID-19 cases rise to just above 300 new cases/day for almost the entire month of September. This past week shows a decline below 300 new cases/day.
From early December 2020 through early February 2021, the daily deaths attributed to COVID-19 were above ten per day, with a few days climbing over 20/day briefly. The late spring surge saw the daily death rate drop to low single digits and blend into the Delta variant surge with the low single deaths/day remaining.
https://ridoh-covid-19-response-hospital-data-rihealth.hub.arcgis.com/. COVID-19 hospitalizations during the winter of 2020-21 averaged above 450/day with an occasional report exceeding 500/day. The COVID-19 hospitalization rate dropped from the beginning of January 2021 through the end of March 2021. The late spring surge saw numbers climb from 120-130/day to just over 150/day for most of April.
By mid-to-late July, the hospitalization of COVID-19 patients fluctuated around 20-25/day. Then the Delta variant raised the daily hospitalizations to 155-165 for a week or so in September. Then the level has receded a bit and stabilized around 130 new hospitalizations for COVID-19/day.
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/usa/massachusetts/. The surge profile for Massachusetts is more traditional in the sense that there are distinct beginnings and ends of the surges before the next one starts. From November 2020 through mid-February 2021 bounced around a bit. New COVID-19 cases rose from 300-350 new cases/day in the summer to just over 2,600 in a short plateau in late November 2020. Then it rose and leveled off in mid-to-late December to just under 5,000 new cases/day.
Finally, in mid-January 2021, the new case rate rose to almost 6,500 and fell off over the next five weeks to just under 1,700 new COVID-19 cases/day. The mid-March trend shot up slowly to over 2,000 cases/day for about a month and then receded again.
For a month during June/July, the new cases/day fell below 100. The Delta variant saw the new cases/day rise steadily from mid-July to mid-September and peak out at just under 2,000 new COVID-19 cases/day. The new cases/day have been dropping since then.
The daily deaths attributed to COVID-19 have remained below 100/day through last winter and spring. Occasionally, a day or two would see daily deaths above 70/day. A downward trend started in February and continued to July, where almost no cases were reported for a short time. The Delta variant saw a slight uptick in the number of daily deaths, and exceeded a dozen for a few days, and remained steady for the past month.
https://www.wcvb.com/article/massachusetts-daily-covid-19-update-latest-dph-data-august-23-2021/37377710#. Hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 reached a high at the end of April with nearly 2,300 patients per day for a month around Christmas 2020. The number of patients dropped significantly over the next couple of months to around 650 patients/day, rose to about 750/day for the spring surge, and tapered off to under a hundred per day for the summer. The Delta variant caused the hospitalizations to increase to over 600 since the end of August 2021. The current trend line is stable at around 600/day.
https://www.masslive.com/coronavirus/2021/09/breakthrough-covid-cases-in-massachusetts-up-to-about-40-while-unvaccinated-people-dominate-hospitalizations.html. It is difficult to find databases or reports that track the number of hospitalizations of those vaccinated and unvaccinated. This link reports that in early September 2021, around 25% of the hospitalizations were fully vaccinated, patients. The end of September saw that percentage rise to 40%. Thus, almost half the people being hospitalized for COVID-19 in Massachusetts are fully vaccinated. That same percentage should be close to neighboring states.
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/usa/new-hampshire/. Although New Hampshire was not in the top five with over 70% of its citizens fully vaccinated. It is number ten, and I decided to include it in today’s assessment. The surge history is similar to surrounding states, with distinct surges in the winter of 2020-21, late spring, and fall. The winter new cases of COVID-19 hovered at or below 800/day for about a month.
The late spring surge was half the winter in daily totals and less than half of the four-plus months of the winter surge. The Delta variant started escalating in late July where Massachusetts had kept the daily new cases of COVID-19 around 20/day for a month. The current trend line is still going upward and has passed 500 new cases/day.
Other than a few days in the winter of 2020-21, the daily deaths from or with COVID-19 rarely exceeded ten/day. The late spring and Delta surges are almost nonexistent – low single digits daily for months with many days of zero deaths.
https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-response-reporting. Each surge since the beginning of the pandemic has seen fewer people being hospitalized for COVID-19. In April 2020, the highest daily number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 approached 4,000/day, under 2,500/day for the winter of 2020-21, around 750/day for late spring 2021, and around 650/day for the Delta variant.
This past week has seen a slight decrease in daily demand for hospitalizations for COVID-19.
https://www.nbcboston.com/news/coronavirus/4378-new-breakthrough-cases-in-mass-37-more-deaths-in-vaccinated-people/2503185/. Vaccinated people becoming infected were nearly 4,500 last week, with just under 40 deaths attributed to COVID-19. The article points out that these are minimal percentages based on the totals; however, the trend has increased in recent weeks.
A month or so ago, the headlines kept telling us how awful the Delta variant was in the southern United States while the northern states (implied higher totals of vaccinated citizens) were not feeling the sting of the Delta variant. It is sort of ‘what goes around comes around’ when dealing with mutations.
Most of the time, a mutation will grip you when you do not expect it. The good news is that the surges are seeing high numbers of new cases of COVID-19, substantial hospitalizations, and fewer deaths. The statistics on Delta variant deaths are sometimes indistinguishable from non-surge periods.
Yes, I am confident that hospital ICU usage had to increase to handle the demand. It is expected anytime new cases begin to double or triple. The late spring and Delta surges occurred when people were not locked down in their homes and had the beginnings of normal lives. Yes, people will die during the pandemic, but the quality of life is still important. What is the proper balance?
As I was finishing my research into today’s topic, I found something a bit interesting about vaccine efficacy. https://justthenews.com/politics-policy/coronavirus/report-covid-vaccine-antibody-levels-drop-nearly-10-fold-after-about. There appears to be a line in the sand about how long the COVID-19 vaccines are viable. A recent study, https://news.trust.org/item/20211001194329-xkwip, found antibodies at 50% of the levels six months after initial vaccination (Pfizer). In addition, the high levels of neutralizing antibodies from two doses of the vaccine dropped ten-fold (ten times) in seven months.
The study is not peer-reviewed but may explain why we see so many of these ‘breakthrough’ cases of vaccinated people becoming infected. It may not be the aggressiveness of the Delta variant, but rather a vaccine can no longer offer adequate protection. It will be interesting to see a follow-up on this topic.
Do we need a booster every six months or a better vaccine? No one knows how long it will be before we break out of this perpetual state of fear, confusion, and emergency, but we will.
Live Longer & Enjoy Life! Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com