Summer Surging

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Another big jump in cases and percentage of positive results. So should we all start to panic again? It certainly does look like this thing is going to be sticking around for a bit meaning that we’ll likely have another wave in the fall. Optimistically, we can just hope that each wave gets smaller and smaller.

That still seems to be the case with this one although we have a couple of weeks to go before we’ll know for sure.

I’ll start with the graph showing newly reported cases per day back to mid March. We clearly bottomed in mid June and have been going up since then. Coming off such a low point, the percentage increases can look pretty alarming. It is also true that we’ve just now come back to levels from early May and have not yet touched the April highs. Again, the numbers can be spun for good or bad depending on how you choose to do it.

For the week ending yesterday, we had a total of 227,826 newly reported cases which is up 65% from where we were last week. This was on 4.6 million reported tests which gives 4.9% positives and that is also up from last week and is the highest figure since mid April. Testing has been cut in half since April and that helps drive this figure higher. For comparison, we had 498,971 newly reported cases that week in April.

As to the historical comparison, at this time last year, we had 458,810 cases and the percentage of positive results was 7.5% on a total of 6.1 million tests. This was close to the peak for cases last year. We had a modest rise the next week and then cases started to fall.

This year, we may have started a little later. If I go by historic patterns, these waves tend to last five to six weeks and you always have a couple of weeks where the growth rate looks scary before it settles down and then peaks. We’ve just come through those two weeks.

I’m going to do something I don’t normally do and that is try to predict the future. This is just based on what happened last year and I’m only doing it to set a benchmark so we know if we are seeing something worse.

While cases actually hit a low during the week that ended on June 19th, I’m using the next week as the start of the wave. Going back in time, the summer wave last year started during the week that ended on June 13th, 2020 so we are about two weeks behind.

Last year, during the first four weeks of the wave, cases jumped from 144,360 to 341,790 or a 137% increase (meaning they more than doubled). From that point, cases peaked three weeks later at 464,577 which is a 36% increase. In other words, over the first three weeks, cases more than doubled but then the rate slowed down.

This year, we’ve gone from 88,422 to 227,826 which is an increase of 158% or again more than doubling. The percentage increase is bigger than last year but we were also starting from a lower number. If you look at actual cases, the increase was 197,430 last year and 139,404 this year so pick your metric to say if last year or this year is worse.

If the trends from last year hold, we’ll peak during the first week in August and should be somewhere less than 320,000 newly reported cases. Not great but lower than last summer.

We’ll get some hints next week. Based on last year, we should see the rate of new cases start to slow. We may also get some clues from some the states that started this off. Guess we just wait and see.

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