Omicron Wave on the Way for the US

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Scary Picture!!

As we get closer to Christmas and the end of the year, there will be serious disruptions in the data flow. Here in my home state, they are not going to update the website from Thursday until next Monday and I expect other states will do similar things. And we’ll see the same type of issues next week as well. So it will likely be a couple of weeks before we get numbers that are reliable.

For the week ending on the 19th, there were 928,619 newly reported positive cases and that was up 13% from the week before. And this is just the tip of the iceberg with respect to Omicron. While it isn’t in the tables, the number of newly reported cases yesterday was 288,579 which is the second highest daily total ever reported and the highest since January 6th of this year. I suspect some of this is due to panic testing as people worry about their holiday plans but we are certainly going to see high numbers for the near future.

At this point, it may be useful to look at South Africa which was an early epicenter for this variant. Here is a graph of new cases and a 10 day moving average with all data coming from the WHO.

Now it isn’t clear if the US experience is going to mirror South Africa but it is interesting that they also had a big one day spike that was their second highest daily total. You can see that they went from basically zero to over 20000 cases per day in a short period of time. But it also looks like things have peaked there as the moving average has started to drop. If true, then it means the wave lasted about a month. The US is a much bigger place and waves tend to roll across the country so I wouldn’t expect that to hold here but, for all the hype, the peak of this wave is just above earlier waves.

I don’t have daily data on deaths for the rest of the world. But what I do have is totals by WHO region. And it tells a positive story. I have to look at the Africa region but that is dominated by South Africa so it is a good proxy. From 11/24 to 12/21, that region saw cases go from 6,205,844 to 6,830,309 which is a 10% increase. Deaths went from 152,266 to 154,528 which is only a 1.5% increase.

It is true that deaths lag behind cases but if we just look at the last two weeks, cases are up 7.3% while deaths are only up 0.8%. In other words, we see no evidence that deaths are starting to increase despite the huge increase in cases. This jives with reports from South Africa that this variant is much milder than any of the previous ones. There is reason to be cautiously optimistic even in the face of soaring case numbers.

Let’s just run through the US and see where we stand. It will be interesting to see how this new variant acts given that we had many states that were already seeing declining case counts. But it will take a few weeks before we know.

The Northeast remains the problem spot. We still have kind of a North/South split but it has reversed. Case counts remain high everywhere but the more northern states have seen the growth rate slow for now.

  • Vermont (28) – hard to see on the graph but they have the lowest case count in the region and saw a big drop in cases last week.
  • Pennsylvania (31) – slightly more cases than Vermont and didn’t see as big of a drop last week.
  • Maine (36) – also saw a drop in cases but they still rank high in the country in terms of cases per million.
  • New Hampshire (41) – the last of the four states where cases dropped last week but they still lead the region and nation in cases per million.
  • Connecticut (44) – big increase from last month.
  • New Jersey (45) – slightly behind Connecticut in terms of cases but saw a bigger weekly growth so the numbers are increasing at a good rate.
  • Rhode Island (46) – saw only a slight weekly increase but only New Hampshire has more cases per million.
  • Massachusetts (49) – ranks third for cases per million and saw a big increase from last month and will likely pass both New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
  • New York (51) – worst in the nation due to growth rate in cases.

In this next region, Maryland still isn’t reporting anything. I believe I read their site was compromised. I’ll still rank them but it is meaningless at this point. Delaware and DC rank near the bottom while North Carolina is still in the top 20 so we have a pretty obvious north/south split here.

  • Maryland (2)
  • North Carolina (15) – saw cases drop last week and cases are low relative to the rest of the country.
  • Virginia (37) -at this point, cases are relatively low but they are increasing fast as Virginia saw big weekly and monthly increases.
  • DC (43) – among the fastest weekly and monthly increases in the country and case counts are getting up there as well.
  • Delaware (48) – cases among the highest in the nation and still increasing.

The Midwest would rank just behind the Northeast as cases are high and have gone up in a couple of states.

  • Michigan (30) – while cases remain high, they have been dropping for multiple weeks in a row and that leads to a better rating.
  • Indiana (40) – also saw cases drop last week and now have the lowest number of cases per million in the region although the entire region is high compared to the rest of the country.
  • Wisconsin (42) – lead the region in cases and saw a relatively big jump last week.
  • Ohio (47) – just behind Wisconsin in cases but bigger weekly and monthly increases.
  • Illinois (50) – growth rate seems to have accelerated recently as they are more than double where they were a month ago.

Of the three states in this region, Tennessee is in the best shape.

  • Tennessee (17) – like North Carolina, they saw cases drop last week and they have a low number of cases.
  • Kentucky (33) – while cases increased last week, they didn’t get much above two weeks ago so we aren’t seeing big increases yet.
  • West Virginia (38) – same as Kentucky in terms of case growth but they have more cases and rank behind Kentucky.

We see some movement in the Southeast as only two states rank in the top 10. The state everyone loves to hate saw a big increase and no longer looks as good.

  • South Carolina (5) – saw a big drop in cases last week and other states in the region shot by them so they end up with the best ranking.
  • Mississippi (6) – also saw a decrease last week so and they rank in the top 10 in terms of fewest cases per million.
  • Alabama (18) – still have a low number of cases but have seen growth rates accelerating.
  • Georgia (22) – same as Alabama but slightly more cases and a slightly higher monthly growth.
  • Florida (35) – biggest monthly increase in the country and one of the biggest weekly increases even though, for now, cases remain low.

In the Northern Plains, things continue to improve. This will be one of the regions to watch to see how it is impacted by Omicron. If things have already peaked here, then will the new variant reignite cases. But the story for now is declining cases and totals that rank roughly in the middle.

  • Nebraska (4) – biggest weekly decrease in the country and the fewest cases in the region.
  • Minnesota (16) – also saw a big weekly and monthly drop even though they have the highest number of cases in the region.
  • North Dakota (20) – saw a weekly decline and had the biggest monthly drop in the region.
  • South Dakota (21) – similar to North Dakota – the weekly drop was larger but the monthly drop was smaller.
  • Iowa (29) – saw a weekly drop but the only state in the region that did not see a monthly drop.

Like the Southeast, rising case counts have pushed a lot of states further down the ratings. Still have a clear north/south split with the two northern most states having the worst rankings.

  • Louisiana (10) – while they did see big increases for the week and the month, they rank third in the fewest number of cases per million.
  • Arkansas (23) – the only state in the region where cases dropped last week but not sure if that pattern is going to continue.
  • Texas (25) – still a low number of cases but growth rate has certainly picked up.
  • Oklahoma (27) – relatively low number of cases and not really seeing the growth that other states in the region are.
  • Kansas (34) – another state where growth was flat last week so they don’t rank worst in the region despite having the highest number of cases.
  • Missouri (39) – biggest monthly increase in the region.

The Rockies are now what the Southeast was a few weeks ago – the best region in the country. This will also be interesting to see what happens with Omicron as all states are still seeing cases drop and they’ve dropped far enough that a few of them rank in the top ten for fewest number of cases. Closer to the bottom of the wave than the Northern Plains.

  • Montana (1) – cases continue to fall and they have the lowest number of cases per million in the country.
  • Wyoming (3) – similar to Montana as they continue to see big weekly declines and are way down from where they were a month ago.
  • Idaho (7) – all states in this region saw weekly and monthly drop and all states rank in the top 10 in each category. Idaho has a lower number of cases than the three remaining states.
  • Colorado (9) – bigger decreases than Idaho but more cases.
  • Utah (12) – similar to Colorado but just slightly more cases.
  • New Mexico (14) – finally saw cases drop after being at a plateau for multiple weeks but still has the highest number of cases per million in the region.

A mixed bag here so no regional trends can be drawn except that no state is in bad shape. Arizona continues to look more like New Mexico than the other states here.

  • California (13) – saw a decrease in cases last week and now has the lowest number of cases per million in the region.
  • Arizona (24) – did not see as big of a drop as New Mexico but the same pattern as they dropped out of the plateau they’ve been in.
  • Nevada (26) – small increases in weekly and monthly numbers but essentially flat at a relatively low number of cases.
  • Hawaii (32) – like Florida, they saw a big jump in cases. Unlike Florida, they won’t get any attention. Still a relatively low number of cases even with the big increase.

Lastly, we get to the Pacific Northwest which ranks just behind the Rockies. Cases continue to drop here as well and the totals are among the lowest in the country.

  • Alaska (8) – cases continue to drop and they are down more than 50% from a month ago and are getting closer to the other two states in terms of cases.
  • Oregon (11) – saw a decline in cases last week which put them ahead of Washington even though the two really continue to track each other.
  • Washington (19) – a small increase in cases last week but the general pattern is still a decline. The decline here is slower than in the Rockies so they don’t rank as high.

I’ll see how bad the data gaps are in the next weeks before deciding whether it is worth doing an update. The thing to watch is how Omicron reacts in states where cases have been falling for quite some time.

Just to close out, here are the states in the best shape (ignoring Maryland)

  1. Montana
  2. Wyoming
  3. Nebraska
  4. South Carolina
  5. Mississippi
  6. Idaho
  7. Alaska
  8. Colorado
  9. Louisiana
  10. Oregon

If there is any take home message, it is that these things go in waves and the doom and gloom in a region never lasts forever. The waves are seasonal and places in similar geographic regions tend to act the same.

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