It does seem like COVID is close to becoming old news. We even have a new disease (the M-Pox) to be worried about. We are headed into the time of year when respiratory diseases spike in a lot of the country so we shall see what happens.
We had three different waves in 2020. The first in March/April that was primarily in the Northeast. Then the Sun Belt wave in the summer and finally a big fall/winter wave. In 2021, after some late winter rises in a few places, we saw cases bottom out in June and then Delta hit causing large waves in many places. The fall/winter saw Omicron which was the largest wave in terms of cases.
In 2022, we’ve just seen waves of Omicron variants. The winter wave peaked in mid January but cases remained above 2021 levels until late February. Cases reached their low point near the end of March but then started climbing again and by the end of April, they were running higher than 2021.
The good news is that cases have been dropping and just in the last day, the seven day total for 2022 is now lower than the corresponding seven day total for 2021. Last year, cases continued to rise until the end of August so we are seeing a divergent pattern from last year. How long it holds up is the question.
Before we get to the numbers, the states with missing data are North Carolina, Colorado, Kentucky and Washington. But, for the last three weeks, cases have dropped from 896,060 to 842,662 to 773,186. The last number is going to change the most as the missing days are reported but it will still come in lower than the previous week.
For the week, cases fell in 36 states and DC so the decline was broad based. If you define a “big” change as a 20% increase, we saw big changes in six states (Kentucky, Iowa, Alaska, Vermont, Rhode Island and Nevada). We didn’t see that many big drops and most states are still above where they were four weeks ago so we are still early in this downturn.
In the past, the waves have tended to go up and down rather dramatically. You get periods of what looks like exponential growth but that hasn’t been the case this summer. And it could be that the downturn also is just slow and gradual.
Last year at this time, we had big increases in a few southern states and we are nowhere near those levels now. There are 20 states where the weekly total for this year is lower than the weekly total for the same week last year. As I mentioned in the beginning, last year at this time was the Delta wave and since that peaked at the end of August, I’d certainly expect more states to start dropping below last year’s total.
For the mathematically inclined, the correlation coefficient between the years is 0.48 clearly showing some relationship between years which is the effect of seasonality.
The ten states with the fewest cases last week were Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, North Carolina, DC, Colorado, Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Utah. If I toss out North Carolina, Colorado and Washington, they would be replaced by Idaho, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Of those, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania and Maryland were among the ten lowest at this time last year.
On the other end, the ten highest were Alaska, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, California and New Mexico. Of those, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi all ranked among the ten highest last year as well. Again, just to show there is a seasonal pattern to COVID even though we were dealing with Delta last year and Omicron this year.
For perspective, it is probably worth going through the region by region graphs.
In the Northeast, cases in New York and New Jersey have been falling while the rest of the region has been essentially flat. At this time last year, this region had come off the lows of July and was starting to see cases tick back up although things really didn’t take off here until late October/early November.
If you look at North Carolina, you see the last point drops off because they didn’t report data for many days. That is masking what is an uptick in cases which you only see when the missing data is finally added. The other states are essentially flat. Similar to the Northeast, last year we were seeing cases rise with North Carolina leading the way but the increase in North Carolina this year is much slower and it seems unlikely that they’ll hit the same peak they did last year.
Similar to the other regions, we were seeing cases rise here last year as well with the fastest increases in Indiana and Ohio. This year, cases have been almost flat since mid May for most of the states and it doesn’t look like we’ll see the same peaks in Indiana and Ohio that we saw last year.
In this region, we are finally seeing cases level off or fall a bit after they were slowly rising from early April. Kentucky and West Virginia do have some of the highest totals in the country. But the pattern is completely different from last year where we saw cases shoot up starting in early July. It certainly looks like none of these three states are going to come close to the peak they had last September.
At this time last year, these states were a couple of weeks away from their late summer peak and the case numbers were higher than anytime in 2020 although they’d be dwarfed by the winter Omicron peak. This year, Florida has been flat since the end of May and the other states were seeing increases that appear to have stopped. They are all well below last year’s numbers.
In this region, cases continue to rise but very slowly. Last year, they were at the start of the Delta wave which peaked towards the end of September for most places but we really didn’t see much of a drop and then the Omicron wave took over. If the slow growth rate continues, they won’t come close to the peaks from last year.
At this time last year, the Delta wave was near peak in Louisiana and Arkansas and the other states would peak in a few weeks. While we’ve seen gradual increases in the numbers since early April, it appears that the numbers are stabilizing. And most, if not all, are going to end up well below the August peaks from last year.
Last year, cases were rising everywhere but the three northern states (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming) reached higher peaks sometime in September/October. Like other places, there was a small drop until the Omicron wave took over. Cases now appear to be dropping after increasing since mid April. It doesn’t seem like we are going to hit the same peaks in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana that we did last year.
Hawaii saw cases peak in May of this year as opposed to August of last year and this year’s peak was higher than the one in August of last year. The other states are in similar spots but cases appear to be flat or falling everywhere. Last year at this time, they were still rising but it looks like they are all going to have similar peaks – just at different times.
While cases did go up in Alaska last week, they did not go over the high set in late June and they remain well below the peak from September of last year. Washington and Oregon were in the middle of a wave that peaked at the end of August while this year, cases now look like they are starting to fall. And they aren’t going to end up lower than this time last year.
For the most part, last year we were looking at the start of the Delta wave while this year we appear to be near the end of the various Omicron waves (barring some new variant). And it looks like the places that got hit hardest by Delta aren’t seeing the same thing from this round of Omicron. It would be nice if this carries through the fall and winter and we don’t get the same big peaks we saw last year.