So the data took an interesting turn last week with cases jumping almost 50% to a total of 458,986 newly reported cases. I know cases are not the best metric as the newer variants have been milder but increases in cases will lead to increases in other outcomes. Plus, it is useful for comparisons across time.
This number is the highest since the week ending on September 14th as the summer wave was winding down. But this is not unexpected as respiratory viruses do peak in the winter so seeing a big jump is not really alarming just yet. For comparison, in 2020 there were 1,480,879 newly reported cases at this time. And, in 2021, there were 843,031 newly reported cases so we are well below the totals of the previous two years.
In 2021, this was the first Omicron wave and cases jumped to all time highs as we moved through December and peaked in mid January. In 2020, cases also peaked in mid January but we didn’t get the huge increases as weekly cases were between 1.1 and 1.7 million from mid November to the end of January.
The hope would be that there is some level of natural immunity so even though we expect cases to stay high, they shouldn’t get to the levels of the last two years. Actually, it is possible we could get to 2020 levels since Omicron seems to spread easier than the original variant but the outcomes should be better than 2020.
As shown in the chart below, cases were up almost everywhere last week. Georgia reported no cases so they should up at the bottom left. Ohio had zero reported cases last week so that messes up the week over week change and they can be ignored as well. That leaves Colorado and South Dakota as the only states were cases fell last week.
New Mexico and Arizona are interesting as they were the first states to see rising cases and rank near the top for the most bases. In New Mexico, we saw a four week rise and then cases have been steady at this level for the last five weeks and they did have one of the smallest increases in the country. There is a similar story in Arizona where the weekly increase is small compared to most of the rest of the country.
From here, a four week period would put us in early January and close to a peak. But it all we get is other states coming up to the levels that Arizona and New Mexico are at now, then cases would end up well below last year.
The next graph compares weekly cases this year to last year at the same time. There are just seven states that had more cases this week than they did a year ago – Florida, Hawaii, California, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
New York had the most cases (per million) last week but that total would have ranked 23rd in 2021. In other words, the state with the most cases this year would have been in the middle of the pack last year. This is just to further illustrate how far below last year’s totals we are even with the big spike in cases this week.
While there is some correlation between the relative position of states over the two years, there are some that stand out. Vermont and New Hampshire had some of the highest number of cases at this time last year (New Hampshire was actually the highest). This year, they are among the ten states with the lowest number of cases last week. California is the opposite. Last year, they were among the states with the fewest cases while they now have the third highest number of cases last week.
But we did see a big jump in newly reported cases last week although it is the time of year when we would expect to see cases going up. The good news is we remain well below last year’s total and even below the totals of 2020.