State of Affairs: Sept 19, 2021

Right before I hit send, my phone buzzed with some amazing breaking news!! Pfizer just announced promising results for the pediatric (5-11 years) vaccine and will submit their EUA application soon. A pediatric vaccine should come by Halloween!!! Haven’t had time to process the data yet…will of course fill you in with a post. But I’m just so excited. This pandemic will, in fact, end.

And here is the rest of the post. It’s not nearly as exciting, but important…

United States ranks #17 in the world for daily cases per capita (448 per 1M). Many of the country leaders are, interestingly, island countries like Grenada (1890 per 1M), Cuba (708 per 1M) and St. Lucia (540 per 1M). Israel and the UK are still up there too.

In the U.S., daily case counts have been sporadic and jagged lately. I think (although have no data to support this) it’s because of more and more at-home testing. So, cases aren’t officially reported and we have an unstable count. Nonetheless, we have a 8% decrease from reported cases. A welcome decline, but I wish it were faster.

The South has finally started to cool off (figuratively and literally). But our national game of whack-a-mole continues. The mid-Atlantic and Northwest are the latest hot spots. Tennessee has the highest case count in the country (109 cases per 100,000) followed by West Virginia (107 per 100,000), Alaska (101 per 100,000), South Carolina (98 per 100,000) and Kentucky (97 per 100,000). All of these states are setting pandemic records.

Hospitalizations

Hospitalizations have clearly started to decrease too; in the past 14 days there’s been a 7% decline. 94,101 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 today; this is the lowest number we’ve seen in a month.

There’s uncertainty whether hospitalizations continue to be the best indicator for pandemic severity. Last week, a preprint was released (covered by the Atlantic) that assessed VA hospitalization data. Scientists found that the proportion of hospital admissions with moderate-to-severe disease was 64%. After widespread availability of the vaccine, this decreased to 52%. In other words, people are hospitalized with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 disease; they’re hospitalized for a reason other than COVID-19. Importantly, this analysis was conducted before Delta. We know that Delta is more severe for adults, so we aren’t sure what this preprint means for today.

But full hospitals are full hospitals. 1 in 4 report more than 95% of their ICU’s are occupied. This is up from 1 in 5 last month. Beds are difficult to find for non-COVID19 people. And our healthcare workers are tired.

And we still have a preventable problem. Last week, the Kaiser Family Foundation published an analysis evaluating the number of preventable hospitalizations from June-August 2021. (They accounted for over reporting of hospitalizations). In three months, we had 287,000 preventable COVID19 hospitalizations for unvaccinated people. This cost the healthcare systems $5.7 billion.

Deaths

We’re averaging 2,011 deaths per day, which has increased 29% in the past 2 weeks. Texas and Florida alone account for more than 1 in 3 deaths in the US. Florida has, by far, the highest number of deaths in the nation and continues to pass previous death records.

We’ve also reached a grim milestone… 1 in 500 Americans have died due to COVID-19. As Pew Research reported, nearly 3 of 4 Americans know someone who has been hospitalized or died as a result of COVID19.

Vaccinations

A little more than half (54.6%) of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated. We’re averaging ~763,000 doses per day, which is slowly but surely decreasing. It’s unclear what proportion of these doses are third doses. I’m hoping Bloomberg or the CDC reflects this soon in their dashboards.

Why aren’t people getting the vaccine? Mainly because of ”perception of risk”. They don’t think it’s needed. This is closely followed by “risks the vaccine poses” and “lack of trust in institutions”.

That’s all for now. Have a safe week. And let the countdown to Halloween begin.

Love, YLE