And, why we need to brace ourselves for the case numbers today. I know many of us are already thinking about the rest of the 2020 holidays. (Side note – can you believe it’s nearly 2021?!? On one hand, it feels like 2020 has been in dog years lasting 49 years. On the other hand, January is around the corner. It’s going to get better!) Many of you are probably trying to figure out what to do about December holidays with your travel plans and holiday parties. Many of us are hoping it will look better after this surge. Surely it can’t last until Christmas, right? Let me show you the data so you can make your plans accordingly.
𝐏𝐈𝐂𝐓𝐔𝐑𝐄 1 – I wish I could say that things will get better than they are right now. But, they are going to be worse. 7 million people traveled by plane Thanksgiving week. Many more traveled by car and gathered in homes with extended family members. That same time period, 1.1 million people were confirmed to have COVID-19 and about a 50% increase in hospitalizations with COVID-19 (PICTURE 1). Those are CONFIRMED cases – so, with our terrible national testing and contact tracing efforts, those numbers are much higher. What does that mean? That means the slope of this surge is so high and continues to rise – we won’t see the peak until mid/late January.
𝐏𝐈𝐂𝐓𝐔𝐑𝐄 𝟐 – 𝐃𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐲 𝐧𝐞𝐰 𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐬 (It was hard to copy/paste Pictures 2 and 3 for readability. If Pictures 2 and 3 are too small, go to the direct IHME source below.) Look at Picture 2 of when the peak is predicted to be for this surge. BTW, this is from the independent group from the University of Washington, the Institute for Health and Metrics Evaluation (IHME). They are one of the most trusted voices in the data analytics world because of their modeling techniques. The work is robust and legit and not simple excel – you can find lots of people making their own “predictive models” in excel. IHME is the real deal. Have you seen the movie “The Matrix”? IHME’s data computer analytics are like the Matrix to me – super, duper complex with fancy statistics (mounds upon mounds of fancy stats) and hundreds of people working on these models (#notexcel).
So, what does the picture tell us? We are in for a ride through December. I think we all “know” that anecdotally – but I think we all need to see it to have the courage and wisdom to know we need to pivot lots of stuff we were hoping to plan in December for the holidays. To pivot means to cancel indoors activities and be innovative in holiday gatherings. If you thought Thanksgiving pleads from public health officials was strong, just wait until we see the after-effects of Thanksgiving.
Ok, back to Picture 2 – Take note of the maroon middle line – that is the number of case per day if we continue doing what we are doing right now. If we ease up on masking, physical distancing, and keep meeting in large indoor gatherings, the daily new cases are the red line. With allllll of the travel and gatherings and holiday festivities and parties, I think the daily cases will be between the red and maroon lines.
𝐏𝐈𝐂𝐓𝐔𝐑𝐄 𝟑 – 𝐇𝐨𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐳𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐬 We know hospitalizations lag behind new cases by about 2 weeks. So, look at the lines in Picture 3 – this shows you all hospital resources (beds, ICU, ventilators) that will be needed if we continue doing what we’re right now (middle maroon line) or if we ease up like lots of people are doing over Thanksgiving (red line). My prediction? We will be in the middle again. To put this into context, look at the vertical line labeled ‘Today’. We know that 50% of hospitals are near or at capacity TODAY – now look at the line of what the end of December looks like. So, that brings me all the way back to holidays and parties and figuring out if we should travel to Grandmas in December. Doesn’t look like it. In fact, it looks like things are going to get worse. Boo.On.2020. So, go ahead and plan for Christmas in July in Hawaii (Dad, I’m looking at you). Zoom Hanukkah. Zoom holiday party for work. Zoom holiday party with the gal-pals with wine, comfy PJs, and a chic-flick through screen share.
****Now, a note on bracing ourselves for the case counts today – many health departments were on holiday break (well deserved, fellow public health and MD peeps!). What that means is that our case counts are WAY underreported for the past few days. The counts are artificially low – so, be mentally prepared for the whammy of the counts that will come out today from the Thanksgiving break.
-Friendly neighbor epidemiologist