COVID-19 Cases Drop 39 Percent in Two Weeks

The peaks and valleys of COVID-19
This chart from the new York Times illustrates the peaks and valleys of COVID-19 in the past year.

What was once a map red with COVID-19 hot spots on the New York Time’s interactive COVID-19 page is now soft oranges and pale yellows as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline.  We recently reported that new cases had declined 30 percent over a two-week period.  The latest two weeks have seen a 39 percent decline. In fact, after peaking on January 8 at around 260,000, the 7-day moving average of new cases in the United States is now less than 95,000, the lowest it has been since the first week of November.

Hospitalizations and deaths are also dropping in the U.S., although those curves are lagging.  In the past 24 hours, there have been 63,850 cases reported, 1,080 deaths, and 67,023 people are hospitalized.  That is 60,000 fewer hospitalizations due to the coronavirus than we saw at the peak.

This massive decline is generating minimal mainstream news coverage, certainly far less than the fear mongering we saw when the numbers were heading up.  The headlines instead focus on reports that New York Governor Cuomo’s administration withheld accurate numbers of nursing home deaths because they didn’t want to be criticized by the Trump Administration.  Instead, they are now being criticized by Republicans and Democrats for playing politics with people’s lives.  One in seven nursing home residents died from COVID-19 in New York State – a frightening statistic.

Cuomo going from a hero to a zero just goes to show you that a good first impression doesn’t last if you cannot perform.  New York and California had some of the strictest lockdown policies in the country yet still had among the worst infection numbers.  New York has also experiencing all sorts of problems administering the vaccine.  Kind of hard to blame Trump now, however, especially when other states are performing better.

Two Paths

Is this dramatic decrease in coronavirus cases the “normal” progress of the virus across the populace?  Or is the decrease being aided by an effective vaccine?  I don’t think there is any way to be sure at this point.  We’ll have to see what happens next before we can draw an accurate conclusion.

If past data are any indication, we would expect the number of cases in the U.S. to level off for a few months and then zoom upwards again, possibly hitting an even higher peak than the last wave.  If the vaccine is as effective as we have been led to believe, then the virus will take a different path and we will see no more peaks.  Instead, deaths will drop as the oldest and most vulnerable patients are inoculated.  Then as younger people are vaccinated, the rate of infection will slowly peter out as those people who get infected will not be able to transmit to people who have been vaccinated. Without new hosts, spread will cease and COVID-19 will become another vaccine success story. Time will tell

Global Numbers

Numbers in Europe continue to look good with very low single digits, even as they struggle to provide vaccine to their constituent countries. 

The EU lags the U.S. and UK in doses administered, largely because they were not quick enough to lock in supplies of the vaccine.  While Democrats will probably never admit it, it looks like President Trump’s “Warp Speed” program was highly effective in sourcing the vaccine and ensuring supply.

With up to 1.7 million vaccines being given per day in the U.S., more than 12 percent of the country has been administered at least a single dose and more than 4 percent have received both doses.  I expect the rate of new vaccinations to slow slightly as more of the available doses are put towards second doses rather than the first one. 

Week over week numbers
This table shows the rate of COVID-19 case growth from 2/8/21 to 2/15/21. Data from Johns Hopkins.

On this week’s chart, Iran overtook South Africa as their rate of infection climbed from 3 percent to 4 percent.  There must be a data error in the South African numbers as their number of cases reportedly dropped.  We are not sure where this error occurred or when the correction was made, but today’s numbers match those reported by Johns Hopkins.

The U.S., Brazil, the UK, France, Spain, German, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, and Indonesia all saw the rate case growth drop, while most of the others remained steady.

Our main image is from the New York Times web page “Coronavirus in the U.S.