COVID-19 Cases Lead to Worries, New Lockdowns in Europe

A coupe wearing colorful face masks
Colorful face masks are becoming a common occurrence.

While number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. continues to decline, the COVID-19 crisis in Europe worsens. Germany has determined that they are into their third wave of the virus and Italy will lock down two thirds of their population on Monday and ban travel over Easter weekend. Health experts believe Germany might bounce back in April to the higher number of daily cases it saw in December when the virus peaked there.

The cause of Europe’s worsening rate of cases appears to be the spread of new variations (which account for 70 percent of all recent cases in France, for example), a relaxation of lockdowns and social distancing rules, and a lagging vaccination process. The Wall Street Journal points to “Indecision by EU Governments” and political bungling of the vaccination process. . Italy, for example, hopes to vaccinate 80 percent of its population by the end if September. The U.S. says it will have enough vaccine on hand to do so four months earlier.

The U.S. is not only rolling out vaccines far faster and more extensively than Europe, but the Atlantic Ocean and international travel restrictions offer some protection from overseas variations. Variation B.1.1.7, which was discovered in the UK last fall, is in 46 U.S. states while the B.1.125 variant identified in South Africa is in 21 states, and the P.1 variant first found in Brazil has been identified in only nine states across the U.S. (Data on variations is from this article.)

U.S. Makes Progress, Brazil Hit hard

In the past week, not only has the U.S. seen the slowest percentage in case growth since the COVID crisis started, but Brazil is now reporting more cases per day than the U.S., with over 2,000 cases per day for three days in a row, a Brazilian record. Cases in Brazil are skewing younger, as people in their 20s and 30s with no underlying conditions or comorbidities are falling ill, probably a result of the spread of the P.1 variation.  The country has also leaped over India to become the country with the second-most cases.

37 percent over the past 14 days, according to the New York Times. Hospitalizations due to the coronavirus have dropped to 43,254, down 27 percent over the past two weeks.

According to the CDC, more than 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and another 30 million have been distributed and are waiting to be injected. More than 20 million doses are being distributed to the states each week. The federal government plans to let some 20,000 pharmacy location administer the vaccine, which should increase the number of doses that can be given daily.

AstraZeneca Shot Causes Concerns

After a number of people experienced dangerous side effects thought to be related to the AstraZeneca vaccine, some countries have pulled back on the AZ shot, which is not available in the U.S. Use of the AZ vaccine has been suspended in Italy, Norway and Denmark.

Global Numbers

Compare these numbers to those from a week or two ago to see how some European countries are struggling to contain COVID-19.

Week over Week Data
Week over week COVID-19 cases for week ending 3/15/21. Data from Johns Hopkins.

A mentioned earlier, Brazil took over the number 2 spot on the list of countries with the most cases since the outbreak began more than a year ago.  Italy also moved up a spot.  Also notable, France surpassed the 4 million mark, becoming the sixth country to do so.

To put this data in perspective, compare it to last week or the peak of this most recent wave.