It looks like I may have to start writing about COVID-19 regularly again. The number of new cases reported daily has more than doubled in the past 14 days even though the number of tests being given is lower.
As tempted as I am to think that all the media coverage about the Delta variation is scare tactics, seeing the numbers head upward and the curve steepen makes it pretty obvious that there is a sudden uptick in cases. Why remains the unanswered question.
Is it because we relaxed our stringent policies and re-opened everything too soon? Is it because Delta is more contagious? Does the increase in summer have anything to do with it? Maybe it’s because not enough people were vaccinated. Could it be all of the above? Or is it just COVID-19 season, like we have the flu season?
COVID Deaths Inch Upwards
Last time I wrote about COVID-19, I mentioned that we had not yet seen an uptick in deaths, which are considered a lagging indicator. That is no longer the case. Deaths are up 9 percent in the past two weeks, to just over. If you have not looked at the numbers recently, Johns Hopkins reports more than 34 million cases have been diagnosed in the U.S. with approximately 608,000 deaths.
Here is some of that recent news I mentioned. It paints a rather gloomy picture:
- Israel reports that the Pfizer vaccine is “significantly less effective” against the Delta variant. Israel has one of the highest rates of vaccinated citizens of any country.
- Reuters says that the vast majority of new cases in the U.S. are among the unvaccinated. The surge of new cases in convincing more people to get the shot.
- Delta is also rising in Europe, where it has been predominant for longer than in the U.S.
- COVID-19 cases are increasing in every U.S. state.
- Los Angeles County re-imposed its mask mandate.
Future Impact Uncertain
What does this uptick in cases mean? It’s too soon to tell. I think there are two scenarios:
Cases rise to 50,000-75,000 cases per day, far less than the peak of more than 200,000. Most are among the young who are unvaccinated and they will cause fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
If this is the scenario, it will mean more problems related to schools and college. If kids stay home for remote learning, fewer parents will return to their jobs because they have to provide child care and will continue to work remotely, if possible, or be unemployed. Under this scenario, I expect there will be a mix of rules and regulations; some states will do shutdowns but others will not.
Cases grow well over 100,000 per day and while many of them are among the younger generations and the unvaccinated, we also see more cases where the vaccine failed to prevent infection. This adds a level of uncertainty, fear and doubt, which causes some people to panic and others to have emotional breakdowns.
The Scenario Two surge results in more shutdowns and stay-at-home orders which hurts many of the small businesses that only recently reopened, and could harm the travel industry as cruises and air travel fall back out of favor. That would slow the economy down, which might not be all bad as it could reduce inflation and give the supply chain a chance to catch up.
If jobs are lost and unemployment claims surge, that could also result in another stimulus check and extended unemployment programs. That would be good for individuals, but bad for the country as it moves us closer and closer to universal basic income and further from a place where people are proud to work for a living. It will also increase the deficit.
In this scenario, I expect we will see many problems familiar from early 2020, including shortages caused by hoarding and supply chain disruptions. However, it will not be as bad as last time as most businesses and people will just fall back to their old operating plans. They won’t be happy, but they will know what to do.
I expect a repeat of the shutdowns and lockdowns will stir a great deal of anger. Some of this will be directed at politicians and the government. It could lead to protests and more violence like we saw last summer.
If you made it through 2020 with any brain cells left intact, you should know what you need to do to prepare. My advice is to do things in the next three to six weeks that will be canceled if there are new lockdowns.
Planning to fly somewhere? Do it. Planning to get married? Don’t wait. Want to go to the beach, to the movies, to a concert, to a sporting event, or another crowded venue? Go now, before your activity is banned, or the venue canceled. If you enjoy eating out, then do it often in case they close the restaurants again.
Me? I’m going to learn from last time and stock up on chocolate and crackers for me, pretzels and snack food for the wife, and feed for the chickens. Just in case.