The CDC relaxes its mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals, but we expect everyone except the very sick or the very paranoid to remove theirs.
Author’s Note: We are on a 1,000+ mile road trip, so my opportunities to post have been few and far in between. My apologies for the delay, and I hope to be back on my regular posting schedule tomorrow. This COVID-19 update is going to be a bit shorter than usual as a result.
The big COVID-19 headline in the past week has been the CDC’s relaxation of the mask mandate for people who are “fully vaccinated,” which it defines as having had both shots with at least two weeks have passed since the last shot. Multiple states quickly relaxed their guidelines.
Close to 60 percent of the population has had one shot, but my observation is that far more than 60 percent of people have immediately stopped wearing their masks. This was based on traveling through rest stops, fast-food restaurants, gas stations, and convenience stores in a piece of Virginia, a section of Tennessee, a chunk of North Carolina, a large section of South Carolina, through Georgia, and into Northern Florida. This was to be expected in Florida, where Gov. Desantis has relaxed rules for some time, but it was a surprise to see masks discarded so quickly in many other parts of the Southeast.
I’ll talk more about masks and the gas shortage in my next post.
I can’t count how many times I walk up to a store and see the mask sign, forcing me back to my car to get my mask. We’re seeing those signs come down.
We went to the hardware store today, a place I seem to visit weekly to pick up fasteners and other hardware, and as I parked the truck, I told my wife she didn’t need to wear her mask. This surprised her, but went with it. Sure enough, none of the employees were wearing them, and I only saw one customer wearing a mask–around her chin but not her nose or mouth.
There was some point in late January or early February when I went into the hardware store and noticed I was the only one in there wearing a mask. Ever since then, I’ve left it in the car. For my wife, It was her first public outing without a mask in months.
After we left the store, my wife commented that it felt weird not to wear her mask. Not freeing, mind you, but weird.
As COVID-19 case numbers rise again, we may be witnessing the end of the hope and excitement about a return to “normal” by summer.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States grew this past week for the first time since the early January. Cases increased 12 percent over the past 14 days, according to the New York Times. I’m not going to call this a trend until we string together another couple weeks of increases, but we may have just seen the low point.
The number of hospitalizations and deaths continued to drop, although the drop in the number of patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 appears to be slowing. It will interest me to see if the increase in vaccinated people results in a lower percentage of hospitalizations and deaths if the number of positive cases rises. By inoculating most of the elderly population, where deaths mere the most common, you would expect that number to drop.
Just two months ago, the U.S. was seeing COVID-19 cases grow at 9 percent per week. In the past week, the U.S. has seen growth of 1.4 percent. Meanwhile cases across Europe are climbing.
As cases of COVID-19 continue to slow in the U.S. with hospitalizations down about 70 percent from their peak, cases in Europe increased 9 percent over the past week. The big question is whether a similar increase lies in the future for the United States.
The variant first found in the U.K. is spreading significantly in 27 European countries monitored by WHO and is dominant in at least 10 countries: Britain, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Israel, Spain and Portugal.
It is up to 50% more transmissible than the virus that surged last spring and again in the fall, making it more adept at thwarting measures that were previously effective, WHO experts warned. Scientists have concluded that it is also more deadly.
In reality, the difference in numbers may related to the greater success with vaccination in the U.S. The European Union, as we have reported before, was slow to order vaccines and is lagging the U.S. in both vaccine availability and the number of people being vaccinated per day.
First it was masks and social distancing. Then it was the vaccine. Now scientists are finding new reasons COVID-19 way be with us. But will it change our behavior?
As governor Abbot of Texas opened his state 100 percent, the governor of Colorado predicted a “very close to normal” summer, and cases around the country drop, scientists are growing more concerned. Fears that new, more contagious variants of the virus could spread as students head for what might be a super-spreader spring break in Florida and Texas beaches is just one concern. Variants that are not prevented by the vaccine are an even greater concern, although there is very little evidence of those here in the U.S.
Scientists “now believe that SARS-CoV-2 will not only remain with us as an endemic virus, continuing to circulate in communities, but will likely cause a significant burden of illness and death for years to come.
“As a result, the scientists said, people could expect to continue to take measures such as routine mask-wearing and avoiding crowded places during COVID-19 surges, especially for people at high risk.”
As the decrease in COVID-19 cases levels off and some worry that social distancing has been relaxed too early, vaccination ramps up.
After dropping for the better part of two months, the number of COVID-19 cases has leveled off in the U.S. Hospitalizations continue to drop, which is good news, and stand at 47,352. In the past 24 hours, there have been 50,925 new COVID-19 cases and 1,129 COVID-related deaths reported in the U.S.
Globally, there have been more than 114 million cases and 2.5 million deaths. The average number of cases reported daily is around 350,000. So while COVID has retreated, it has definitely not disappeared.
With some experts prediction COVID-19 will be beaten by April, we look at what this could mean for the county and the economy.
In a shocking turn around, word is starting to spread that COVID-19 in the United States may be gone, or at least reduced to a minimal level, as soon as April, and that things will be “back to normal” by summer. This means domestic airline travel could bounce back, people could go on vacation again, and schools and colleges could return to face-to-face teaching in classrooms in the fall of 2021.
“There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection. As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected. At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.”
In the past two weeks, the number of new cases per day have fallen by 44 percent, and more than 80 percent since the peak of 300,000 new cases on January 8 to 55,195 reported yesterday. In the past week, the number of new deaths has also dropped sharply and hospitalization continues its downward curve. There are now less than half as many people hospitalized due to the coronavirus than at its peak seven weeks ago.
We talk about the social and economic impact of a world that has suddenly banished COVID-19 below, but first a look at the global numbers which are also dropping rapidly.
Here are the global numbers showing the course of COVID-19 over the past week:
While the United States is poised waiting to report 500,000 COVID-19 deaths, India surpassed 11 million cases, Brazil passed 10 million, and Mexico exceeded 2 million cases in the past week. Otherwise, the COVID-19 chart on Johns Hopkins’ website showed little change. Indonisia moved ahead of Peru, but otherwise the rankings were unchanged.
The rest of the world turned in some mixed performances, with cases I the UK, Russia, Spain, Italy, Germany, Columbia, and Medico were steady or down a tick, cases in France were up from 2 to 6 percent and also rose in Poland, Iran, Ukraine and Czechia.
What Does Getting Back to Normal Mean?
Let’s assume for a minute that cases continue to drop and by May or June we are under 10,000 COVID-19 cases and related 100 deaths per day, or roughly 3 percent of the peak. One would think that would mean the following:
And end to lockdowns, re-opening of all types of business, and a return to full-service indoor dining at or near normal occupancy levels.
No more mandatory social distancing and mask wearing (although people may continue to do so voluntarily).
Re-opening of offices and a return to the former conditions in factories, meaning production that was cut back due to social distancing can ramp back up to prior levels, helping to alleviate shortages.
Mass transit ridership could jump, helping the many systems that are suffering from a lack of ridership over the past year.
Re-opening movie theaters (whether anyone attends is another story), live concerts, sporting events, trade shows, conventions, county fairs, and other large events.
A return to in-class grade school and college.
No restrictions on domestic travel and no capacity limits at tourist events like amusement parks, bus rides, cruise ships, ferries, or beaches.
Handshakes and hugs might even return.
The relaxing of the repressive rules could have an enormous impact on the economy. Yes, some things will take time to come back and some things may never come back (like forcing people to work in an office five days a week), but anything social will bounce back rapidly. That means restaurants, bars, summer camps, boardwalks, beach vacations and many other activities that restart could provide millions of jobs in a fairly short time.
Massive Psychological Lift
There could be tremendous psychological benefits of a return to group gatherings like church, parties, weddings, graduations, funeral,s and just having friends over to visit. People will celebrate the return to normalcy, which could extend the economic benefits of reopening. When people feel confident they spend. When they feel exuberant, they over-spend. Either one will boost the economy.
Of course, exuberance leads to bubbles. Markets and people will be pumped-up and over-inflated, which makes the potential for a huge collapse that much worse. And what is likely to pop the bubble? Huge government deficits, rising interest rates, and increased taxes to compensate for the stimulus spending and lost revenue.
My advice is to use what I see as a coming period of exuberance as a time to prep. Buy that rural property you always wanted while mortgage rates are still low and you can sell your house at a good price. Buy your survival food and build your prepper pantry when the end of the world is the last thing on anyone’s mind. (Look how quickly the Texas freeze has been dropped from the news cycle.)
Take your next stimulus check and dedicated it to paying off bills and improving your preps. Get a second job or a side gig while people are hiring. Use the time and money to prepare yourself for the next catastrophe because it seems like they are coming more and more frequently.
To put this rapid decline in case growth in perspective, we recommend you look back at COVID-19 at its peak when the UK was seeing cases grow at 16 percent over the course of a week.
Is the plunging number of new COVID-19 cases part of a normal peak and valley, or is the vaccine pushing numbers down?
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.
COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to decline as fast as they were climbing a month ago, but vaccinations programs still face challenges.
The good news is that numbers of COVID-19 cases in the United States continue to drop, as do hospitalizations. Deaths have been holding steady, although some states he peaks in the past week. Overall, however, the data is very good, showing that the peak is well behind us as the number of daily cases retreated to an average of 165,000 in the past week, about where we were in mid-November.
In the past 24 hours, the U.S. reported 111,478 new cases of COVID-19 and 1,875 additional deaths. Hospitalizations have dropped under 100,000 to 95,013, down from a high of 130,000 just three weeks ago.
The bad news is that vaccination is still not going as fast as hoped and vaccine makers are proving incapable of manufacturing and distributing the vaccine as fast as they had originally promised. Compounding this new is concerns that the vaccine may not work as well against new variants of COVID-19 including one from South Africa which is reportedly prevalent in Brazil and was recently identified in in South Carolina and Maryland.
The sudden downturn in U.S. COVID-19 cases we reported on last week continues unabated. The 7-day moving average dropped from 219,000 to 171,000, a decrease of 33 percent. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals is also dropping, although more slowly, and deaths slowed slightly before leveling off.
In the past 24 hours, 129,527 new cases were reported with 1,815 deaths and 110,628 hospitalizations. The New York Times now reports that cases are going down in 44 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The country now has a total of 25.1 cases reported.