Surge #3

It is now apparent that not only are case numbers rising, but that the rise is accelerating.  We appear to be at the beginning of another large surge.  My best guess is that this will be at least as large as the one in July.  This one is starting off a bit more slowly, but it’s starting from a higher base and is accelerating.  We are now adding about 5,000 cases per day more than we were a week ago.  We are now adding more than 49,000 cases per day.

There are several things to note going into this surge.  The first is that it is more widespread than either of the other surges.  In April, the surge was largely driven by New York, many parts of the country had very little viral impact at that time.  The July surge was driven by the sunbelt generally and by California, Texas, and Florida particularly. Again, much of the country watched the surge rather than being part of it.  Now the surge isn’t just in one part of the country.  Yes, there are states that are doing better than others, but a large majority of states are seeing rising cases while none are seeing sustained declines.  The best, are simply holding steady, but at higher levels than they saw in the spring.  This means that stopping this surge will require more than action from just a few Governors.

Another thing to note is that we are seeing more testing, though we are also seeing increasing positive rates in that testing.  It’s natural that we see more testing at this time.  As people get sick from the usual array of fall bugs, they’re likely to ask for a COVID test just to be sure.  I had an upper respiratory bug last week.  In other years I would have simply cursed my luck and soldiered through it.  This year, I went to the doc and got a COVID test even though my exposure is extremely low.  This wasn’t idle curiosity, COVID is far more dangerous than typical seasonal bugs and requires different treatments.  I was relieved when the test came back negative.  I suspect that as seasonal bugs increase, so will COVID testing.  Seasonal bugs also matter as they increase the potential for spreading COVID.  Someone with an asymptomatic case of COVID, who also has a cold, will spread more droplets and aerosols than they would without the cold.

This surge is also mixed up with politics.  How could it not be in the current climate?  This virus itself doesn’t care, but politics will influence people’s behavior in a wide variety of ways that will in turn affect how the virus spread. Politics may also impact what we hear about the pandemic as politicians aim to build the best case for their own re-election.  This is always true to some extent, but even more so during the last month of a presidential election.

All in all there’s little doubt that we’re at the beginning of a surge.  Because of the delay between infection and detection, even if we locked down immediately, we would expect to see rising cases for another two weeks.  Given that I don’t expect widespread lockdowns prior to the election, this surge is likely to continue well into November.  I would expect Thanksgiving to still have higher infection rates than we currently see, so you may want to plan accordingly.

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