The 7-day average for daily cases now stands at 81,487 and continues to accelerate markedly. Daily deaths now average 823. Deaths are increasing but so far are accelerating only a little. This past week saw another record for highest number of cases in a single day at 99,321. Some trackers put the number over 100,000. (There are differences between trackers for a variety of reasons. For example, what time of day they cut off.) This next we will likely see multiple days in six digits and a daily case average in the mid ninety thousands. Here’s the national chart.
At our current rate, we are adding a million new cases every 12 days. Here is a 10 day projection based on the current numbers. I’ve adjusted the projection to account for acceleration in the case numbers but have left the death numbers at the current rate of increase.
These numbers show only cases and deaths, but these really aren’t the only costs of infection. Many infections result in long term health damage even when they are not fatal. Lung, heart, and neural damage are among the long term consequences we know about. Others are suspected but not yet proven. So while there is cause for celebrating the relatively low death rates so far in this surge, they aren’t the whole story. Even if nobody died, the health consequences of this many cases would still be staggering.
This surge continues to be very widespread. We are now up to 30 states with a 7-day average of more than 1000 cases. There is still a lot of room for more growth in these numbers. Given the holiday season and the open borders between states, it will be difficult for a single state to bring its numbers down with merely state level restrictions. Infections will tend to seed across borders as people visit friends and relatives.
It’s difficult to know what to do about holiday travel. Yes, in an ideal world we would all stay in our own homes. However, there are always cases that beg for exceptions: an elderly relative who may not make it another year, a child who has been away from home for the first time and needs the emotional support, a once in a lifetime opportunity that requires travel, etc. Of course each of us feels that with all our precautions, we are unlikely to be infected. Furthermore, it’s true, each of us IS unlikely to be infected. At 100,000 cases per day, only 0.03% of the population is infected each day. If we take that to be the chance of infection per day for a careful traveller, the chance of infection sometime during that week is 0.2%. Though this is far too simplistic a way of looking at the chances, it’s clear that the chance of a particular traveller getting infected is low. The problem is that there are a lot of travellers and that each of them has a higher risk than if they had stayed home, as do all of the people whom they visit. The risk to the population is far greater than the risk to any individual traveller.
I’m not going to presume to make decisions for other people in the specific contexts of their lives; I’m sure each of them could find something in my choices to criticize. However, I will urge that we all exercise as much caution as we can in our own circumstances. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Avoid indoor gatherings where possible. If you must gather indoors, keep your distance, open windows, increase ventilation, invest in a HEPA filter that is overpowered for the room, etc. The more cautious each of us is within our own circumstances, the fewer dead and debilitated there will be come spring. So please, be as cautious as you can. I will do the same.