We're Falling Short on COVID Prevention ... and Suffering the Consequences

U.S. public health officials and the public are underestimating the current threat of the COVID pandemic and failing to take even minimal precautions. We are already seeing the consequences – a surge of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The Wall Street Journal published a news article on January 5, “Why It Feels Like Everyone You Know Is Getting COVID-19,” which contained several worrisome observations. It cited “a seven-day average of more than 26,000 people hospitalized with COVID in late December, about double the number two months earlier,” noting that although the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths are far lower than during the previous two winters, “it remains a disruptive and rapidly spreading illness.”

Those were understatements. Within hours after the article appeared, the CDC released updated December numbers that were significantly worse. During the week from Dec 24-Dec 30, COVID hospitalizations were up 20.4% week-over-week, with almost 35,000 hospitalizations that week. COVID deaths were up 12.5% from the previous week. And the curves were clearly trending upward, with the full impacts of holiday super-spreader events not yet evident.

 

Another worrisome trend is the concentration of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, in wastewater, which is an early predictor of future infections:

Leaving aside the predictive value of wastewater analysis, it can also be used to estimate the number of infections in real-time. According to infectious disease modeler J.P. Weiland, the U.S. was experiencing more than 1.5 million cases of COVID daily (and trending upwards) as of December 31: