Below the Headline: Putting the COVID Surge in Perspective
While news outlets continue to blare warnings about the latest COVID surge with headlines like "Delta Variant Rages," a closer look at current reports and projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) puts the situation in a different light.
The bottom line: While there is reason for concern and caution in light of this latest COVID spike due to the Delta variant across the U.S., the numbers don't come close to the cases reported in the U.S. in January or February.
In the U.S., those numbers topped 6.2 million at the beginning of 2021, while now the cases number 1.3 million, less than one-sixth the case numbers from the peak of the pandemic.
"Context matters," said ALHI President & CEO Michael Dominguez. "While cases are spiking, the levels are not anywhere near peaks earlier in the year, but that message is not always getting through in the headlines."
- The rolling seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths during months early this year nearly hit 3,500.
- Today that average, with the Delta variant included, hovers around the 500- person mark.
- Similarly, in the U.S., during the COVID peak earlier this year, there were 300 people hospitalized per million, while now the number is about 100 per million.
- Daily deaths fell from a high of 1,250 in December 2020 to 81, as reported on Aug., 3, 2021.
Projections From Other Parts of the World
Other parts of the world that saw a spike in COVID cases due to the Delta variant, including the U.K. and India, are already seeing the numbers quickly fall. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that even though the U.K. fully opened for business amid reports of a Delta surge earlier this year, the virus has been held at bay. The latest biweekly COVID case rate in the U.K. fell 9 percent and the rate in India fell 10 percent, both reported on Aug. 16, 2021 (source: Our World in Data).
That could be good news for the U.S. Headlines in publications like Fortune are posing, "Delta waves in India and the U.K. have already receded. Could the same happen in the U.S.?"
Other countries have also already plateaued as far as Delta case surges such as Spain, which on Aug. 4, 2021 reported a decrease by 11 percent in case numbers per day from two weeks prior.
"The modeling about what to expect in the US is based on how the spikes from the Delta variant behaved in other countries," said Dominguez.
Experts predict the Delta surge will peak in the U.S. at the beginning of September. Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb reported recently on CNN that according to the latest numbers in the South, which is the region hit hardest in the U.S. by the Delta variant so far, the infection rate is beginning to slow. The state with the highest number of cases is currently Louisiana, where the numbers are beginning to flatline.
Mortality Rates are Very Low Among Vaccinated & Vaccinations are Climbing
The headlines are also pointing to the latest surge as a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Fewer than 1 percent of COVID deaths have been in those who are fully vaccinated. Despite headlines of breakthrough cases among the vaccinated, those numbers are very low.
"We are hearing the message in some places, but not enough: The vaccine's primary purpose is to prevent severe disease and death and with these numbers, we are seeing that success," said Dominguez.
The positive news is that the number of vaccinated people in the U.S. is rising, with over 60 percent having one dose and 50 percent fully vaccinated. More than 354 million doses have been administered across the country. On Wednesday, Aug. 18, the Biden administration announced Americans who got the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be eligible for booster shots eight months after the second dose. Health care workers and the elderly will begin boosters on Sept. 20.
Gottlieb emphasizes that enforcing vaccination or COVID testing can protect people indoors and at large gatherings, such as attendees at meetings. Other mitigation efforts include enforcing masks indoors, with KN95 masks showing a 95 percent effectiveness rate preventing COVID infection.
While the short-term affects of the Delta variant is resulting in travel and meeting cancelations in major cities across the U.S., the industry is remaining optimistic for next year. The forecast is for growth in the U.S. hotel market for 2022 even as the industry navigates another bump in the road.