Not So Fast

If you, like me, watch the 14 day rolling average of new coronavirus cases in America as a leading indicator you might want to start to breathe a sigh of relief. The current numbers actually look relatively good.  Today we’ll go inside them and project just a bit.  The conclusions are not so rosy.  Let’s explore.

Going into this article my notes contained the numbers for November 14 -28 inclusive. The high for daily new cases was 198,537 on November 20th and the high percentage increase was 82% on November 16th.  As of the 28th the percentage increase stood at 12%; the low point for the period.  The lowest number of reported cases was 103,116 on Thanksgiving Day (the 26th) but you can discount that number’s significance because 20 states didn’t even report that day.  That’s a lot of statistics jammed into one paragraph; let’s analyze them a bit and project with human behavior in mind.

On the surface a 12 percent increase in something threatening is certainly preferable to an 82% one. However any increase means a bad situation is getting worse instead of better.  I view the situation similar to a California homeowner who sees a wildfire approaching their house.  It is certainly better if the wildfire is moving slowly as opposed to rapidly but the fact that it is approaching with nothing to stop it should be a call to action, (in that scenario evacuation.)  If you go back inside, flip on the TV, grab a beer and relax you will get burned.

Even if the rate stayed at a low like 12% that would still mean that if you had 100,000 cases on Day 1 you would have 112,000 on Day 14. It is crucial to remember the base number is growing!  Better than the 182,000 on Day 14 at the high rate but still a growing, not diminishing, problem.

Now let’s factor in the behavior of too many Americans. Over 70 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving.  While the number and size was small by historical comparison there were still millions of gatherings in enclosed areas for Thanksgiving dinner.  I expect the next spike to hit around Pearl Harbor Day.  Since most people watch the death numbers and it takes time between infection to death, people will again travel and gather for Christmas with a smaller number of people not modifying their behavior for New Year’s Eve.

My conclusion is that we have two more large spikes coming followed almost immediately by a smaller one.

Many are being lulled into a state of complacency by the news on the vaccine front. While I readily admit that it is a light at the end of the tunnel the tunnel is a long one.  Assuming things go very well the point where we have a readily available vaccine administered to the majority of the population is at least several months away.  All of the reports are little more than sales pitches; in no cases has the underlying scientific data been peer reviewed.  Development and production are two very different things.  Assuming all vaccines pan out (and the AstraZeneca one in particular is looking more suspect by the day) the initial wave of production will barely be sufficient to cover first responders and some essential workers.  Even senior citizens with comorbidities will be left in the waiting lines.

For almost the next two months Donald Trump is still president. His leadership has put America in a position where it has 20% of the world’s infections with less than 5% of the global population.  I don’t think this crew could organize a two car parade let alone the response to a pandemic.  Joe Biden and his team will not be a magic wand.  It will take time for them to get up to speed and repair the largely non-existent system to contain the virus.  I can’t see it being prudent to sound anything resembling the all clear until at least the summer.

I know I’m ending November on a negative note. I think that is both cautious and prudent –  I only wish all my fellow Americans were in their personal conduct – unfortunately with recent history as my guide I feel it is accurate.

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