Coronavirus Dashboard: The First Year of COVID Endemicity

by a New Deal Democrat

As I indicated in January, I don’t plan on any regular updates to the COVID Dashboard unless something noteworthy happens. As we are now 1 year into endemicity, it is a good time to look back and see what this means.

Omicron’s huge initial surge began in late November 2021 and ended in early March 2022. As of March 1, 2022, here is the range of confirmed cases each day:

Confirmed cases ranged from a low of 27,400 on April 3 last year to a high of 140,000 on July 17. The winter holiday wave only peaked at 76,800. As of yesterday, cases were at 37,000.

But with the advent of home testing more than a year ago, fewer and fewer people are taking the “official” tests to confirm their cases. To get a more accurate reading, the Biobot waste particle analysis is the better indicator (dotted line = 2000 cops per ml):

At the peak of the wave, the Omicron Biobot measured 4,553 particles per milliliter. In contrast, the lowest count was 40 per milliliter on May 26, 2021, when we thought the initial round of vaccinations could defeat the virus.

As of March 1, 2022, particles have ranged from a low of 110 particles on March 9, 2022 to a peak of 1,160 on December 28, with a close secondary peak of 1,140 on July 20. The latest reading last week on March 1 was 460, down even from 536 last October. This suggests that the “real” number of daily cases ranges from around 75,000 to as high as 600,000 during the holidays.

That cases are as high as they are is likely a combination of the near-total abandonment of mitigation measures, plus the fact that each new variant is said to be inherently more resistant to the immune system than the last. So BA-1 was replaced by the even more portable BA-2, then by the increasingly portable BA-2.12.1, BA-5, and finally XBB.1.5, which the CDC says is so dominant that as of last week, they account for over 90% of all cases:

Regionally, XBB ranges from a “low” of 75%+ in the Pacific Northwest to over 98% of all cases in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. In fact, XBB.1.5 has so thoroughly spread itself through the vulnerable population of the Northeast that this census region now has lower particle counts than at any time since last March (dotted line = 2000 particles per ml; Northeast is golden , Western Green, Southern Pink, and Midwestern Violet):

Advances in treatment, the percentage of the population vaccinated and increased resistance from previous infections mean hospitalizations, which peaked at more than 160,000 during the Omicron wave, ranged from just under 10,300 last April 5 to a peak of 47,500 this January 3rd, with a secondary peak of 46,400 last July 25th. Hospitalizations are currently at a new 11-month low of 22,800, just below 22,900 from last October:

Which finally brings us to the deaths, which last March were still down from their Omicron peak of 2,600 per day in January 2022. Since then, they’ve ranged from a low of 234 in late November to a high of 642 in January :

Deaths currently average 371 over the past week.

Deaths in each of the first two years of the pandemic were about 500,000. Since April 1 last year, the total number of deaths has increased by 139,000 on an annual basis of 150,000. Although this is the equivalent of a very bad flu season, this obscures the fact that vulnerability to death from COVID is largely a factor of immunization status and age.

Here is the death rate by vaccination status for all age groups overall since the start of the pandemic:

Overall, the unvaccinated are more than 10 times more likely to die from COVID than the unvaccinated.

But age is also a huge determining factor. Here are the death rates by age group, broken down by vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Age 80+:

Age 65-79:

Age 50-64:

Age 30-49:

Age 18-29:

As you can see, regardless of vaccination status, the risk rises sharply with age. A fully vaccinated adult is almost as likely to die from COVID as an unvaccinated person aged 50-64.

To summarize: during the first year of endemicity, the incidence rate averaged 1 person per 1,000 each day, ranging from a low of 1 in 4,000 to a high of 1 in 500. Hospitalizations ranged from approximately 10,000 to 50,000 per day (well below the crisis point of approximately 150,000 per day). Deaths ranged between approximately 250 to 600 per day (versus 1000 to 2600 in the first 2 years of the pandemic), heavily skewed toward the unvaccinated and the elderly.

Finally, if we divide the elderly between approximately 7 million unvaccinated and 57 million vaccinated, with about 75,000 of the former dying in the past 12 months and 30,000 of the latter, we get a death rate of 1 in 1,000 for the unvaccinated and 1 in 20,000 for the vaccinated . Over the next 10 years, if this continues, the chance of unvaccinated seniors dying from COVID is 1 in 100, while the chance of unvaccinated people dying from the disease during that period is 1 in 2,000.

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