As we come to the end of the first full week of October, it is time to update my tracking of Covid-19 in Fairfax. Basically, more of the same relatively good news. But I will compare to the seasonal flu this time.
I decided to try a linear graph rather than the usual logarithmic one since it makes the recent downturn in cases more evident. After a 2-month ramp-up, then around a month of holding steady, it is now clear that cases in Fairfax have started slowly dropping in recent weeks, as the 14-day average in the graph shows.
The lower panel shows a linear graph of daily hospitalizations and deaths in Fairfax. The points show the discrete counts of each per day (0, 1, 2, .. up to 7 max), with the 14-day averages and my model predictions bases on current rates. The average number of new hospitalizations per day remains low, 3 or less, and the average number of new deaths remains around 1 every 2 days. The Fairfax death rate per capita remains about 10 times smaller than the current rate in the USA as a whole.
Let me present the current Fairfax data in a different eye-opening way: IF the CURRENT low death rate in Fairfax (1 in 360 cases) were applied to ALL of the USA from the beginning of the pandemic until now (It would NOT be accurate to apply it, since no vaccines were available at the start), then given that there have been 42 million reported Covid-19 cases in the USA, only around 120,000 people would have died instead of the over 700,000 who actually (and tragically) did. We can compare this to the seasonal flu, which can kill from 10,000 to 50,000 people a year, depending on the year. CDC data for the recent 2017-2018 rather bad flu season estimated that there were 41 million cases, 710,000 hospitalizations, and 52,000 deaths in the USA then. Note that the estimated total seasonal flu cases in 2017-2018 are very similar in number to the total number of 42 million Covid-19 cases in the USA since the start of the pandemic. But there were only 52,000 flu deaths instead of 710,000 Covid-19 ones. Furthermore, the flu case death rate (52,000 deaths in 41 million cases) is one in 790 cases, roughly two times better than the 1 in 360 cases current in Fairfax, and over 10 times better than the 1 in 60 Covid-19 case death rate for the USA as a whole (which is also the pandemic average for the USA). Unfortunately, Covid-19 has already killed as many Americans as 14 very bad seasonal flu seasons.
A typical flu season extends 8 months from October to May, with by far the most cases in the 4 months from December to March (from CDC statistics). Consequently, the average daily death rate per capita at the height of a BAD season of the seasonal flu (around 0.1 per 100,000 population) actually is HIGHER than the daily death rate per capita now in Fairfax County, VA from Covid-19 (0.05 per 100,000 population).
In other words, Fairfax has beaten Covid-19 back to a severity level similar to the seasonal flu, roughly around 2 times higher in case fatality rate but with a current per capita fatality rate less than at the peak of the flu season. If the whole country could get to where Fairfax is, with similar per capita background Covid-19 statistics, we would be much closer to what we normally tolerate with the seasonal flu without breaking our healthcare systems. Hopefully this pandemic can teach some good lessons in public health policy and practices that will help in the future to cut even more the number of people who get sick from either the seasonal flu or the coronavirus.
Update for Oct. 22.
Time for another Fairfax Covid update. Things are more or less similar to what they have been–a continuing slow decrease in cases, although an unexpected uptick in deaths in the last couple of weeks (evident on the graph below), doubling the Fairfax per capita death rate, which fortunately remains low compared to elsewhere. In the last 7 days, of the 961 new reported cases, nearly a third (32%) have been in those aged 50 or over, and all of the 8 deaths. In the last 14 days, Fairfax has seen 19 Covid deaths, considerably up from the 9 in the previous 14 days. Seventeen of the 19, or 88%, and 7 of the 9, or 78%, were in the over 65 age group (and all were over 50). Thus, cases tend to be mainly among the younger set (50 and younger), whereas deaths tend to be mainly among the oldest set (65 and older). This continues a pattern that has held throughout the pandemic. This is one prime reason for the young to be vaccinated: to stop the spread of cases among the general population to protect the most vulnerable among us; that is, the fewer the cases, the fewer the deaths of the vulnerable.
But otherwise, Fairfax continues to do relatively well with respect to the rest of the country, and it remains true that there is no indication that having the schools open is driving any significant amount of disease.
Update for Oct. 31
Now that the data for all of October is available for Fairfax, my Covid update continues to be good news. Cases continue to fall, with the 7-day average now around 84 (slightly less than the 14-day average). While there had been an increase in hospitalizations and deaths starting a few weeks ago, the last week or two has seen a clear downturn in these such that the current values are back in line with my new model predictions. Probably the increase was due to lingering cases from the peak of the surge in late September. Fairfax continues to be better than national rates on all counts.
If Fairfax could reach a case level around 10 per day or less or 1 per 100,000 population, we could say the pandemic is essentially over here, with very little risk to normal activities. The risk is still high enough to warrant precautions, especially for older people with underlying conditions that increase the risk of serious illness. In the last 2 weeks, 11 percent of the cases, but 90 percent of the deaths, have been in people over 65. The disease hits older people hardest. While Fairfax does not publish data on the vaccination status of those who died, state and national data show that it is highly likely that most of those who died here were unvaccinated. Vaccination is known to protect against the severity of the disease in all age groups. Overall there is a 5- to 6-fold decrease in the per capita numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for fully vaccinated people compared to unvaccinated ones.