UK has definitely peaked on Omicron

The UK has definitely peaked on Omicron – as can be seen from the chart below. Cases now are a little over half of the peak values. Looking at the charts – the peak is about 1 month after daily cases per capita exceeded 600 cases per million. Fatalities not yet falling.

The Uk is the only European country experiencing this pattern – most others are still rising

Across the world we can now easily see the rise of Omicron in the global numbers. Over 20 million cases in the most recent week. It now eclipses prior peaks.

Fatalities are not rising strongly yet in the WHO data.

Where has Omicron peaked?

Could Omicron have peaked in some countries – and if so – what are the implications for the US? Lets take a look at a few charts:

The UK looks to have peaked on cases, but fatalities are still climbing – and generally very high for this country. UK cases declined this week at about a 25% rate.

Germany – looked to have peaked – likely due to delta – but is on the upswing again. Notice though that cases per capita are about one third those of the UK.

South Africa discovered Omicron – so this is a good place to focus. Too early to say if fatalities have peaked – but cases are approximately ¼ of the recent peak in December. Average daily cases also fell by about 27% week over week (similar to the UK). So looking at this chart – it seems the Omicron peak lasts about 4 to 6 weeks.

France is the #2 country in the world for new cases – around 4,000 cases per million per day. That’s almost double the rate of case creation as the US. Over 3 million cases recorded this month to date. Fatalities this month will likely be the highest for the past 8 months.

US impact

Lets try to assess the impact on the US.

The US has still not yet peaked – so hard to say when we can begin to predict the end of Omicron – but I would throw out a 3 – 4 week guess at this point. The challenge here is that the UK data shows a lag in the fatality curve, so hospitalizations and fatalities will likely increase still further.

So far this month (to approximately the mid month) we are at 9.5 million new cases of COVID. A pandemic record for the US.

For a moment – think about the disruption to services; flights; transportation & trucking that comes with that many people having to isolate for 5+ days.

Average daily fatalities are around 1700 – so that puts a prediction on the number of fatalities this month at around 51,000. It will certainly be the highest in the past 4 months – and possibly the highest in the last 10 months. We’ll follow up on that at the end of the month.

What’s happening inside the US

New York, New Jersey and a limited few others – may have peaked for new cases. However both have VERY HIGH levels of fatalities – over 9 fatalities per million per day. Looking at the charts it seems the peak of cases is about 5 weeks after per capita cases break through 250 cases per million per day.

A similar story plays out for Washington DC

Many states are still surging on Omicron – with no signs of peaking

Here are four neighboring states all with rising Omicron cases:

There really isn’t any state that is not experiencing very high levels of COVID cases right now:

And many states are at high levels of per capita fatalities. Indiana is currently leading the country with 13 fatalities per million per day.

Fatalities league table – 6 states have more than 10 fatalities per million per day

Southern Hempisphere

Interesting to note – that initially the Southern Hemisphere (ex South Africa) seemed to have skipped the Omicron surge – well not anymore. A hot topic right now is the Australia Tennis competiton – and the status of Novak Djokovic. Well that country is SURGING right now:

Omicron is no Djok in Australia. So far this month the highest level of positive cases since inception.

We get a similar situation in Argentina although, as we see from the chart, Argentina has been less successful overall in controlling prior COVID variants.

Predictions

Expect more significant supply chain disrputions for the next month. Omicron is just starting to hit the Southern Hempisphere – and if it hits some of the key producing nations for good and electronics – this could be significant (think China; Singapore; South Korea; Japan etc)

Its not inconceivable that there will be another approximate 50,000 deaths by end February – meaning that the US could have recorded 900,000 deaths total by end Feb.

Omicron workforce disruption Jan 2022

Great reporting from Morning Brew…. Consider subscribing:

In workplaces across the country, Americans who have Covid are asking their colleagues to cover for them while they’re out sick. And when those coworkers can’t, because, well, they also have Covid, you get the kind of severe economic disruptions the US is facing right now.

The numbers: The US is averaging about 650,000 cases a day, more than double the peak during last winter’s surge. It’s also likely a big undercount, given how many people are testing positive using at-home tests or who aren’t getting tested at all.

With so many people getting sick, up to 5 million US workers were forced to stay home last week, Capital Economics researcher Andrew Hunter calculated. That means about 3% of the labor force was knocked offline, setting off a cascade of damaging effects across critical industries like health care and education.

  • About 20% of US hospitals reported critical staffing shortages last week, the highest share since December 2020.
  • One California superintendent taught a high school physics class last Monday after 300 teachers were absent from schools, primarily because they got infected with Covid.

And even in the aviation industry, where staffing shortages are well documented, it’s still worth noting that Alaska Airlines canceled 10% of its flights for the remainder of January, citing an “unprecedented” number of employees calling in sick.

But sometimes, it’s not so easy to do that

Many low-wage workers in the US are being forced to choose between going to work sick or losing out on a paycheck. Only 33% of workers in the bottom 10% of the wage bracket get paid sick leave, compared to 95% in the top 10%. And while companies juiced up their paid leave policies early in the pandemic, they’re starting to wind them down.

  • Walmart and Amazon, the two largest private employers in the US, cut paid leave last week after the CDC shortened its isolation guidance for infected people.

Bottom line: Economists have likened the Omicron surge to a blizzard—a sharp, sudden shock to the economy that will take some time to dig out from but, once it’s over, won’t produce many lingering effects.

70,000 people are testing positive per day in NY

The state of New York, population 19 million is currently experiencing 70,000 positive new tests per day . That’s about 0.4% of the population every day!

Here’s the number of positive tests for the first week:

Average deaths are about 100 per day over the same period.

Here’s the graphical trend – per capita at the state level. Notice the rate of fatalities has tripled in the past 3 weeks. While Omicron may be less severe in percentage terms; the sheer spread of Omicron can still result in large numbers of fatalities.

A closer look at New York City reveals the huge rate of new cases (about 40% of new cases from the state are in NYC). That’s about 1.5% of the population – every day!

A similar story is playing out in NJ. Here is the results for Essex County, NJ – over 4,000 new positive cases, per million, per dayy.

Tennessee

Tennessee is not quite as bad – just yet. Shelby County is one of the highest (cases are similar to Essex County, NJ):

Davidson county has typically been less impact by COVID than Shelby – and current trends support the same trend:

Omicron Spreads – fatalities on the rise

This picture tells it all – new cases across America are at extreme levels:

Lets look at this in table form:

Perhaps the messaging on Omicron being less lethal has resulted in a false sense of confidence – as we can see average daily fatality rates starting to rise across the country:

Generally a level of about 0.5 fatalities per million per day would be considered to be broadly comparable to seasonal flu. About 1 per million per day is about as good as we can seem to expect – so generally quite a few states doing reasonably well – notably California & Florida to name two.

Here’s the data in table form.

Lets look at this in whole numbers (not per capita) at the US levels. Average daily new cases are over 400,000 per day – and average daily fatalities are 1,360.

We will see how the data unfolds – but an average of 400,000 cases per day would be well over 10 million cases for the month – which would be a record – by a long shot.

Fatalities for the month of December were almost 42,000 – making this the 8th highest month for deaths on record.

States:

Most states tend to have the same sort of curve – here are a few from the north east – rising cases and fatalities:

Illinois has a strongly rising fatalities curve:

With a similar story in North Carolina:

Florida is bucking the trend – cases rose significantly – but no sudden spike in fatalities.

California, as noted previously has managed to keep fatalities down through Delta – but probably too early to call re Omicron.

Scorched earth – not yet:

Arizona is getting hit pretty hard which, I guess, means its too early to call the scorched earth theory. The number of COVID deaths in December was the 5th highest month in its history.

Arizona has one of the highest levels of total covid fatalities since inception in the country. At #2 on the list it has had over 3,400 deaths from COVID per million residents since inception.

The lesson here is that – if a state like Arizona – with already one of the highest levels of total COVID fatalities per capita – can be recording current high level of fatalities – then unfortunately there is still potential for significant stress ahead.

This snapshot from azdhs.gov shows current ICU capacity available of 6% in Arizona – with COVID patients taking up 36% of ICU beds.

COVID patients are taking up 71% of emergency department hospital beds:

This is not an isolated example. In Tennessee – hopsital capacity is in single digits:

The next two months are going to be very difficult. Don’t be too complacent about Omicron. Yes it is less lethal – but there are still plenty of unvaccinated individuals to create stress on the hospital systems.

That obviously has second order effects. Need emergency treatment for a non covid reason…. that may be difficult right now

TN icu capacity at 8%

As expected the Omicron wave is starting to make its presence felt in hospital capacity. Many of my readers will note that I periodically look at hospital capacity stats. TN does a nice job in making this data available. The data shows very limited capacity available to deal with additional cases. Be careful out there.

Now is a good time to be more conservative to allow hospitals an opportunity to treat patients and free up capacity.

Good Bye 2021

After a tough start to the year, 2021 held the promise of vaccine rollout and reduced cases and fatalities. That worked really well as vulnerable people got vaccinated and eventually vaccines became available for all. By the end of the year vaccines were available for children and over 8bn – yes EIGHT BILLION doses of vaccine were administered world wide.

Unfortunately the delta variant caused a major flair up in India in April / May – which then eventually became the cause for most cases and deaths in the US in Q3 2021.

Now we’re dealing with Omicron surge – identified in South Africa in Nov / December – and very rapidly becoming the source for new cases here in the US.

As we end the year – the pressure on the hospital system over the next 2 to 3 months will be intense – but (i’m no expert here) – I’m hoping this burns itself out after that. That said 2021 was our most deadly year of the pandemic – over 460,000 deaths (compared to 350,000 in 2020). Total US lives lost due to COVID are over 800,000. On official stats – that’s the most in the world – but I suspect that some other countries have less reliable statistics.

Here are some key charts:

Firstly the average daily trend – with month end values plotted. This clearly shows we are at the begining of an exponential curve. Thankfully the fatality rare is not as high as the prior peak – but an average of 4.8 daily fatalities per million of population per day is significant. [Isolated data point here: Tennessee covid hospital capacity is around 10% today]

Viewing the same data monthly – we clearly see December 2021 is the 3rd highest month for cases of all time – 4.5 million cases recorded; 37,000 deaths:

The chart also shows the initial success of vaccine rollout (through June 2021) – and then the upswing in the more virulent Delta variant. December of course marks the begining of the Omicron wave.

New York

Lets review NY as one example. Here the unprecedented impact of the Omicron wave is very evident. NY did better in 2021 than in 2020. It recorded 21,000 deaths this year – compared to 37,000 in the prior year.

Average daily statistics:

Monthly trends:

Fatalities in December of 1,944 are significantly up on the prior month of 1,054 – that up over 80%.

Vermont – the best state in the US:

Vermont is the best state so far for per capita fatalities – just 750 per million – but has a sharply rising case and fatality curve. Also note the entire population of Vermont is just 630,000 people.

Mississippi – highest per capita fatalities

The state with the highest overall number of fatalities per capita is Mississippi with 3,500 fatalities per million. Here’s how that state was impacted by COVID. Just over 10,000 fatalities on a population of 3 million.

Average daily cases are starting to increase significantly due to Omicron. See right hand side of the below chart.

California

California deserves a lot of credit. Its the most populated state in the country with over 39 million people. Total per capita fatalities are 1,940 per million – which is 50% less than NY, NJ, Arizona etc per capita. This is how it handled the COVID cases:

Texas

Texas is the second most populus state – with over 29 million residents. Its total fatalities per capita are 2,687 – or basically 39% higher than CA. Basically Texas got hit much more severely with the Delta wave. September 2021 came very close to the record number of deaths in January 2021.

Everyone else

Here are a few league tables for all the States + DC:

All fatalities – per capita since inception:

Current new case rates per capita

Current fatalities:

Over 580 counties in America have elevated covid case rates (defined as over 200 cases per million per day) – and of these 224 have an average of more than 3 fatalities per million per day. Here’s a look at some of the highest with large populations:

You’ll notice that Michigan features prominently on the list. Here’s how that data plays out across the state. You can see that December was the highest month on record for COVID fatalities. This resulted in 2021 recording more deaths than in 2020 (15,000 versus 13,000).

2022

As noted in the intro, 2022 will get off to a very rough start – but I am hopeful that this wave will be the final one. It feels like the final wildfire on already partially scorched earth. So much as I hope the news was better today – I feel optimistic that from Q2 onwards we start to see the final return to normalcy.

TN hits 9% hospital capacity

Tennessee hits 9% hospital capacity (source TN website):

While not yet at the prior levels of cases from last year – cases are significantly higher than the prior 3 months. Note from the orange bars we can see TN got hit pretty hard with the Delta wave:

Also note the spike in fatalities in Dec of 3000+ is a result of a correction in the data – likely a result of under reporting of deaths during the delta wave. Actual December deaths are much lower. Best to think about that 3,000 number as spread across the prior 3 months or so. In which case this is still a concering level…. and further corroborates the current hospital capacity data.

Be careful – especially this new years eve

Europe sets new records

WHO global data shows the following data for new cases – basically virtually matching the peak from April / May (driven out of India and South East Asia). Notice how the green portion of the chart is growing significantly – which is Europe.

Here’s a closer look at the Europe case trend. As you can see – very clearly a record.

Cases at record levels: WHO data

Here’s a closer look at Europe deaths. These are not at the same levels as this time last year (pre vaccination) – but certainly very high. About 60% of prior peaks. Something to be very concerned about.

Fatalities not at the levels of prevaccination – but very high

My prior posts have provided the detail on some of the these countries – but here’s a brief recap of some:

  • UK has record high cases but fatalities relatively well controlled in percentage terms
  • France and Italy have high number of cases and steadily rising fatality curves
  • Spain appears to be doing the best at controlling fatalities
  • Germany appears to have bent the curve but fatality levels are still high; in fact the highest in the vaccination era.

Looking at the monthly charts it’s easy to see the Omicron spread is unprecedented in its rapid pace of spread. Solid bars show number of cases with top 3 values highlighted.

Germany will likely hit a record number of cases in December 2021

We are expecting this wave to burn itself out quickly… but this still makes for a bumpy road with pressure on hospital systems. In my next blog – we’ll aready see that in the US hospital capacity is coming under pressure and we are not yet as far along the Omicron curve as Europe.