Thursday, December 30, 2021

We know COVID cases are rising again in Wis. But will severity follow?

After a couple of days to catch up to delayed data from the Christmas holiday, we're now seeing the inevitable spike in the amount of COVID cases being reported in Wisconsin. For the first time in more than a year, we are averaging more than 4,000 new COVID cases a day.

The big change is in where those Critically High levels are occuring. While the Fall and first half of December saw a strong correlation between low levels of vaccination and higher case rates (when Delta was the dominant variant), that's now reversed with omnicron becoming the main strain. It's higher-populated and often highly-vaxxed areas reporting more cases, and it includes Dane County's first visit to the red zone, with a similar case rate over the last 2 weeks to what we've had statewide.

Deaths in Wisconsin are still showing a significant "vaxxed vs unvaxxed" variance, and have ranged between 100 and 165 a week ever since Labor Day. This continued onslaught has now put the state's death toll from COVID over 10,000.

But despite lower death rates, state hospitals are in a worse situation than they were at the start of 2021 because everyday ailments have combined with hospitalized people having an increased chance of surviving COVID to overwhelm state hospitals, leading to these horrendous headlines from this week.

So it's not just people with COVID that are suffering that are facing hardships as a result of the higher number of people in the hospital. The questions now become:

1. "How long will this spike in cases with omnicron last?" Does it burn itself out in a couple of weeks and cases quickly come down, or does this thing keep flying around and hit a large proportion of the state's people?

2. How serious will these cases end up being? If many of these are breakthrough cases on the vaccinated, and for those people it just becomes an annoying virus that goes away in a few days like a lot of wintertime viruses do (early and anecdotal evidence is strongly leaning this way). If so, there might not be a lot of economic damage that results, and things can still operate much like they did before we had ever heard the word "omnicron".

I know that last part can come off as callous for people who will be damaged with any form of the virus (particularly the elderly and immunocompromised). And I'm a bit grossed out by the "show must go on" theme that is being touched on by a lot of corners as 2021 ends - including a reduction in COVID-related isolation that seems to be driven more by complaints from Delta airlines than sufficient data about how long omnicron sickens someone and leaves them contagious).

But it is also undeniable that we are in a different situation with COVID than we were at the start of December. More people may be testing positive for the virus, more of them are what we used to ID as "breakthrough cases" (although you're still more likely to get it if unvaxxed), and while early data is encouraging, we need to wait a couple of weeks to get a definitive answer as to whether the new variant will lead to more or less severe illness.

And so the slog continues, nearly 2 years after COVID started to break out in America. I don't know whether to laugh, feel despair, or feel rage against MAGAts people who have made so many unforced errors and allowed this thing to become far worse than we ever would have imagined, or ever should have allowed.

1 comment:

  1. And now Madison schools are staying closed through next Wednesday, and going virtual Thursday and Friday.

    I can't say I'm surprised, give how numbers are up here. And I think it's not a bad idea, as it buys time after the Holidays to see what's going on with Omnicron and hopefully have cases settle down. But it's still going to be a pain for a lot of parents, kids and teachers (who have to re-jigger their lesson plans to teach online next week).

    Just gotta let it play out, I guess. I've done what I can, am masking up indoors and limiting my exposure. But it is beyond frustrating at this point.