COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths Fell Significantly in September
Finally, some good news. The past month may have felt like we were still locked in an unwavering delta variant surge, what with some major cities imposing new restrictions, an array of alarming news coverage, and vaccinated people still seeming to catch a lot of breakthrough infections. But September actually saw some very good news on the COVID-19 front.
In the U.S., new daily cases have dropped by about 35 percent since September 1, according to data from The New York Times.
Worldwide, new daily case numbers have fallen by 30 percent since late August.
In addition, the number of people hospitalized in the U.S. with COVID-19 has dropped by a quarter over the past month.
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) September 29, 2021
However, they’ve been on a downward trend for weeks.
The way hospitalization data are trending may see at odds with constant (and ongoing) news reports that medical facilities in various areas are overcrowded. But these reports may warp American perceptions, giving the impression that the country as a whole is seeing a prolonged period of surging COVID-19 hospitalizations when it’s really select places—one after another—dealing with short-term increases.
And, with a decrease in case counts and hospitalizations has come a decrease in COVID-19 deaths, as well.
“Daily deaths — which typically change direction a few weeks after cases and hospitalizations — have fallen 10 percent since Sept. 20,” notes The New York Times‘ “It is the first sustained decline in deaths since the early summer.”
These decreases are part of a pattern that Leonhardt calls “Covid’s mysterious two-month cycle“:
Since the Covid virus began spreading in late 2019 cases have often surged for about two months — sometimes because of a variant, like Delta — and then declined for about two months.
Epidemiologists do not understand why. Many popular explanations, like seasonality or the ebbs and flows of social distancing, are clearly insufficient, if not wrong. The two-month cycle has occurred during different seasons of the year and occurred even when human behavior was not changing in obvious ways.
The most plausible explanations involve some combination of virus biology and social networks. Perhaps each virus variant is especially likely to infect some people but not others — and once many of the most vulnerable have been exposed, the virus recedes. And perhaps a variant needs about two months to circulate through an average-sized community.
Human behavior does play a role, with people often becoming more careful once caseloads begin to rise. But social distancing is not as important as public discussion of the virus often imagines. “We’ve ascribed far too much human authority over the virus,” as Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Minnesota, has told me.
The two-month cycle can be seen in countries around the world and in states around the U.S. For instance, the delta variant started surging in many Southern states in June, then began retreating in August. In July, the delta variant started tearing through more states outside the South…then gradually began getting better in September.
Across the U.S., there were 210,995 new cases of COVID-19 recorded on September 1, according to the Times data. The seven-day average number of new cases then was 166,105.
On October 1, there were 125,860 new cases of COVID-19 reported, with a seven-day average of 109,192 new cases.
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