COVID-19 data will wobble for several days: 5 considerations when reviewing numbers

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The national COVID-19 surge has regionalized, and the holidays will cause reporting gaps and backlogs that are unlikely to stabilize until the second week of January at the earliest, according to The COVID Tracking Project.  

Five things to consider when looking at COVID-19 numbers over the next several days, according to Project writers and co-founders:

1. Project staff hope to see testing, case and death numbers recover from the holiday slowdown by the second week of January. Until then, they are largely counting on hospitalization data to understand what is happening nationwide.

2. The four main Census regions of the U.S. are reporting different experiences of the pandemic. The South and West are driving COVID-19 case increases in the U.S. The Midwest continues to see a decline in cases, and the Northeast appears to have reached a plateau. 

3. Since Dec. 9, 17 states have seen sharp declines in the number of new cases they report. Every state in the Midwest is reporting fewer cases now than two weeks ago. Why hasn't this caused a substantial decrease in the national case count? Because a handful of states are reporting sharp case rises. In California, cases are up 68 percent since Dec. 9. 

4. Hospitalizations are the one data point that is less volatile to holiday slowdowns given that hospitals do not get holidays off. Hospitalizations are continuing their decline in the Midwest. The Northeast's hospitalizations are not increasing as consistently as they had been. The South and West are reporting hospitalization numbers much higher than their summer-surge peaks, and those numbers are still rising sharply.

5. Nationwide, more than 119,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. That is up 5 percent from last week, and an anchor figure for the next several days to monitor the virus' spread throughout the U.S.

 

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