It is estimated that 55 million Americans will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. This is the highest level since the pandemic began and the third highest since AAA began tracking the holiday in 2000.
At the same time, COVID cases have been rising steadily nationally, with the latest 24-hour total at 111,386, according to Johns Hopkins. This is the highest number of new infections in a single day since August 12. Given the prevalence of home testing, the true number is likely to be much higher, experts say. The numbers are also higher in certain regions of the country.
Overall, the 7-day average number of new cases nationally has risen 7% in the past two weeks, according to The New York Times. Test positivity rose 5% over the same period to 8.6%. But there are infection hotspots trending much higher.
Michigan’s 14-day average number of cases is up 104%, while those testing positive are up 11%. Average daily cases in Arizona have increased 82% in the past two weeks. His test positivity is at a staggering 24%. The state’s hospitalization rate rose 53% over the same period. For perspective, aside from the early days of the pandemic, the current positivity rate in Arizona is higher than it ever was across hard-hit California.
Speaking of which, the Golden State’s average daily number of new cases over two weeks has increased by 48%, while test positivity has averaged 6%, according to the Times. California’s largest city, which accounts for a quarter of the state’s population, is seeing steeper increases.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles County health officials reported 3,077 new cases of COVID-19. This is the highest number in a single day since mid-August during the summer spell. Los Angeles’ seven-day average daily rate of people who test positive for the virus also continued to rise, standing at 9.4% as of Wednesday. That’s up from 6.5% last week, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The county now averaged 1,971 new COVID infections per day over the past week, up 39% from the previous week.
The number of county residents hospitalized with Covid surpassed 800 today, rising to 822 according to the state’s latest numbers. That’s up from 666 a week ago, an increase of 23% in seven days.
These trends do not bode well for the December holidays.
Hospitalization is the data point of interest to most health officials, because when health care facilities are overloaded, the death rate increases. While the rise in hospitalizations usually lags jumps in cases by about two weeks, the number of Covid-related hospitalizations in Los Angeles has already skyrocketed. As cases continue to rise, hospitalizations are likely to follow suit through December.
There are other complicating factors as well.
The ongoing spread of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus – or RSV – in the county combine with Covid to present a triple threat of respiratory disease that has the potential to further strain healthcare facilities.
Then there are the holiday gatherings and travel which will, by most accounts, be more “normal”—that is, maskless—this year. Plus with the rapid rise of BQ1 and BQ1.1 variants, which within weeks displaced the long-dominant BA.5 and now account for more than half of new cases in the region, infections could continue to rise for some time.
The final wild card is China.
“China reported a record high number of COVID-19 infections on Thursday, as cities across the country imposed local lockdowns, mass testing and other restrictions,” Reuters reported.
Most of the country has been affected by China’s so-called zero covid policy. When you decide to open up, there will be a large number of people who have never been infected who will be exposed to whatever newly dominant variant. This in turn could lead to a wave of infection in the Middle Kingdom, and new variants may arise from this huge number of
The City News Service contributed to this report.