An estimated 55 million Americans will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s 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 steadily rising nationally, with the latest 24-hour total at 111,386, according to John’s Hopkins. It is the highest number of new infections in a day since August 12. Given the spread of home tests, the real number is likely much higher, experts say. The numbers are also much higher in certain regions of the country.
Overall, the 7-day average number of new cases nationwide has increased by 7% in the past two weeks, about New York Times. Test positivity has increased by 5% in the same period to 8.6%. But there are hotspots of infection that trend much higher.
Michigan’s 14-day average number of cases is up 104%, according to the Times, while test positivity is at 11%. Arizona’s average daily cases have increased by 82% in the past two weeks. Its test positivity is at a staggering 24%. Hospital admissions in the state have increased by 53% in the same period. For perspective, aside from the earliest days of the pandemic, the current positivity rate in Arizona is higher than it has ever been in hard-hit California.
Speaking of which, the Golden State’s daily average number of new cases over two weeks is up 48%, while its average test positivity is 6%, according to the Times. California’s largest metropolis, which accounts for a quarter of the state’s population, is seeing a steeper increase.
On Wednesday, The angels County health officials reported 3,077 new Coivid cases. It is the highest one-day figure since mid-August during the summer wave. LA’s seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus also continued its upward trend, reaching 9.4% as of Wednesday. That’s up from 6.5% a week ago, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The county is now averaging 1,971 new COVID infections per day over the past week, a 39% increase from the previous week.
The number of county residents hospitalized with Covid surpassed 800 today, rising to 822 according to the latest figures from the state. That’s up from 666 a week ago, a 23% increase in seven days.
These trends do not bode well for December public holidays.
Hospitalizations are the data point that worries health officials the most, because when health facilities become overburdened, death rates rise. While increases in hospitalizations usually lag jumps in cases by about two weeks, Covid-related hospitalizations in Los Angeles have already increased significantly. With cases still rising, hospitalizations are likely to follow suit well into December.
There are other complicating factors as well.
The ongoing spread of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus — or RSV — in the county combines with Covid to present a triple threat of respiratory disease that is likely to further stress health facilities.
Then there are holiday gatherings and trips, which in most people’s opinion will be more “normal” – ie maskless – this year. Couple that with the rapid rise in BQ1 and BQ1.1 variantswhich in a matter of weeks has supplanted the long-dominant BA.5 and now accounts for more than half of new cases in the region, and infections may continue to rise for some time.
A final wild card is China.
“China reported record highs of COVID-19 infections Thursday, as cities nationwide imposed localized lockdowns, mass testing and other curbs,” reported Reuters.
Most of the country has been affected by China’s so-called zero-Covid policy. When it decides to open up, there will be a large number of people who have never been infected who will be exposed to the new dominant variant that has emerged. This in turn could lead to a wave of infections in the Middle Kingdom and possibly new variants emerging from such a large number of
City News Service contributed to this report.