This second surge very different from first
Cases are up again, but deaths and hospitalizations lagging
MASSACHUSETTS IS IN THE MIDST of a second COVID-19 surge, but this one is very different from the last one.
Last spring both cases and deaths skyrocketed. But this fall the surge has been characterized by a sharp runup in COVID-19 cases while so far deaths and hospitalizations have grown only moderately. (See charts at bottom of story.)
The last three months highlight the trend. Data released on September 23 indicated there were 5,129 cases of COVID-19 over the previous two weeks and 184 deaths. A month later, on October 23, the number of cases grew 86 percent to 9,565, while the number of deaths rose 24 percent to 228. By November 12, the number of cases over the previous two-week period had jumped 124 percent to 21,415 while deaths rose 23 percent to 280.
The other significant trend over this time period relates to the age breakdown of infections and deaths. In April, during the first surge, people over 60 accounted for 42 percent of coronavirus infections and those under 30 accounted for just 15 percent. Now those numbers have flipped. The over-60 age group accounts for roughly 18 percent of cases and the under-30 group accounts for about 38 percent. When it comes to deaths, the under-30 group represents only 3-4 percent of deaths, while people over 70 still account for roughly 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths.
That attitude has been fanned by libertarians who consider the concern over COVID-19 overblown. Thomas Woods Jr., a senior fellow at the Mises Institute, has attracted a following online by downplaying the danger of the coronavirus. In a recent YouTube video entitled the COVID Cult, Woods highlighted the disconnect between cases and deaths in Massachusetts.
“There’s no connection whatsoever, so do not panic about so-called cases,” he said. “A case means you had a positive test. Most people won’t even know they have this thing.”
Part of the reason that deaths have not been rising as rapidly during this second surge is that care has improved since the first surge. Dr. Eric Dickson, the president and CEO of UMass Memorial Hospital, said last week that reliance on ventilators has declined dramatically. “We really have new strategies and therapies to help people,” he said.
Dr. Jarone Lee of Massachusetts General Hospital, in an interview with Paul Hattis, said much the same. “This disease is less frightening now as we know much more than we did nine months ago. PPE, steroids, and remdesivir work. There is a robust system of clinical trials offered for COVID-19 patients. With that said, the number of patients in our ICUs with COVID already feels uncomfortably high,” he said.
Lee said many younger people are not taking COVID seriously enough. “They are correct in that they are at low risk for complications if they contract COVID. However, their risk is not zero. We continue to see young patients debilitated by COVID, and some have complications, including strokes. Remember that this is an extremely contagious disease and it can spread when one is asymptomatic. These COVID-infected younger folks can easily transmit it to friends and family that are at high risk. I’ve seen way too many cases where an elderly family member contracted COVID from another family member,” Lee said.