Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you found a happy way to celebrate safely. It is safe to say that while we each may have had a worse personal year than 2020, collectively it must be the worst in a long, long time for people across the world. While we would all love for 2021 to be wildly better, that’s probably not realistic. I am hoping for steady improvement starting around March.
What happens next is partially in our control and partially out of our domain. What we did in December will dictate our January hospitalization and death totals. There is nothing we can do about it now, and I fully expect January to be the worst month so far in those respects. February and beyond is up to us. Can we sacrifice just a bit longer? Can we avoid that one poor decision that could hurt our family and friends?
Of course, improvement will also lean on getting vaccines into arms and most of us can’t impact that. The vaccination roll-out is a story of its own. Here is hoping distribution is able to ramp up quickly.
Just over 85.5 million people across the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including about 4.3 million in the past week. Just under 60.5 million people are considered recovered, while about 23.2 million people currently have an active case of COVID-19. Active cases are up about 1.1 million from a week earlier. About 1.85 million people have died of the illness, including about 77.4 thousand people over the last week, an increase of 5.2 thousand over the previous week.
After not setting a single-day record for new cases the previous week, this past week included a record 752,155 cases reported on December 31. After dropping dramatically Christmas week, cases have resumed a steep upward trajectory. The seven-day average for global new cases now stands at 613,551, up from 559,988 a week earlier, but still off the high of 648,019 established on December 22.
After the decline in reported deaths Christmas week, deaths are once again rising. After failing to establish a new high Christmas week, last week saw two days in which reported deaths were higher than any previous day in the pandemic. The new high was set December 30 with a total of 15,126 deaths from COVID-19. The seven-day average for deaths is now 11,058 per day, up from 10,314 a week earlier.
Looking at a single day for our weekly snapshot, 510,153 new cases were reported yesterday, up from about 410,000 the same day a week earlier, but still not up to numbers from two weeks previous. For the day, 7,099 deaths were reported, virtually unchanged from last week’s 7,084 on the same day. Compared to last week, in the five countries reporting the most deaths for the day, Germany and Brazil were replaced at the top by Italy and South Africa. The top five reported death totals for the day included the U.S. (1,327), Russia (504), the U.K. (454), South Africa (402), and Italy (347).
For the day, ten countries reported more than 10,000 new cases for the day, up from eight countries last week. Turkey dropped just below the list for this week. If anything, the gap between the U.S. and other countries is widening, with the U.S. reporting more new cases for the day than the next eleven countries behind it combined. The top countries for the day were the U.S. (194,337), the U.K. (54,990), Russia (24,150), Brazil (17,341), India (16,660), Italy (14,245), France (12,489), South Africa (29,577), Canada (11,383) and Germany (10,356).
A debate has erupted in scientific circles over the relative wisdom of the decision by the U.K. to focus on “single jabs” as opposed to focusing on two shots as the rest of the world is doing. Is widespread lower-level immunity better or is a higher level of individual immunity the best strategy? The vaccine hasn’t yet arrived in some surprising places, such as Japan, which hopes to begin vaccination by late February. The country is considering another round of restrictions. India has approved two vaccines, including one developed nationally and hopes to vaccinate 300,000,000 people in its first phase, while Russia reports 800,000 vaccinated, while some countries, like Indonesia, which is inoculating its working population first, are taking very different approaches to other parts of the world.
Just over 21.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, an increase of about 1.5 million over the last week. Just over 12.4 million are considered recovered, while the number of active cases has risen by about 600,000 over the last week to just over 8.3 million, a pandemic high. Over 360,000 Americans have died of the illness, including about 19,000 in the last week.
Yesterday, 194,337 new cases and 1,387 deaths were confirmed. Average daily cases in the country, now at 216,886, has risen dramatically from last week (183.8 K), but is just below the high mark of 223,902 set on December 18. Average daily deaths have also risen to 2,696 per day, up from 2,238 a week ago, but lower than the record 2,782 set on December 22.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in cases (21.1 million to India’s 10.3 million) and deaths (360.1 thousand to Brazil’s 196 thousand) and is stretching the lead in both each day. Compared to nations with at least 1 million in population, the U.S. continues to rank second in cases per million, behind Czechia, and eleventh in per capita deaths. Both remain unchanged from last week. The U.S. has administered more tests than any other country in the world, while ranking seventh in per capita testing.
For the day yesterday, California re-entered the list of the five states reporting the most deaths, while Pennsylvania moved out. The top five included New York (125), Illinois (114), Massachusetts (108), California (102), and Florida (97).
Twenty-six states reported multiple thousands of new cases for the day. Thirty-four states reported at least 1,000 new cases, up from twenty-seven last week. South Carolina dropped from the top five the same day the previous week, to be replaced by Arizona in this week’s list. The top five states included California (38,885), Arizona (17,234), Texas (17,212), New York (13,373), and Florida (10,603).
States with the most cases per capita now includes our own, as Tennessee has replaced Nebraska in the top five. The list for most cases per capita in the U.S. is now topped, in order, by North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Tennessee, and Utah. In per capita deaths, Connecticut has now nudged South Dakota out of the top five, which now include New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Connecticut. Over the last week, Tennessee has moved from 23rd in per capita deaths to 21st. In per capita testing the leaders remain the same: Rhode Island, Alaska, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut. Tennessee has dropped from 19th to 21st.
Vaccination continues to be the national obsession and the roll out has been, by most assessments, disappointing. Dr. Fauci sounded an optimistic note yesterday suggesting that we should be able to quickly ramp up to 1,000,000 vaccinations administered daily. The disappointment comes after the administration had predicted that 20 million Americans would receive the vaccine by the end of 2020. Instead, less than 3 million were vaccinated by that point.
Reported state testing totals continue to be depressed by the holidays and that continues to carry over to all the other data. The average for cases, which peaked December 18 at over 9,600 per day, then dropped dramatically to 5,459 on December 28. As the holiday testing and reporting delays begin to sort out, it is rising again, with the current average back up to 6,316 new cases per day.
Yesterday, the state reported 4,165 new cases, bringing the pandemic totals to 531,535 confirmed cases and 76,762 probable cases. Of these, 526,966 are considered inactive, while 74,306 are considered active, about 3,000 lower than the same day last week, but now rising once again.
Hospitalization numbers have remained near records but have moved up and down slightly over the holiday period. Yesterday, hospitals reported an additional 41 COVID-positive Tennesseans were hospitalized, bringing the pandemic total to 14,648. 3,173 state residents are now hospitalized, while 779 are in ICUs and 450 are on ventilators. Each number is near, but below, records in their respective categories. Hospital beds are at 86% capacity in the state, while ICUs are at 91% capacity.
The number of reported deaths over the holidays has also declined, but now has once more started to rise. 55 additional COVID-19 deaths were reported in the state yesterday, bringing the pandemic to 7,025. The seven-day average is currently 73 deaths per day for the state, down from the high of 102 reported on December 23, but up from the recent dip to 60 reported on December 26.
Testing continues to be reported at extremely low levels relative to recent months. Only 15,364 test results were reported yesterday, with a positive test rate of 21.41% for the day. Johns Hopkins University is reporting a 25.3% average positive test rate over the last seven days.
The state reports 126,887 Tennessee residents have gotten their first vaccine, a little less than 2% of the state’s population. The site, which was last updated on New Year’s Day, reported that 2,821 had received a shot the day before. The hope across the country is that as the holidays pass, vaccinations can increase dramatically.
Since the last report last Wednesday, the Knox County Health Department has reported similarly low numbers to the state numbers and for the same reason: test administration, processing and reporting. For those days, the county reported 517, 236, 376, 381 and 190 (today) new cases. The county totals are now 31,572 confirmed cases and 3,697 probable cases.
Of these cases, 30,279 are considered inactive, while 4,657 are categorized as active at this time. The high number for active cases was set last Wednesday at 5,268. As testing returns to normal levels, expect the number of active cases to swell quickly.
Unimpacted by test reporting, hospitalizations have continued to set records over the New Year holiday. The record set December 30, of 177 COVID-positive Knox County residents in the hospital, was eclipsed with new records on January 2 (179), January 3 (191) and today (192). 820 Knox County residents have been hospitalized with the virus at some point during the pandemic. Over 23% of county residents hospitalized at any point are currently in the hospital.
Deaths reported for each day since my last article include 9, 2, 3, 1, and 3 (today). Of these, the age demographics in 4 (age 45-64), 3 (age 65-74) and 11 (75+). Knox County deaths from the virus have now reached 333.
The state is reporting a seven-day average positive test rate of 24.4% for the county.