The Fall Surge Is Finally Noticed, If Barely

A while ago, some asshole with a blog noted:

There’s a regular and increasing trend, with some variability, that definitely starts in late October, as noted by the red arrow. It’s not just D.C. either. Here’s California, where article after article blames Thanksgiving travel for that state’s woes…

So if it’s not Thanksgiving–not that traveling around the country helped at all–then what was it? My speculative hypothesis is we were cursed with nice weather. If ever we needed a grey, shitty, rainy, and windy fall, it was this year. Instead, most parts of the U.S. had really nice weather (#NotAllParts) throughout much of the fall. That leads to people going out to restaurants and engaging other forms of maskless socializing, when we really needed people to stay the fuck at home.

Like I said, that’s just speculation, but I don’t think we can blame Thanksgiving entirely. The problem began weeks before.

Admittedly, #NotAllStates had surges, but the pre-Thanksgiving trend was bad, but, thanks to the way exponential growth works, it really doesn’t beat the shit out of you in absolute terms until near the end–and by then, it’s too late.

It seems to me we can’t really understand how to make COVID-19 cases decline unless we understand how they increased in the late summer and fall (I don’t think it’s that difficult a problem, it’s more that we don’t want to understand it. Mark Twain’s adage comes to mind…). Which brings us to this story about Iowa (boldface mine):

In all likelihood, Iowans were simply scared into taking the virus more seriously. The experts I spoke with said they saw more people wearing masks in grocery stores and shopping centers as autumn turned to winter. Iowans stayed home more during the state’s fall surge than they had in September, and they remained there through December and early January, according to SafeGraph, a company that collects cellphone-location data. Road traffic decreased from October to November, and stayed steady, instead of increasing, through Christmas and New Year’s, Jeff Von Brown, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Transportation, told me. “It looks like people did heed advice” not to travel, he said. (Winter weather may have also played a role.)

This is really one of the few news stories about the horrible holiday season that even mentions the run-up, and, ironically, it’s about one of the few states that bent that curve before Thanksgiving (after having a massive surge in mid-October).

We really need to talk about the fall surge more, though, given how our thinky thought leaders have behaved throughout the pandemic, trying to explain actual phenomena is probably pretty low on the to-do list.

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5 Responses to The Fall Surge Is Finally Noticed, If Barely

  1. The LA Times has had some discussion on multiple occasions about the increase that pre-seeded (and preceded) the holiday travel season – local spreading events around the Los Angeles Lakers championship run and the Los Angeles Dodgers championship run (and even consequences of the San Diego Padres rare playoff appearance) though hinting at even those being potentially dangerously occurring during an increase that might have already underway – like California collectively lost its focus and just started having mass events again:

    https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-10-27/coronavirus-spreading-at-sports-celebrations-lakers-dodgers

    https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-02-06/super-bowl-risks

    But collectively, California has gone out of its way to not psychologically rain on the Championship parades.

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