Waves Versus Ripples at High Tide

Throughout much of the COVID pandemic, we’ve seen sharp peaks in cases and hospitalizations, followed by dramatic drops. But that seems to be changing now. Here are the hospitalization data for New York state as annotated by T. Ryan Gregory:

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If we compare the eight month time period that encompasses both the Delta and first Omicron surge (roughly Aug. 1, 2021 to April 1, 2022) and the following eight month period, there were more COVID hospitalizations during the first period, but it’s not that many more than the dreaded one-two punch of Delta and Omicron (about 60% more total hospitalizations (the new hospitalizations data also follow this pattern). It’s just hard to define peaks in the second time period, because there is a relatively constant rate of hospitalization, though it does seem to be increasing gradually.

In Canada, the situation is even more stark:

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It’s hard to determine why this change happened. It’s likely a complex stew of multiple variants, people with differing immunological responses (number of vaccinations, recency of vaccination, and number of actual infections), and some messy population dynamics. But that said, if this is the ‘new normal’, then we need to start moving away from thinking about spikes, surges and declines. It also means we won’t get breathing periods, but will have a (relatively) constant problem. It’s up to us to determine how bad that problem will be.

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