While the sharp rise in Delta-variant COVID cases has sparked a renewed push for mask mandates, lockdowns, and vaccine “passports,” there’s been little attention paid to just how dangerous this variant is. Perhaps that’s because the evidence suggests it is far less of a public health concern than previous outbreaks.
Just how much less of a threat isn’t precisely known. But there are ways to gauge the risk. One is to look at the number of COVID cases and the number of deaths happening right now, compared with what happened a year ago.
What do you find? First of all, there are fewer cases than last year. From June to August this year, there have been more than 2 million recorded COVID cases in the U.S.
Over the same days last year, the total number of COVID cases was above 3.1 million.
How about deaths? From June 1 through Aug. 9, the total number of COVID fatalities was 20,149. Last year, the death count was 62,287.
In other words, cases are 41% lower than during this time last year, and deaths are 66% lower.
Looked at another way, the “case fatality rate” was 1% from June 1 through Aug. 9 this year. It was 2% over the same days last year.
Looking at a longer time frame, the case fatality rate all this year is 1.5%. And the case fatality rate for all of last year was 1.8%.
In other words, the fatality rate from COVID appears to be steadily declining.
The lower lethality of the Delta variant makes sense.
Like any other infectious disease, COVID picked off the low-hanging fruit first – the very sick and elderly. So the case fatality rate plunged after its initial spike in early 2020 – when it was around 6%.
Doctors and hospitals also learned about better ways to treat the disease, no doubt saving lives.
And, the vaccines that unexpectedly appeared by last November have since created a vastly larger pool of people with immunity to the new virus. The vaccinated who are catching the Delta variant are experiencing far milder symptoms than they would have otherwise.
So far, in fact, there have been 36.8 million recorded cases of COVID, there are 167 million people fully vaccinated, and another 29 million partially vaccinated. That means roughly 60% of the nation has either had COVID or has been vaccinated. Even assuming there’s a lot of overlap between the two groups, that’s still a massive number of people with at least some immunity to the disease.
Here’s another way to look at it. Deaths from all causes so far this year are now lower in every age group than last year, especially among the elderly.
But while the disease has become less fearsome, the public perception hasn’t changed, and so the fixation on case counts only feeds the public’s anxiety.
Yes, there are certain areas where hospital resources are being strained at the moment. But overall, hospital capacity is far from reaching its limit. Data from John Hopkins University of Medicine’s tracking center shows that 25% of intensive care unit beds in the country aren’t occupied. Even in hotspots such as Texas, 10% of ICU beds are available, as are 20% of inpatient beds. Ten percent of Florida’s ICU beds and 16% of inpatient beds are currently unoccupied.
So why isn’t this seemingly good news about COVID making headlines?
Here’s one possibility. The public health community and leftist politicians don’t want to give up their newfound powers.
If COVID goes away, Anthony Fauci suddenly becomes just another annoying bureaucrat that nobody pays attention to.
And leftists, who have been able to boss people around and spend taxpayer money at levels no one would have ever tolerated before COVID, are loathe for things to get back to normal.
There’s also the fact that the current outbreak provides another chance for Democrats to score political points against Republicans. Just as we saw in the initial outbreak, Republican governors are coming under vicious and constant attack for not being sufficiently authoritarian, despite the growing body of scientific evidence that lockdowns and mask mandates are largely ineffective.
Power doesn’t only corrupt. It is also highly addictive. And the fear of suffering painful withdrawal symptoms supersedes any other consideration.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board