An estimated 55 million Americans will travel during the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s the highest level since the pandemic began and the third since the AAA began tracking the holidays in 2000.
At the same time, Covid cases have been steadily rising nationwide, with the most recent 24-hour total standing at 111,386, according to John’s Hopkins. This is the highest number of new infections in one day since August 12. Given the proliferation of home testing, the true number is likely much higher, experts say. The numbers are also much higher in some parts of the country.
Overall, the national 7-day average number of new cases has increased 7% over the past two weeks, according to the New York Times. Test positivity is up 5% over the same period, to 8.6%. But there are infection hotspots that tend to be much higher.
Michigan’s 14-day average case count is up 104%, according to the Times, while its test positivity sits at 11%. Arizona’s average daily cases are up 82% over the past two weeks. His test positivity sits at a staggering 24%. Hospitalizations in the state increased 53% over the same period. For perspective, aside from the early days of the pandemic, the current positivity rate in Arizona is higher than it has ever been in hard-hit California.
Speaking of which, the Golden State’s daily two-week average number of new cases is up 48%, while its average test positivity is 6%, according to the Times. California’s largest metropolis, which accounts for a quarter of the state’s population, is seeing stronger increases.
On Wednesday, Los Angeles County health officials reported 3,077 new cases of Covid. This is the highest one-day number since mid-August during the summer surge. The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in Los Angeles also continued to rise, hitting 9.4% on Wednesday. That’s up from 6.5% a week ago, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The county is now averaging 1,971 new COVID infections per day over the past week, a 39% increase from the previous week.
The number of county residents hospitalized with Covid exceeded 800 today, climbing to 822 according to the latest state figures. That’s up from 666 a week ago, an increase of 23% in seven days.
These trends do not bode well for the December holidays.
Hospitalizations are the data point of most concern to health officials, because when health facilities are overwhelmed, the death rate increases. While increased hospitalizations typically delay case jumps by about two weeks, Covid-related hospitalizations in Los Angeles have already increased significantly. With cases continuing to rise, hospitalizations are expected to follow through December.
There are also other complicating factors.
The continued spread of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus – or RSV – in the county combines with Covid to present a triple threat of respiratory disease that will likely further stress healthcare facilities.
Then there are holiday gatherings and travel, which by most accounts will be more “normal” — that is, mask-free — this year. Add to that the rapid increase in the BQ1 and BQ1.1 variants, which within weeks replaced the long-dominant BA.5 and now account for more than half of new cases in the region, and infections could continue to rise. for some time.
A final wildcard is China.
“China reported a record number of COVID-19 infections on Thursday, with cities across the country imposing localized lockdowns, mass testing and other restrictions,” Reuters reported.
Most of the country has been impacted by China’s so-called zero-Covid policy. Each time it decides to open up, there will be a large number of people who have never been infected who will be exposed to any newly emerging dominant variant. This, in turn, could lead to a wave of infections in the Middle Kingdom and possibly new variants resulting from such a large number of
City News Service contributed to this report.