[ Question ]

Will the US have more than 100,000 new daily COVID-19 cases before January 1, 2022?

by Annapurna1 min read10th Jul 202111 comments

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I am trying to work through a process where I can assess what the probability of this question being a yes is.

I am going to use this post as an information dump in order to be able to rationally come up with the best probability I can. 

Factors that could lead to this question being a YES:
The rise of the delta variant
The low vaccination rates in certain regions
The hesitancy by both individuals and governments to enact containment measures again
The risk of a reporting error by the CDC

Factors that could lead to this question being a NO:
Vaccination continues albeit at a slower pace
Vaccination of children has begun
Apathy towards getting tested unless symptoms are serious
Local containment measures if health systems start to collapse (Springfield, Missouri will be a good gauge for this)

I will continue to update information in the comments. Any input is greatly appreciated. 
 

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11 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:08 AM

I'm pretty sure I'd bet 99% that the answer here is yes. The fact that this doesn't seem obvious to others makes a little hesitant though. Am I missing something? 

Reasoning: The US is about 4 times larger than the UK. The UK has more vaccinations than the US, and, most importantly, fewer low-vaccination regions where cases among the vaccinated might truly skyrocket. The UK has nearly 50,000 daily cases already, and that's before reopening (and there are regions in the US with fewer restrictions presently). (And the UK will probably hit 200,000 cases and beyond.) The US is behind in the Delta variant timeline, but even a best-case scenario would get over 100,000 cases. Everything else would look like a miracle, especially given (very justified) restriction fatigue. 

Vaccination of children has begun


That's the only argument in your list that I find interesting. However, there's not enough time to vaccinate enough children to curb the spread sufficiently. Also, I doubt most states are doing this. Maybe they're just vaccinating children with comorbidities?

One thing going against that is that the UK has focused on single-shot vaccination while the US has had much more double-shot vaccination, which seems to have an impact on the delta variant.

That's a good point. However, last time I checked, the UK was slightly ahead even on only counting the percentage of doubly-vaccinated people. (Also, it's possible that single-vaccinated people are substantially less infectious conditional on getting infected, which means that the UK strategy of focusing on first doses could actually be superior. I don't know if this applies, but it's not obviously wrong to me.) 

You could also point out that UK had more Astra Zeneca vaccinations, which are a bit less effective. That's true but it just seems intuitively extremely implausible that the effect would be large enough. 100k cases is too low of a bar to make this question interesting. It would be somewhat interesting for 200k cases.

The US had 35k new reported cases yesterday[0], so we'd have to have a spike of 3x the current numbers. That's not impossible (the rate two weeks ago was a third of the current rate!), but it doesn't seem 99% certain to me, especially as the percent vaccinated continues to go up, albeit at a slower rate.

The last time the US hit 100k was at the beginning of February, five months ago, when it was a lot less vaccinated, and the peak of the spike in April was 85k (with a 7-day average of 73k), so we'd have to have a worse spike than in April with higher vaccination rates.

The elephant in the room is of course the delta variant, but having a confidence of 99% seems to be overstating it in my opinion.

[0]: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

The best argument I can come up with against >100k cases: 

Cases will skyrocket in different US regions at different times. They will skyrocket especially in places with lots of unvaccinated people, which will lead to spikes in deaths, which will lead to lockdowns. Those lockdowns will keep the case numbers down. The main reason why the UK sees high case numbers is because the government doesn't think it's a big deal as long as few people are dying. (I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad way to look at it, given the economic costs of tighter restrictions.) 

Even that story^ feels extremely implausible to me. I just don't see governors of Southern states going into lockdowns when deaths start to spike again, especially because they won't spike as much as they used to. 

I'm not completely closing the door on 98%, but I think it's more likely than not that I'd put 99% after a full day of serious thinking. As it is, if I had to bet on this right now without more thinking, I'd go with 98% while feeling a bit cowardly. 
 

Nice list! :)

A little side note: I think

The risk of a reporting error by the CDC

might also count as a factor that could lead to "this question being a NO".

Variance only increases chance of Yes here. If cases spike and we're averaging over 100k, reporting errors won't matter. If we've averaging 75k, a state dumping extra cases could plausibly push it over 100k

To rephrase that, "Yes" requires that at least one day has reported >100k cases while "No" requires that all days have reported <100k cases. So if there is variance it will increase the chance any given day will be reported wrongly and a single wrong reporting of >100k will make "Yes" inaccurately occur. Of course, if it only spikes >100k real cases on a few days, and those days also have variance, that will make "No" inaccurately occur, but I agree that that's an unlikely situation.

The real problem would be if the CDC has a consistent reporting error. For example if some states with high real case counts were to stop reporting data and the CDC then extrapolated from the remaining lower case count states, they could report an inaccurately low number of cases.