Link between cases and deaths greatly weakened in delta surge

The delta variant-driven summer COVID-19 surge in the United States has so far proved much less deadly than previous waves, thanks in large part to vaccinations.

The number of cases is approaching the levels seen in previous surges. The seven-day average of daily cases has risen as high as 66,606, close to the peak of 68,622 seen during the summer surge of 2020.

Yet hospitalizations have been much lower. Daily hospitalizations so far have hit 31,148 at the highest, far below the 58,488 hospitalizations, for instance, in the spring surge of 2020. Likewise, daily deaths have so far reached a high of 296, only about a tenth of the peak during the winter.

Most credit the COVID-19 vaccines.


“The fact that 57% of the population has gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, that acts as a breaker on a more robust outbreak,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director at the American Public Health Association.

Those age 65 and older have the highest risk of being hospitalized with severe COVID-19 or dying from the disease. But nearly 80% in that age group have been fully vaccinated.

“Most of the people who would have died in previous surges are largely vaccinated now,” said Susan Hassig, an epidemiology professor at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Those contracting COVID-19 tend to be younger. Reports from Florida, one of the epicenters of the current surge, show that the average age of those hospitalized is in the mid-40s. People under age 50 are less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19. They are also less likely to be vaccinated, and the vast majority of those presently hospitalized are unvaccinated.

It is also possible that the number of COVID-19 cases is a serious undercount during the current surge, since the amount of testing has declined in recent months.

“We went from low COVID testing to high testing to now back to low testing,” Benjamin said.

At present, the U.S. is conducting about 800,000 COVID-19 tests per day, according to Johns Hopkins University. During the winter 2021 surge, the U.S. was conducting between 1.5 million and 2 million tests per day. The lower rate of testing could mean that many cases of COVID-19 are going unreported.

While the nation as a whole will likely experience a less severe surge this time, specific areas will be hard-hit.

“The current sweep of the delta virus is having a disproportionate effect in areas with many people who are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Jeremy Levin, chairman of Ovid Therapeutics in New York City.

Some states with lower vaccination rates are seeing hospitalizations approaching rates similar to what they saw in previous surges, including Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, and Louisiana, Hassig’s home state.

“Hospitalizations here in Louisiana are still going straight up,” Hassig said. “Delta is still making younger people sick, and they are much less likely to be vaccinated in our state.”

The U.S. experience with the delta variant is similar to that of the United Kingdom, which has experienced a massive wave of COVID-19 this year but has had relatively few deaths. In July, the U.K. has seen a total of 1,241 COVID-19 deaths, fewer than the 1,243 the country experienced on one day, Jan. 21, during the winter surge. This surge has also retreated rather quickly, with new cases dropping by nearly half in the past week.

But Levin warned that the pandemic still entails risk for the U.S., given that the bulk of the unvaccinated are younger and young people can often carry the virus with modest or even no symptoms.


“By giving safe haven to the virus, we are allowing the virus to mutate and are risking a much greater danger of a mutation that is much worse than delta,” Levin said.

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Tags: Healthcare, Coronavirus, Vaccination, Delta Varient, CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.K., Hospitals, Florida, Louisiana

Original Author: David Hogberg

Original Location: Link between cases and deaths greatly weakened in delta surge

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