Let me just clarify my perspective on a “fourth” wave, or coming case surge, fueled by variants or not. I don’t know what will happen and neither does anyone else. It appears that the environmental conditions favorable to maximum transmission can occur more than once a year, you would suspect around six months apart, although the seasons are not mirrors in any particular location. So is it possible, in Minnesota for example, that we could see another case surge in the April timeframe? Certainly it is possible. Will we, and if so, how extensive could it be?
Minnesota is currently saying there have been about 475,000 infections in the state. Some of those aren’t infections, they are false and low positives. But everyone also agrees that not all infections have been detected. The state hasn’t given an official estimate lately; in the spring it was saying there were ten undetected cases for every one identified. The CDC and others have tried using antibody surveys and other means to make a guess. The average guess currently seems to be around three to four times the number of detected cases. Let us take the low end. Around 1,425,000 undetected infected persons in the state, so total of 1,900,000, or 33% of the population. According to the state, we have fully vaccinated about 4.7% of the population and given one dose to 12.5%. So we could have 38% to 45% of the population with some form of adaptive immunity. That is sufficient to slow transmission significantly, it greatly lowers targets for the virus. (I was lying in bed last night and realized my original math here was wrong. Fixed now.)
So, yes, we could have another rise in cases, but if there is any adaptive immunity that persists at all, it can’t be like the fall/winter wave. And since we supposedly are vaccinating the most vulnerable, hospitalization and death rates should be far lower. So my best guess is there could be another rise in cases, probably wouldn’t reach even the real level of cases from last spring, and won’t result in high rates of hospitalization or death. But what do I know, I am not privy to CV-19’s top-secret formula for maximum transmission conditions.
Here is an excellent column demonstrating how to assess the issue of excess deaths and CV-19. (JC Article) Using Sweden as the example, Nic Lewis shows how even in a country, varying regions have different epidemic experiences, perhaps due to some combination of population density and weather factors. Sweden of course is interesting to look at because of the relatively modest suppression attempts. Among his key findings are that despite lesser restrictions, Sweden’s excess deaths are below those in the UK. Sweden’s fall wave saw more cases among persons under 60, but that could be a testing artifact. Deaths have consistently been concentrated in the 80 plus age group. And among regions in Sweden, those with a harsher first wave experienced a milder second one and vice versa. Doing a detailed examination of average and expected deaths over a more extended period, and by age group and gender, revealed only a modest uptick in excess deaths in 2020, one that was largely concentrated among males and the older age groups. He then does a quick comparison with the UK, finding a much higher rate of excess deaths in that heavily locked-down country.
If you want to see why mass testing in a low-prevalence population is a disaster, read this Lockdown Sceptics column. (LS Column) The likelihood of false positives is extremely high. Minnesota officials appear not to understand this.
More work on the contribution of genetic variability among humans as a contribution to relative disease severities. (Cell Article) The authors find that a common genetic variation in human DNA can make it easier for infection of a cell to occur, leading to more severe disease.
Here is a big proponent of mass testing, especially with antigen tests, making it clear why PCR testing can be so flawed. (Lancet Article) One of his key points is that PCR tests are highly likely to identify non-infectious persons, which forces unneeded isolation and wasted time on contact tracing.
People have noted that we didn’t freak out at some recent flu epidemics, for example in 2009 many more children died than have of CV-19, but schools weren’t closed, and estimates are that the 1957 pandemic caused very high mortality, in today’s population it would have been comparable to CV-19 or higher, especially if deaths were counted the same way. Here is an article on 1957 pandemic mortality; apply that rate to today’s US and global population. (1957 Article)
And I saved the good news on effects of suppression efforts for last today. Medicare beneficiaries had a massive drop in vaccinations during the epidemic, according to the CDC. These are routine vaccinations, not CV-19, and they are designed to prevent serious disease, so missing them is not a good thing. (CDC Article) The decline reached 70% or more below normal levels.