It is estimated that 55 million Americans will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s the highest level since the pandemic began and the third-highest since AAA began tracking the holiday in 2000.
At the same time, Covid cases have been rising steadily across the country, 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. With the increase in home testing, the real number is likely much higher, experts say. The numbers are also much higher in certain regions of the country.
Overall, the 7-day average number of new cases nationwide has risen 7% over the past two weeks, according to the New York Times. Test positivity increased by 5% to 8.6% over the same period. But there are hotspots of infection that trend much higher.
Michigan’s average 14-day case count is up 104%, according to the Times, while test positivity stands at 11%. Average daily cases in Arizona are up 82% over the past two weeks. His test positivity is a staggering 24%. Hospitalizations in the state have increased by 53% over the same period. 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 daily average number of new cases in the Golden State over two weeks is up 48%, while the average test positivity is 6%, according to the Times. California’s largest metropolitan area, which accounts for a quarter of the state’s population, is seeing steeper increases.
As of Wednesday, Los Angeles County Health Authorities reported 3,077 new Covid cases. This is the highest number of days during the summer wave since mid-August. The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus in LA has also continued to rise, hitting 9.4% on Wednesday. That’s up 6.5% from a week ago, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Health. The county is now seeing an average of 1,971 new COVID infections per day for the past week, up 39% from the previous week.
The number of county residents hospitalized with Covid has surpassed 800 today, rising to 822, according to the latest state figures. That’s up from 666 a week ago, up 23% in seven days.
These trends do not bode well for the December holidays.
Hospitalizations are the data point that worries health officials the most because when health facilities are overwhelmed, the mortality rate increases. While increases in hospitalizations typically lag jumps in cases by about two weeks, Covid-related hospitalizations in Los Angeles have already risen significantly. With cases still rising, hospitalizations are likely to follow well into December.
There are other complicating factors as well.
The ongoing spread of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus – or RSV – in the county, along with Covid, poses a triple threat of respiratory disease that is likely to further strain health facilities.
Then there’s the holiday meetings and travel, which by most reports will be more ‘normal’ – ie maskless – this year. Coupled with the rapid rise in BQ1 and BQ1.1 variants, which within weeks have supplanted the long-dominant BA.5 and now account for more than half of new cases in the region, infections could continue to rise for some time.
A final joker is China.
“China on Thursday reported record-high COVID-19 infections, with cities across the country imposing localized lockdowns, mass testing and other restrictions,” Reuters reported.
Most of the country has been hit by China’s so-called zero-Covid policy. Whenever it decides to open up, there will be large numbers of people who have never been infected who will be exposed to the newly emerged dominant variant. That in turn could lead to a wave of infections in the Middle Kingdom and possibly new variants emerging from such a large number of infections
The City News Service contributed to this report.