Covid infections declining worldwide

For some unclear reason, covid infections have been sharply declining all over the world. I’ve seen any number of articles about it - one random example from the Atlantic here.

There have been any number of explanations offered (mostly discussed in the Atlantic article). None of them seem to hold much water. The notion that of late people all over the world have suddenly begun doing more social distancing seems ridiculous and at odds with observable reality. And it seems a bit early for a seasonal effect to take hold. The combination of the third and fourth suggestions may have something to it - the result of more and more people having either been infected already or vaccinated means fewer potential victims floating about - but it doesn’t seem to account for that level of decline.

I’ve mentioned in the past my own community, whose pattern may be instructive. We were hit very hard early on (March-April of 2020), but then the infections went down to virtually zero which lasted for months despite minimal social distancing. In about late August we had a spike which lasted about a month, followed by a sharp decline (not virtually zero as in late Spring and early Summer, but about 15% of the level at the height of the second-wave spike). Since then, the level has been slowly but steadily increasing, and now we’re close to where we were in the Autumn spike - we don’t seem to have benefited from the worldwide decline yet. [Of note, there were a lot of deaths last Spring, but relatively few subsequently despite quite a lot of infections.]

The point as I see it is that there’s a lot we don’t understand about the nature of the way the infections spread on a communal level and it’s hard to pin down anything specific as being the one true answer. Or to predict future patterns either.

That said, the bottom line is that things are currently looking better and if the pattern holds long enough for the vast majority to get vaccinated, then the world could finally get over this.

The non-human inhabitants have been barely affected, indeed some may have seen improved circumstances. May even have put a blip in global warming.

Maybe it’s just that there haven’t been any major holidays for a while, hence fewer gatherings?

I’m too lazy to look it up – are deaths and hospitalizations also down?

I’m curious because I’m wondering about a personal phenomenon, and whether it might be something other people are experiencing.

Last week, I developed a cough and chest congestion. I’ve been extremely fatigued as well. I took 2 days off work, but I’m generally fine. Earlier in the pandemic, or during the summer when I was leaving the house more, I would have made a point of getting tested. And in fact both I and my spouse have been tested because of prior symptoms.

But this time, I’m just thinking, it’s probably not Covid, and even if it is, it’s not serious and I’m basically quarantining anyway. If I get sicker, I’ll get it checked out. Or if another family member gets sick, but right now I don’t really see the point of getting tested.

How many people have maybe hit the same, I don’t know – level of fatigue combined with already very limited risk?

Deaths started declining worldwide around 2-3 weeks after new cases started declining, as one might expect. Dunno if there’s any hospitalization data available worldwide (and I’m not sure hospital availability worldwide is consistent enough to make such data useful), but in hospitalizations in the US peaked around January 7 and have declined to around 50% of where they were then.

Almost twelve months in advance, the guy was prescient.
And you know he gives naught but a fig for the half million fatalities.

Purely observational, but I think behavior is a lot of it. Where I am mask wearing is now settling in as the default behavior everywhere. Not just as you walk into the store, but even as you walk the parking lot or stroll the sidewalks. It helps that masks are a fair bit less uncomfortable when they are acting as a scarf against the cold instead of a little mini sweat box over your maw. Everywhere now has plexiglass shields for the registers and no one feels weird using the hand sanitizer bottles posted everywhere anymore.

I also think that the infected and the vaccinated are reaching a number that’s significant enough to limit the spread. Essential workers and service workers (and maskholes) were almost certainly the biggest vectors before, now they all have had it and aren’t spreading it. This doesn’t explain the apparent rate of decline, and the abruptness of the change, but when combined with the typical post-holiday hibernation I think it is a big factor.

I don’t totally buy the seasonal argument. This thing broke out at this time last year and we hitting it’s stride in March. We’re right there now, and while the usual social behaviors that would impact seasonality are very different this winter, the other factors (weather and daylight) should be fairly consistent.

Glad to see it though.

Well, I’m glad to hear it. I was worried it might be illusory. I hope it’s not.

I know corellation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, but…

Just sayin’.


Let’s leave politics out of this forum.

General Questions Moderator

Again, leave the politics out.

We would expect positivity rates to go up, were that the case. But they are also dropping.

I think it will be a decade before we even have some workable hypothesis about the worldwide pattern of this thing. Right now we have a bunch of puzzle pieces, but we don’t even know which ones are relevant to this puzzle.

That is news to me, and I keep a close eye on the infection and death rates. Neither of those are declining in Europe, and just today the rates in Poland jumped two weeks after a relaxation of the restrictions. The vaccination campaign is getting under way, but there is a shortage of vaccines. Also, mutated forms of the virus have turned up, and from various sources and countries.

It is not just the death rate, but also the after-effects. Google “long COVID.”

Case numbers are still high, and will have to drop a lot lower before we no longer consider this a pandemic. Death tolls still climb steadily, in numbers that remain scarily high. The storm is not as intense at this moment, but still very dangerous. My own active patient load of acute positives is actually at zero, from a high of over 400 at one point, but other sites in my system are continuing to have outbreaks.

I hope things continue to improve, but I’m not betting my life on it.

Panama’s cases have also been in steep decline after hitting more than 5,000 on January 6. Yesterday it was 504. The seven-day average is 624; it was last at that level in late October.

It is strange that the decline has taken place in many places at the same time with very varied policies on the disease. Panama had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, although periodically the conditions were relaxed. Seasonal effects are unlikely to be the same here, although the dry season began in December which means people spend more time outdoors. Widespread vaccination hasn’t taken place yet; so far only 16,000 doses have been distributed, mostly to health care and security workers and people in nursing homes or confined to bed. So far there have been about 330,000 cases, which represents about 8% of the national population.

Last year this time people were visting places all over the world. This year not so.

That would suggest it’s something going on in the planetary microbiome. COVID could be changing, or it could be in competition with some other, more contagious, but almost completely harmless, pathogen.

However, I fully agree with MandaJo’s last post - we don’t know.

Per the NYT, the decline is now levelling off, also worldwide. (I get a free NYT email summary every day but don’t subscribe to the NYT. The following are the links from that section of the email: Link #1. Link #2. Link #3)

They suggest it might be the impact of the variant strains. Though you need to consider if that coordinates with the worldwide timing.

I looked at my state’s #s recently and was shocked at how low there were - at least compared to the past few months.

Of course, I suspect that the recent spike was so bad, that it gave me too much relief to get to the horrible level prior to the recent spike…

However, compared w/ the increasing rate of vaccinations, it did give me some reason to suspect that some level of increased normalcy was not too far off.

I think the world data trend looks like the US because we have such a large percentage of cases. At our highest point, the US was contributing about 40% of cases worldwide. If you look at different countries, the trends do vary. The only general thing you could say is that there was a surge in the fall. That could simply reflect the time it takes for the virus to ramp up in different populations after moving through the first or the change in weather.