Is a 'Mysterious' Delta Pattern Repeating in US?

In other countries, the wave seemed to cause huge spike for 2 months
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2021 9:07 AM CDT
Updated Sep 4, 2021 5:00 PM CDT
Is a 'Mysterious' Delta Pattern Repeating in US?
Medical devices are seen at Ochsner Medical Center in the New Orleans suburb of Jefferson, La., on Tuesday, Aug.11, 2021.   (AP Photo/Stacey Plaisance)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution took the rare step of publishing a front-page editorial on Tuesday pleading with people to get vaccinated because local hospitals are so overwhelmed. The problem isn't confined to Atlanta, as USA Today reports that hospitals across the US are once again bracing for shortages of oxygen. But another theme is emerging in COVID coverage, too—the notion that the delta surge may have peaked or is on the cusp of doing so.

  • Two-month cycles: In the New York Times, David Leonhardt notes that delta seems to cause a huge spike in cases for roughly two months before numbers fall. It's happened in India, Britain, Thailand, France, Spain, and elsewhere. The US is now around the 2-month mark, and the number of new cases last week was the lowest since June. Caseloads in Florida, Mississippi, and other states are declining from peaks in August. Leonhardt stresses there's no guarantee the "mysterious" pattern will hold. His story digs into the possible explanations for the cycle, which generally held true for previous variants as well.

  • Another: Fortune notes that one of the most widely used metrics, that of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, projects that the delta wave has crested and that cases will drop over the ensuing weeks. A number of Wall Street analysts are sounding a similar theme. However, the story counters that with plenty of caveats, including the potential for yet another variant to cause a new surge. Factors such as the return to school and holiday travel also are in play.
  • Yin and yang: A story at Bloomberg looks at both the optimistic view ("viral surges never last more than a few months") as well as the pessimistic one. "Even if the delta wave flames out soon, improvements could prove short-lived," the story notes. In Britain, for example, it's true that caseloads fell after a two-month spike, but as students have returned to school, case numbers are "creeping higher" again. Leonhardt suggests relaxed restrictions may be playing a role in the new British caseloads as well. The best solution for everyone? "Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine," one epidemiologist tells him.
  • Vaccinations up: One factor pleasing health authorities is that the pace of vaccinations appears to be rising again. White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeffrey Zients said Tuesday that 14 million US residents received shots in August, up 4 million from July, reports NPR. He credits an increase in vaccine mandates in part. In the US, 52.4% of the population is now fully vaccinated and 61.8% has received at least one dose.
(More COVID-19 stories.)

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