January 13, 2021

Lance Koonce
7 min readJan 14, 2021


NY Update.

By Menphrad, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3949347

If there’s a word for the numbers this week, it is : Plateau.

The numbers for the county, the state and to some extent the US as a whole seem to have leveled off after another surge over the holidays. Unfortunately, we were already at a high level, and have now pushed to a higher level which we are for the most part maintaining.

Hopefully, as the vaccine continues to be rolled out and perhaps people have less gatherings in person during the coldest winter months, we’ll see the numbers start to actually drop. The big unknown, though, is whether one of the new variants such as the one from the UK might really start to ignite in the US. That could be happening right now, for all we know — it would take a week or so for it to start showing up in the numbers.

In Westchester, our testing-positive number had climbed as high as 7.67% on a rolling, 7-day average, but has settled back around 7.25% at present. That’s still much higher than where we were this summer when we were seeing positive rates lower than 1%, but also quite a bit lower than what we’re seeing at the national level. Here’s the chart since March 12 of last year:

Since it’s a bit hard to see the recent surge and plateau on the above chart, here’s a break-out of the last 30 days of testing-positivity for Westchester:

Here’s a different but related statistic — cases per 100,000 people — for the last 60 days in Westchester. I’ve also market the three major holidays in red:

I’d speculate that the surge after Thanksgiving lasted longer and was more significant because it came at the end of a period where people had begun to feel safer and relax their guard, perhaps leading to more gatherings spread out over the long weekend. The Christmas surge was more immediate and sharper, as was the (smaller) New Year’s surge.

The chart just showing Westchester cases per day looks a bit spikier than the testing-positive chart, because we’ve been increasing testing as well — but you can see the several-day plateau at the very end, if you squint. We’re averaging around 850 new cases/day:

Here’s the chart showing daily testing, also on a 7-day rolling average:

With respect to fatalities in the county, we have been trending upwards in correlation with the increase in case numbers, and are now seeing about 9 deaths per day (by contrast, in the summer we had weeks without that many deaths):

The extremes of last spring tend to hide the gravity of the current numbers, s here’s the last 60 days in terms of daily deaths, on a 7-day rolling average:

In terms of total numbers, we had 1500 fatalities in the county by the beginning of June. Over the next SIX MONTHS, we only added 159 more deaths. Since November 1, we have added 245 deaths. The cumulative chart looks like this:

Finally, hospitalizations across the region are of course also up, and there are now over 1000 people in the hospital with COVID (chart starts Oct. 4):

The NYS dashboards have a better chart than mine, showing hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic — see below. Blue is total active hospitalizations and tan is ICU patients. So we’re nowhere near the peak of around 1800 patients and 600 in ICU during the spring, but there are a lot of people in the hospital right now.

The good news is that we’re still only using 40% of our hospital capacity in the region:

I don’t have good charts for the Pelhams because the data from Westchester county on the individual municipalities was pretty spotty for a long time. The new dashboard is much better, I just wish it showed the historical data. In any event, we have 118 active cases in the Pelhams at the moment: 57 in the Village of Pelham and 61 in the Village of Pelham Manor. So we seem to be on a bit of a plateau here as well.

Statewide, the testing-positive trend roughly parallels Westchester’s — NYS is at around 7.08% testing-positive:

The number of new cases per day in the state has now passed 16,000:

And we are nearing 175 deaths per day across the state:

To date, New York has lost 32,175 people to this virus over the past 10 months. In a non-pandemic year, here are the leading causes of death in the state:

As you can see, averaging over 150 deaths per day, COVID will surpass cancer as the leading cause of death within the next 20 days. If we were to keep up our current 175 deaths per day through March 23, the date of the first COVID death in NYS, COVID would roughly equal the mortality rate from heart disease. Mercifully, most of the people saying that COVID is “just a bad flu” have crawled back under their rocks by this point.

Nationally, we’re within a handful of days of passing the 400,000 fatality mark, a milestone that seemed unthinkable even a few short months ago. That’s more than the US lost in combat in WWI, WWII and Vietnam, combined. It’s about the number of soldiers the US lost during WWII from all causes. We are currently losing 3300+ people per day on average to COVID, so if we have another two months of this, we’ll lose another 200,000 people. (Hopefully the daily average will start to fall soon, though.)

While some estimates are much higher, and the country’s total population was much lower at the time, the CDC says the 1918 Spanish Flu killed at least 675,000 people in this country. Again, if we continued at our present pace, or if vaccination is to slow and the severe outbreak continues deep into 2021, that grim milestone is no longer out of reach.

Across the country, in the aggregate the testing-positive rate in the US stands at 12.34% on a 7-day rolling basis, after peaking around 13.7% last week:

But as a lagging indicator, the daily fatality number is still rising to a peak:

The chart below shows weekly cases and fatalities at the national level, with a crude attempt to associate the deaths with the case load. So, the color coding in the middle columns (CFR 1% and CFR 2%) shows a predicted range of fatalities based on reported case numbers in a week and a range of potential fatality rates from 1% to 2%. The corresponding color in the “actual” column shows the actual number of deaths that likely correspond to the case load two weeks earlier.

Other than a dip during Christmas week likely due to slow reporting, the number of deaths per week has continues to rise pretty dramatically. We saw another jump in case numbers last week, so the implied range of deaths next week is the highest we’ve seen — likely in the mid to high 20,000s. We are losing a LOT of people, folks.

Current hospitalizations in the US also remain at record highs, with some 130,000 people in the hospital and almost 24,000 in ICU:

Finally, the world too is nearing a grim milestone — two million deaths. After a long plateau when the number of deaths per day fell between 4,000 to 6,000, the numbers have really been climbing recently and we are now seeing more than 13,000 deaths per day on a rolling, 7-day average. Over a quarter of those deaths are in the US.

As always, I’ll close with another reminder that with the new strains circulating, we are still in the thick of this and need to tamp down the spread so that the vaccination program can work its wonders. Stay safe, all.