January 3, 2021

Lance Koonce
6 min readJan 3, 2021

NY Update. Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that by mid-year, this virus will be truly fading and that we’ll be able to return to some semblance of where things were pre-COVID. But it is apparent now that there’s a still a lot of tunnel before we begin to emerge into the light (especially if our government leaders can’t get a plan together for vaccination that works rapidly).

I apologize for the shortages of updates during the holiday, but with a new puppy and a lot more end-of-year work than expected, I just could not get any new updates out.

On top of that, the data updates on COVID cases over the holiday were reliably unreliable, so it’s been helpful to have a somewhat longer stretch of time for the analysis.

In any event, it appears that any brief plateau in Pelham, in Westchester County, and in New York State, is now over, and the numbers are moving upwards once again. You’ve likely seen the reporting nationally, as we’ve passed 350,000 deaths and are averaging 2500+ deaths per day (over 3000 per day over the last 5 days). So we’re on track to pass 400,000 deaths before the end of January.

Pelham. I think others have posted a link to the new Westchester Co. dashboard, which is a big improvement over the prior daily map that was being published. But here is another link to that map, for convenience.

Remember when the Pelhams had about a dozen active cases in late October? Neither do I. We’re now at 126 active cases for the Pelhams. Since the beginning, the Pelhams have had 746 cases, cumulatively. So about 17% of those cases are active at present.

Westchester County. If you look at the county maps to which I provided the link above, you can basically ignore the testing positivity number in the bottom right corner. That’s the positivity rate across the whole pandemic in Westchester, which is an interesting factoid but of little relevance to what’s happening currently. The skeptic in me thinks they show that prominently to try to make things look a little better than they are.

The truth is that our testing-positive number is rising again, and on a 7-day rolling basis it now stands at 7.59% in Westchester. As noted in a prior post, it did flatten out or even drop a bit a few weeks ago, but that was short-lived. Here’s a chart of the last 30 days:

It’s never entirely clear to me to what extent any variations over a holiday might be influenced by spottier reporting. I certainly do think the total number of new cases and deaths reported is often lower during the holidays, and then higher after the holidays once reporting starts rolling in. But technically the same should not be true as to the testing percentage, but sometimes there does seem to be some dampening effect.

Here’s the current, cumulative chart for the number of new cases we’re seeing in Westchester on a daily basis. We’re at about 750 new cases per day on a 7-day rolling basis. Again, I suspect if we had been getting steady reporting over the past two weeks the curve would be a bit more gradual, rather than the dip followed by a spike shown here.

And here are the county’s cases on a cumulative basis since the start:

Perhaps the one piece of “good” news in the county is that the number of fatalities we’re seeing on a daily basis is nowhere as high as we saw in the spring. But we’re seeing around 6 deaths per day, which is likely to rise over the next few weeks since our case numbers seem to be rising. The fatality rate seems to be somewhere around 1% to 1.2%, so if we continue to trend upwards to 1000 cases/day, we’ll likely start seeing deaths in the double digits again.

The final Westchester chart I’ll include today is current hospitalizations. As explained before, this actually encompasses several counties in the mid-Hudson region:

New York State. To the extent Westchester seemed to be doing a bit worse than the state as a whole, that is no longer the case. The testing-positivity percentage for NYS is now at 7.78% on a 7-day rolling average. Here’s the 60-day chart:

We’re seeing about 13,500 new cases per day, state-wide:

While this is the highest number we’ve seen yet in the pandemic, our numbers were likely much higher last March and April, given the number of deaths we were seeing — the testing was just not as widespread at that time. Still, 13,000+ cases per day is pretty significant, and it certainly looks like that number is rising; we had two days this week with over 16,000 new cases each day.

13,500+ new cases implies around 150+ deaths per day in the coming weeks; if we trend more towards 17,000 per day we’ll likely start to see 200-fatality days in the weeks to come. Currently, the 7-day rolling average of deaths per day stands at 138:

Don’t forget that as recently as September we were averaging only 4 deaths per day, statewide.

Hospitalizations, of course, also continue to climb statewide:

United States. The US numbers continue to climb, and we’re now at over a 13% testing-positivity percentage nationwide, which is pretty terrible. We’re averaging over 200,000 new cases per day, which implies 2400+ deaths per day, which is what we’re seeing. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions also are way up. Here are the charts. The first shows the testing-positive numbers nationwide since March 12:

The following chart shows the number of daily cases, on a 7-day rolling basis, since March:

Hospitalizations since the beginning:

ICU admissions since the beginning:

Parting Thoughts. We’re likely to see higher numbers over the next few weeks as a result of the holidays — we may already be seeing the beginnings of that surge. It will be worth noting how severe that increase is, as my hope is that it will mark the peak of the fall-winter surge, and perhaps we will be on the downslope thereafter, especially as the vaccines are rolling out.

HOWEVER, it’s certainly possible that at some point we tip over into an even more exponential-looking rise in NY and our county, especially given the threat of the new variant that has emerged from the UK and is already in the US. With a higher R0 number, and apparently a higher transmission rate among children, that variant at least has the potential to cause a more uncontrolled outbreak in the absence of total lockdowns and extreme social distancing.

So it’s something to watch. It feels a bit like a scifi movie — our effort to vaccinate everyone is literally in a race against the clock to beat back a potentially more virulent strain that is on the rise. As fatigued as we are, now is not the time to lose vigilance — quite the opposite, it’s time to bear down in what one hopes is the homestretch.