With the number of new daily cases of COVID-19 up by almost half and the number of deaths reported each day up by more than 80% in two weeks’ time, the concern over a so-called “second wave” of infections is increasing.
In this week’s BirminghamWatch analysis of coronavirus data, all numbers have taken a sharp turn for the worse. The 7-day average of daily new cases jumped from 1,438.71 two weeks ago to 2,121.29 on Wednesday, an increase of 48.3% and the highest level since the pandemic began. In the past week, the average jumped 36.7%, and it has been above 2,000 cases for the past four days.
The 14-day moving average is slower to reflect the spike, but it still registered a 22.8% increase over one week and 40% over two. The longer average stood at 1,836.36 on Wednesday, the second-highest level since BirminghamWatch began to compute the average in late March. The high came on July 25 with an average of 1,870 new cases per day.
Last Friday, Nov. 13, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,980 new cases; that number is the highest daily reading so far, not counting days when large numbers of previously unreported cases were added in a “data dump.” The number was 45% more than the highest daily number recorded during the summer peak. Wednesday’s report of 2,638 new cases is the second highest.
ADPH also noted on its COVID-19 dashboard that two collections of older cases were added on Nov. 14 and 15, but some of those cases were new enough that they did fall in the current 14-day period. Because the department did not indicate which of those cases happened within the 14-day period, and because the overall numbers were relatively small, BirminghamWatch did not take out the older cases when determining the average.
The death toll also continues a sharp trend upward, with 3,347 people dying due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The current 7-day average of new deaths per day stands at 20.86 as of Wednesday, with 146 new deaths in the past week.
The average was significantly higher over the previous seven days because of a report of 81 additional deaths on Nov. 11. But ADPH later reported on its dashboard that this number had been inflated because of what the department described as “a review process for a large number of deaths from our Alabama Center for Health Statistics.”
The report said also that more than half the Nov. 11 deaths may be from earlier in the pandemic. Because neither a definite number nor a time period was indicated by ADPH, BirminghamWatch’s moving averages have not been adjusted to compensate. The 7-day average on Nov. 11 was 27.86, which had increased sharply because of the review of death reports. But the current average is still 53.6% higher than two weeks before, when it stood at 13.57.
The 14-day average of deaths per day, still influenced by the Nov. 11 data anomaly, was at 17.78 Wednesday. That’s up 32.6% from the 13.4 average on Nov. 11 and 83.9% higher than two weeks ago, when the two-week average was at 9.66 on Nov. 4.
The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals is also on the rise, up to 1,303 on Wednesday. That’s less than the period from mid-July to mid-August, when that number was greater than 1,500 for nearly a month. But the current number is still 22.2% above that of two weeks ago. The 7-day average stands at 1,217 hospitalized patients.
Positivity rates — the percentage of those tested who are found to have the virus — now stands at an all-time high. The percentage on Tuesday, the most recent day for which data is available, shows that 23.43% of all tests over the previous 14 days were positive. Over the past week, an average of 10,003 tests have been given each day.
In Jefferson County, 2,267 new cases were reported in the past week, bringing the cumulative total to 28,781. The death toll increased to 481, up by 27 from the previous week.
Alabama’s increasing numbers largely mirror those in much of the United States over recent days, as the national death toll surpassed 250,000 on Wednesday.
More and more states, counties and cities are returning to stricter controls on gatherings, inside dining in restaurants, entertainment venues and in-school learning. BirminghamWatch reached out to Gov. Kay Ivey’s office Wednesday to ask whether she was considering reinstating the occupancy restrictions on restaurants, gyms, entertainment venues and such, which she lifted Nov. 8. Her staff has yet to respond.
On Wednesday, schools in Kentucky and in New York City were among those to return to all-virtual learning, and in Illinois, teachers’ unions were asking their governor to close school doors.
In Alabama, Marshall County and Colbert County school districts have returned to all-virtual learning through the Christmas break. City school systems in Birmingham, Oneonta, Alexander City and Tuscumbia, among others, have also gone back to virtual classes for shorter or indefinite periods.
The data BirminghamWatch uses comes from ADPH and is published daily on its COVID-19 website.