I’m going to admit to being puzzled by this report in the Washington Post from Karla Adam and William Booth:

LONDON — This is a puzzler. Coronavirus cases are plummeting in Britain. They were supposed to soar. Scientists aren’t sure why they haven’t.

The daily number of new infections recorded in the country fell for seven days in a row before a slight uptick Wednesday, when the country reported 27,734 cases. That’s still almost half of where the caseload was a week ago.

The trajectory of the virus in Britain is something the world is watching closely and anxiously, as a test of how the delta variant behaves in a society with relatively high vaccination rates. And now people are asking if this could be the first real-world evidence that the pandemic in Britain is sputtering out — after three national lockdowns and almost 130,000 deaths.

Public health experts, alongside the government, predicted that cases would be rising in Britain at this point, perhaps even exponentially.

The highly contagious delta variant of the virus, first detected in India, accounts for almost all new cases here. On July 17, the number of new day cases reached 54,674, the highest since January.

Two days later, dubbed “Freedom Day” by the press, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government ended almost all government mandates in England for mask-wearing and social distancing. Pubs are serving pints at the rail and night clubs have reopened with maskless youths packed on the dance floors. Viral defense is now a “personal choice.”

And so some of the best infectious-disease modelers on the planet warned that 100,000 new cases a day this summer could be expected.

But the trend since then has been on a sharp decline.

The reason for my confusion is not just that Britain’s COVID-19 cases are “plummeting”. That’s good news and I hope it continues. Neither is it that the Brits declared “Freedom Day”.

My confusion is that the number of daily cases in the U. S., adjusted for population, is actually considerably lower than the UK’s. And yet here, rather than rejoicing, political leaders are warning us that things are getting worse. Which they are. They’re worse than the best it has been but that’s still considerably better than it was as recently as May 2021.

I wouldn’t proclaim “Freedom Day” or say we’re rounding a corner but I see little reason for doom and gloom, either. People are still getting sick but many fewer are dying; people should get vaccinated but many continue to be. Our health care system has not been brought to its knees.

10 comments… add one
  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    I believe the answer to the confusion is that the US is on the ascending slope of this wave, while UK is on the descending slope.

    Per reference — the number of cases in the US needs to reach about 200K or so in the next couple of weeks to equal in magnitude in the UK wave. There 82K cases yesterday so it requires 2x (achievable in a couple of weeks).

    What’s interesting is in India and UK; delta was the extremely fast increase and an equally fast decrease. Quite different from previous waves.

  • That is certainly suggested by the data.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    The alarm part is probably because while UK and India provide useful data — there isn’t clear and conclusive proof the US will be like the UK where the health system didn’t get slammed vs India where it did.

    Given the exponential nature of these waves, it is risky to wait until the system is strained before reacting.

  • steve Link

    CO got it. The trend matters.

    Since we are doing puzzlers, link goes to vaccination rates buy state. Wonder what those at the bottom have in common? Those at the top?



  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Looks to me it is correlated with latitude.

  • steve Link

    With New Mexico, North Dakota, Idaho and a couple others as outliers. Clearly the obvious explanation.


  • Wonder what those at the bottom have in common? Those at the top?

    Multi-factorial. Top factors: vaccination % is positively correlated with Democrats controlling state government and % white population, negatively correlated with Republicans controlling state government, % black population, % Native American population.

  • PD Shaw Link

    As far as I know, the UK is the only country regulating by developing an R-number (from ten different estimates), but the R-number is a lagging indicator.

  • Drew Link

    Once again. It is clear that vaccination is the statistically prudent thing to do. But it should also be noted, if one desires to be honest, that 1) this is a mass experiment and we are simply hoping that no large scale, systemic complications arise down the road and 2) it simply is a fact that some people react very negatively, as in die. Forcing people to be vaccinated is Chinese authoritarianism; not America. And Biden shouldn’t be calling people stupid for making the decision he disagrees with. Something about glass houses…..

    As for delta, vaccination is clearly beneficial. Why must the already distrusted CDC pour gasoline on the fire?


  • steve Link

    1) When it comes to vaccines late complications are exceedingly rare. If there were issues we should’ve largely seen them by now. Wde could yet see some stuff that is rare and hard to sort out from background noise.

    2) It is hard to sort out yet but it looks like 3 people have died from the effects of the vaccine. This was from the blood clots and early on. We know how to treat this now. Deaths have been incredibly rare.

    3)” Forcing people to be vaccinated is Chinese authoritarianism; not America.” People who dont know medicine and dont know our history say stuff like this. Plus I guess you have to support the tribe. We require vaccinations for our children if they want to go to school. Many places require flu shots if you want to work there. There are required vaccinations for travel to some foreign countries. Forcing people to get vaccinated is our norm.

    4) Let me specifically address the military since the usual right wing idiot politicians (excuse the redundancy) are bleating out much the same about the Covid vaccine. The military has required flu vaccinations since the WW1 era. Death rates from flu for the young and healthy have generally been very low but your combat team doesnt function well if half of them have a fever of 104 and they cant walk. Of course you just wont find the few right wing politicians who actually served in the military speaking pointing this out. Supporting the tribe comes first at all costs. OR, they could look it up on the internet. The problem there is that conservatives now only trust sources like Breitbart, Fox, Townhall etc so they wont find anything there that opposes the narrative.



Leave a Comment