U.S. coronavirus cases rising but deaths from the virus aren’t

The spread of the Wuhan coronavirus in the U.S. has accelerated, apparently due mainly to the delta variant. Last month, reported new cases were averaging around 17,000 per day, according to Worldometer. Now, they are averaging around 40,000 per day.

The good news is that deaths attributed to the virus aren’t increasing. A month ago, the daily death count was said to be around 350-400 per day. Now it’s slightly lower — more like 300 per day. Both totals represent a decrease from May, when the daily death count was coming in at more than 600.

What explains the fact that cases have increased, but not deaths? Timing might be a big part of the explanation. Naturally, there is a lag between becoming infected with the virus and dying from it. The increase in cases began around three weeks ago, so maybe not enough time has passed for it to translate into a spike in deaths.

Another plausible explanation is that a portion of the new cases are among people who have been vaccinated. The vaccine is believed, with good reason, not just to decrease the likelihood of infection, but also to decrease the likelihood of experiencing serious illness or death from the virus.

Finally, it’s also possible that the delta variant isn’t as deadly as its predecessor. However, I think it’s too early to credit this theory.

It may be worth noting that the UK’s spike in reported cases, which is much sharper than ours (so far), began approximately seven weeks ago. The daily death count there has increased recently, but only to about 50 per day, so we’re talking about very small numbers (again, so far).

We should keep an eye on the number of deaths in the U.S. attributed to the coronavirus in the coming weeks. Of particular interest will be the percentage of such deaths that occur among the vaccinated. It’s likely to be very low.

If deaths are almost exclusively among those who haven’t been vaccinated, which seems to be the case so far, the appropriate governmental response would be to encourage people at any meaningful risk to get vaccinated, but to permit them, as a matter of civil liberties, to assume the risk of not doing so.

Placing restrictions on what people who are vaccinated can do would not be an appropriate response, for they will have been shown to be protected from serious illness. Neither would placing restrictions on the unvaccinated, for they will have assumed the risk associated with that status.

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