Making Information Make Sense





< Back to List of Posts

InfoMatters

Category: Information / Topics: History Information Management Statistics Trends

COVID-19 Perspectives for January 2023

by Stu Johnson

Posted: February 45, 2023

Threats of a tripledemic and ever-more-contagious variants of COVID keep the pandemic alive, yet as death and hospitalization rates continue to go down, life has taken on a post-COVID tone. Where are we as the pandemic &hellapproaches the three year mark?

Putting the COVID-19 pandemic in perspective (Number 29)


This monthly report was spawned by my interest in making sense of numbers that are often misinterpreted in the media or overwhelming in detail (some would say that these reports are too detailed, but I am trying to give you a picture of how the COVID pandemic in the United States compares with the rest of the world, to give you a sense of perspective).

Report Sections:
January-at-a-glance
The Continental View USA Compared with Other Countries
U.S. COVID Cases versus Vaccinations
COVID Deaths Compared to the Leading Causes of Death in the U.S.
Profile of Monitored Continents & Countries
Scope of This Report

January-at-a-glance

Reminder: you can click on any of the charts to enlarge it. It will open in another tab or window. Close it to return here.

GLOBAL SNAPSHOT

For most of us COVID-19 seems to be receding in the rearview mirror, but while it has slowed, the pandemic continues to spread around the world and in USA as new variants emerge to raise new threats. While the death rate has slowed dramatically both globally and in USA—and well below the mortality of the 1918 pandemic—the numbers remain staggering. COVID ranked third among the top-10 causes of death in USA for 2020 (the latest report available) and the trends in this report suggest it will remain in the top-10 for at least another year.

This is my 29th report, now focused on 34 countries that have been at the top of the COVID statistics. Approaching three full years into the pandemic, we have seen surges move around the world, with Taiwan and other Asian countries added to the list of countries monitored for this report in recent months.

NOTE: World Population recently topped 8 billion. Last month I updated population numbers using the latest "live" estimates from worldometers.info. That update produces a few minor changes in statistics based on population.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • Globally CASES reached nearly 675 million by the end of January 2023, a 2% increase over December, heading back down after bumping up to 3% last month, after being at 2% in recent months. The most recent high of 31% was in January 2022. The percentage of global population with reported cases of COVID-19 rose from 4.8.% in January 2022 to 8.4% in January 2023r. (The 1918 pandemic is generally thought to have infected 25% of the global population). As we will see, however,some countries are far higher than that.

    The blue "cone" in Figure 1 above shows a high and low projection of Global cases based on the pace of spread in the first year of COVID-19. The bottom (roughly 325 million) in January 2023 represents the trajectory of the lower pace in late summer 2020, the upper (approximately 575 million) represents a continuation of the major surge from November 2020 through January 2021. Even when the delta variant in 2021 was announced with alarm, the Global increase in cases stayed within the projection cone Then came omicron, which hit Europe hard in December 2021, and the curve shot through the projection cone in January then raced ahead at a very steep increase into March as it spread around the world, shooting upward by 200 million cases in three month before starting to slow down. 1

    It took 21 months to reach 287 million in December 2021. By the end of January 2023 cases were roughly 75 million more worldwide than the upper edge of the projection cone (and 325 million more than the lower edge of the cone). Note that the curve has been slowly closing the gap with the upper edge of the cone, from roughly 100 million in August to 75 million in January. The gap with the lower edge of the cone, however, continues to widen, from 325 million in August to 350 million in January. This is a result of the different slopes between the top and bottom edges of the cone.
  • DEATHS from COVID around the world, fortunately, continued to rise at a much slower pace than cases, putting on the brakes around March 2022—fueling questions about whether the pandemic has indeed turned into an endemic. Deaths having increased 1% each of th past nine moths, down from the most recent high of 5% in February and over 20% in monthly increases from late 2020 into 2021. (Remember, however, percentages will be higher when the base numbers are lower, but the stark difference over time is still clear). The leveling in the global curve for deaths is obvious, falling nearly 4 million short of the pace through February 2022 after which the curve bent downward most noticeably. That still leaves a death toll from COVID approaching 7.million worldwide 35 months into this pandemic.

  • BY CONTINENT. World wide, COVID cases were reported at 8.4% of global population by the end of January. Europe and North America have clearly outpaced the rest of the world, with sharp increases from the omicron variant from December 2021 through March 2022, both continuing to climb at a fast pace then the other continents, each now reporting one-third of their populations having been infected with COVID according to official reports.
  • USA continues to lead the world in the number of reported cases and death. While it leads the world in the number of COVID tests its vaccination rate remains lackluster in comparison to other countries (which keeps the death rate higher than it could be).
    • While the 104.2 million CASES represents 31.1% of its own population—up from 30.6% in December—the USA proportion of world cases dropped from 20.1% in January to 15.4% in December and January. At the same time, surges in Europe and Asia pushed cases in France to 60.3% and South Korea to 58.8% of their populations by January. Europe, with about 9% of world population, accounts for 36.3% of reported COVID cases in the world.

      The red projection cone surrounding USA cases in Figure 1, based on the same timeline as the global cone described above, stretched from 55 to 160 million cases by January, with the curve for cases staying well within those bounds. Cases in USA flattened significantly from January through July 2021 after vaccinations became available, Then, it rose slightly through November 2021 with a combination of delta and vaccine resistance. Omicron produced a serious upward bend in January 2022, then slowed in February, staying in the middle of the projection cone since then.

      The upward bend for USA cases since December 2021 is clearly visible in Figure 1, but even more pronounced in Figure 10 below, which "zooms in" on USA. Figure 11 provides a detailed view of USA vaccination.

      Figure 1 also shows how much lower cases in USA would be—approaching 32-million by now, instead of 104 million—if they were proportional to the global population. It would also mean about 374 thousand deaths instead of more than 1.1 million. NOTE: These numbers have shifted upward since my previous reports because the update in population numbers made for this report moves USA from 4.2% of global population based on UN numbers for 2020 to 4.7%, the "live: estimate by worldometers.info in early January 2023 at the time of this writing.

    • USA DEATHS continue to represent a proportion of world COVID deaths far in excess of its 4.7% share of world population. (China and India represent roughly one-third of world population between them). USA deaths declined from 20.9% of the world total in September 2020 to 14.5% at the end of August 2021, before inching up again, reaching 16.8% in January (part of that increase could be due to the update in population numbers made for last month's report).

      Most of us have seen the number of people who self-quarantine after testing positive with a home-based text, making the actual number of cases far higher than officially reported. The widening gap between cases and deaths leads to the situation that most of America is acting as if we're already in a post-COVID status. Even in this report and in much media reporting the emphasis is on cumulative numbers but as I mentioned above and will detail below, deaths from COVID on an annual basis have been and will continue to be in the top-10 causes of death is USA for the foreseeable future, well above season flu and pneumonia (53 thousand in 2020).


    • HOSPITALIZATIONS for COVID in USA were reported at 25,787 in January, down 34% from December, and down considerably from the high of 133 thousand in January 2022 when hospitalizations related to omicron peaked. While well off the peak, increases in hospitalization in December raised concerns among public health officials, including the Chicago area where I live. Even though the numbers are back down in January, officials remain cautious.

  • THE OMICRON VARIANT emerged at the end of November 2021 and hit Europe hard, bringing back lockdowns and severe restrictions in several countries. In January 2022 the surge became turbo-charged and spread to North America and to a lesser but noticeable extent to South America and Asia. In April, the increase in Asia continued, while North America had slowed considerably.

    While deaths can follow well behind increases in cases, it appears that both delta and omicron have had minimal impact on the pace of COVID deaths as mortality rates (deaths as a proportion of cases) continue to fall. This also appears to be true of BA-2 and its string of sub-variants, which are causing surges in cases in Asia (and perhaps the slight uptick in USA cases), without a rise in the curve for deaths. While new patterns could emerge, omicron has had the most impact of the three major variant waves so far. While XXB.1.5 appears on the charts tis month, it has produced no significant movement in the statistics so far.

  • TESTING. USA leads in the number of tests, with nearly 1.2 billion tests reported, followed by India, UK, Russia and France. Because home tests have been available for a while (and do not contribute to statistics) and reported resting trends have not changed for several months, the section on Tests is not longer meaningful, so that section of the repost has been scaled back in size this month. .

  • VACCINATIONS. 69% of the world's population have been reported as receiving at least one dose of vaccine by the end of January, the same as December, which was up 1% after being stuck at 68% for four months (See figures 5A, 5B, 5C, 9A, 9B and 11).The vaccination rate by continent has essentially plateaued in the past nine months, as if they have reached a saturation point, even for countries like USA which could keep going until reaching countries with higher vaccination levels.

    South America
    leads the world in vaccination, with Chile reporting 90% fully vaccinated. Ironically, Chile suffered a major surge of cases and deaths in March that continued through May, which may be explained in part by differences in efficacy of available vaccines. USA has plateaued, with 69% fully vaccinated and another 12% partially vaccinated by the end of January, increasing only 18 million since January 2022y, a rate that is slower than the growth of cases (up 28 million in that time).

  • COUNTRIES TO WATCH. Of the top ten countries by population, Pakistan, Nigeria and Singapore have not reached the threshold (the top-20 in cumulative number cases or deaths) I have used for inclusion in my list of monitored countries.

    The weekly comparison report on worldometers.info gives a sense of hot spots to watch—countries not among the 34 already monitored for this report. Based on weekly activity, this includes Austria, Switzerland, Serbia, Hong Kong and Costa Rica, all in the top 20 of new cases and/or deaths in the first week of February as I write this report. While some of these have populations too small to make much of an impact on this report, they generally confirm the continued spread of COVID in Europe, Asia and perhaps a bit of concern for parts of South American. . Where the Countries to Watch list was donated by east Asia several months ago, it has once again become more geographically diverse.

back to top

THE CONTINENTAL VIEW

The most obvious trend since mid-2022 ha been the rise in proportion of COVID cases in Asia and Europe while the pace of increase in deaths has slowed significantly and the portion of deaths among continents has remained more stable. Because global population was recently estimated to pass the 8 billion mark, I updated the population numbers in the last report from those reported by the UN for 2020 to "live" estimates from worldometers.info. Adjustments were minor, with most countries growing and a few (like Romania in the list of monitored countries) shrinking. At the global level, Asia went down by two tenths of a percent, Europe up by two tenths and the other three continents kept the same proportion.

While COVID-19 has been classified as a global pandemic, it is not distributed evenly around the world.

COVID cases now represent 8.4% of world population. (By the end of the 1918 pandemic, it is generally reported to be about 25%, fully one-quarter of the population). Today, where Asia and Africa combined represent about three-quarters (77.0%) of the world's 8.0 billion people, Europe, South America and North America still account for 2 out of 3 COVID cases (65.9% - Figure 3A) and three-quarters of COVID deaths (75.53% - Figure 4A).

In past report, I looked at the difference between the beginning of the chart in November 2020 and the current month, but looking at the overall trends, it is more useful to consider the emergence of the omicron variant in November 2021 as a key reference point. In that time, Europe went up fairly steadily by 10.2%. Asia went down than back up again, ending very close to its starting point. Both South and North America went down more than 4%. Africa is down 1.8% since omicron emerged, but it remains an insignificant proportion of world cases.

While Africa shows only the slightest deviation from its low and slow growth in Cases, the impact of omicron is very visible for the other continents, with the pace slowing for each following one to three months of rapid growth.

Europe shows the greatest impact in number of cases since omicron appeared in late November 2021. After being virtually tied with Asia in December, Europe has seen its COVID cases rise in proportion by 182% since then, while Asia increased by 145%. Both have slowed since March, but continue to climb at a pace faster than the other continents. It appears that Asia is growing faster in cases than Europe, but it's too early to project that their paths will cross.

North America increased significantly in January, then slowed below the pace of Europe and Asia..(Had the January rise continued, it would have caught up with Asia in number of cases by March or April). South America saw the lowest post-omicron increase. The Americas were obviously hit by omicron, but to a lesser level and shorter time span than Europe and Asia, making their curves bend down sooner and deeper.

The raw numbers of Fig. 3B can be deceptive. Fig. 3C gives a more realistic picture of the impact by translating raw case numbers to percentage of population. (By contrast, Figure 3A is distribution of global cases). The shape of the curves is similar to those for raw numbers, but the order and spacing paints a different picture.

The impact of omicron is clearly evident, with the Global share of COVID cases increasing from 3.6% in December 2021 to 6.2% in March, then growing at a slower pact to 8.6% by the end of January. North America has led the continents in cases as proportion of population, but Europe saw a far more significant increase from omicron, nearly matching North America by April. In October and November, Europe continued at the same pace while North America slowed, bringing the two to a near-tie from November through January, with Europe moving ahead by a barely visible 0.2%.

South America stays above the Global level, but at a slower rate. Asia and Africa remain below the Global level, Asia increasing noticeably since omicron became evident, but at a slower rate than the Global level. Africa remains far below the Global level and shows only the slightest increase due to omicron.

The proportion of deaths between continents shows less extreme change than that for cases. Again, as in the previous chart, it now makes sense to look at the emergence of omicron as the key reference point.

Since omicron, Europe has increased in proportion of deaths by 2.7%, North America is up 0.8%,while Africa is down 0.5%, Asia is down 1.0% and South America is down 2.7%. Altogether, that is far more stable than the changes in cases following omicron seen in Figure 3A above.

The most notable characteristic of deaths is the growing detachment from cases. Unlike the first year of the pandemic, when deaths went up dramatically with surges in cases, the death rate (compare it with cases in Figure 1) has slowed significantly even as cases continue to climb, It is important to remember, also, that reports of deaths will be much closer to reality than cases as it is likely that the number of cases detected by home testing and self-quarantining is far higher than official reports of case numbers.

Deaths through January 2023 shows that while the trajectory lags behind cases and has progressed at a steadier rate, it does reflect the overall changes in Cases by continent. Having crossed the 1 million mark in mid-2021, Europe crossed the 2 million mark in deaths in January.

While the omicron surge in Europe went "through the roof," what is interesting here is that the death rate immediately went up as omicron hit, then turned back down and steadily slowed into 2022. The relative steadiness in the path of each curve shows that the death rate has remained much more constant over time than cases, which tend to surge in varying degrees with each new variant. And, as we'll see later, mortality rates (deaths as a proportion of cases) continue to fall.

Vaccinations

Growth in vaccinations has been at a virtual standstill for months. As Fig. 5A shows, two thirds of the global population (69%) has been reported with at least one dose of vaccine, and six in ten (63%) are fully vaccinated, an increase of only 2% in fully vaccinated since August. That is still well below what is commonly thought of for "herd immunity," which is closer to 94% of the population being immune (most through vaccination), but is remarkable nonetheless given the enormity of the effort represented in little over a year since vaccines became available.

South America, which was slow to get into testing and vaccination, soared ahead of the other continents toward the end of 2020, then took the lead in total vaccine doses in August 2022, remaining well ahead of the other continents with 77% fully vaccinated and 86% total. Asia comes next with partial and fully vaccinated ahead of North America. While Europe is fourth in total doses, it has pulled ahead of North America in fully vaccinated. Africa remains far behind, with only one-third of the population (34%) receiving at least one dose and just over a quarter (28%) fully vaccinated.


While South America got into vaccinations later and slower than North America and Europe, Figure 5B shows how it steadily pushed its way to the top of total vaccination doses administered by August 2021, expanding its lead through early 2022 before a global slowdown in the proportion of total vaccine doses. Europe had leveled off more noticeably than Asia and the Americas, which continued very slow growth and now split the deference between Europe and South American. Africa has remained on a steady upward slope, though it remains far below global levels.

back to top

COMPARISON OF USA WITH OTHER COUNTRIES

Cases

Raw numbers are virtually meaningless without relating them to the size of a given country, so looking at cases as a proportion of population helps get a sense of the relative impact. The countries with the greatest proportion of COVID cases illustrates how they amplify the world trend for cases (bottom line in Figure 6A),

The same five countries have been at the top of cases by proportion of population for 9 months, in the same order for the past 4 months.. All six, including USA (and 14 of the 34 monitored countries) have surpassed the 25% level of global infection in 1918. The significant difference remains the much lower mortality rate than a century ago. France and South Korea are beyond 50% and show no sign of slowing down. Netherlands is still teasing the 50% level, but, since March has slowed to a place closer to the Global increase. USA had been growing at a rate slightly ahead of the Global pace, but appears about even with the global pace the past four months, and below those of Germany and Australia.

Another way to look at population proportion is the measure "1 in." The global figure of 8.6% means that 1 in 12 people in the world have been reported with COVID-19 since it began (and that only by official record keeping, not including any unreported and likely asymptomatic cases). Because of rounding to a whole number, all five of the top countries, plus USA, are 1 in 2.

All five countries (of the 34 monitored) in the bottom-5 by proportion of population have been there, in this order, since December 2021.

At the scale of this chart, the rise in Global case proportion is magnified compared to the previous chart, so it clearly shows the acceleration of cases produced by omicron around the world since November 2021. Al five countries show a rapid upturn followed by a leveling off (with varying impact from BA-2 and its sub-variants as this point).

These countries represent a considerable spread in size, from India, the second largest country, to Ecuador, ranked number 67 of the 215 countries tracked by worldometers. For Ecuador, its 5.7% of population means that 1 in 17 have been reported as having had the COVID virus; for India it is 1 in 31, and for Indonesia 1 in 41 (only Indonesia changed since last month)..

Because the size of countries makes the use of raw case numbers illusory, another measure I find helpful is the rate of change from month to month (Figure 6C). The focus of the selection is on recent changes, but the chart covers 12 months.. For this chart, countries are selected based on the change over two-months (end of November to the end of January). For the chart this month Brazil replaces Australia (which replaced Germany last month).
.
The overall trend (red line, reflecting global level) had been climbing, up to a 31% change in January 2022, reflecting the large impact of the omicron variant. Since then it dropped to a monthly change of 4% in May and June, then up to 5% for July and August before wobbling a bit on its way to 2% in January.

USA has a big spike in January 2022 from omicron, then settled close to or below the global rate since then. China showed large surges in March and April, then again from November through January. Japan has been above the global rate mots months, with significant spikes in March, April, and August, along with elevated cases from November through January. South Korea spiked in April, with smaller surges from July through January where it has been above the global rate each. It is notable that all three are in east Asia, where COVID has shifted in recent months, as seen in the chart below (though 5th place has shifted from Europe to Oceania to South America in past three month).

Month Top-5 for Increase in Cases Over 2 Months Note
May 2021 India Argentina Turkey Iran Columbia Asia surging
June 2021 India Argentina Colombia Bolivia Chile South America surging
July 2021 Colombia Iran Argentina UK Bolivia Delta appears
August 2021 Iran UK Mexico Turkey Russia Delta rising
September 2021 Iran UK Mexico Turkey USA Delta fading
October 2021 Philippines UK Ukraine Turkey Russia Mixed
November 2021 Belgium Ukraine Germany UK Netherlands Omicron appears
December 2021 Germany Belgium Netherlands UK France Omicron intensifies
January 2022 France Italy Spain Belgium Canada Omicron intensifies
February 2022 France Italy Germany Netherlands Spain Omicron intensifies
March 2022 Germany Netherlands Chile Russia Malaysia Omicron spreads
April 2022 Germany Japan Malaysia Italy Netherlands Back to Europe, Asia
May 2022 South Korea Japan Germany Italy France BA-2 variants spread
June 2022 Australia Japan Germany Italy Chile Disbursed
July 2022 Japan Australia Italy South Korea Chile Disbursed
August 2022 Japan South Korea Australia Bolivia Italy Disbursed
September 2022 Japan South Korea Australia Italy Germany Europe surging
October 2022 Japan Germany South Korea Russia Italy Back to Europe, Asia
November 2022 Taiwan China Japan South Korea Germany Asia dominant
December 2022 China Japan Taiwan South Korea Australia Solidly East
January 2023 China Japan Taiwan South Korea Brazil Asia dominant
Color Legend: Continent assignment as defined by United Nations and used by worldometers.info
  Asia Africa Europe S America N America Oceania
Note that while Oceania is not included in our Continental analysis because of its minuscule population compared
to other continents, it is included here because of the presence of Australia in the list of monitored countries.

Deaths

Because deaths as a percentage of population is such a small number, the "Deaths-per-Million" metric shown in Figure 7A provides a comparable measure. It is different than mortality rate, which is a measure bases on deaths as a proportion of cases.

The same five countries have been in the top-5 since June, with Chile and Brazil trading places this month by a very small margin.

The Global curve for deaths-per-million shows a very steady growth, despite surges, vaccinations and variants that had a much more obvious influence on cases. In fact, it has been slowing ever so slightly (put a straightedge on the global line and you will see that it is not straight, but gently curving down over time).

Given lower death rates in European and Asian countries that experienced much higher surges in cases, it is striking that USA, whose case rate has been much more moderate, finds itself in the company of countries with the highest death rates as measured by deaths-per-million-population. That situation should lead to serious consideration of what could have been done better, especially as political and ideological division drove the split between over-zealous use of lockdowns in the name of Science and the ethos of a "don't tread on me" individualism, a division that soured the often heroic efforts of the health care system.

The five lowest of monitored countries by deaths-per-million are all Asian and all five have appeared in this chart since October.

While the othe four countries have slowed at or slightly below the gloabel pace, Japan has been climbing steadily since it joined the list of monitored countries in February 2022.

The Global rate of increase in deaths-per-million was very steady through March 2022 when it began a noticeable slowdown, even as BA-2 and its sub-variants began to emerge, increasing the widening gap between cases and deaths—the bit of good news in this pandemic.

As with the comparable chart for Rate of Change for Cases (Figure 6C), countries for Rate of Change for Deaths (Figure 7C) are selected based on the change over two-months (end of November to end of January) in reported COVID deaths. The focus of the selection is on recent changes, but the chart goes back 12 months for perspective.

The same five countries have appeared in this chart since November, with some shifting in order.

The global rate of change by month (red trend line) has dropped from 4% in January 2022 to 1% from September though January.

Japan
and Australia have risen in monthly change for three months, while Taiwan and South Korea have gone down. Candida has not seen much change and USA has been flat at 1% per month since August.

The chart below shows the shift toward east Asia and Australia (Oceania) in recent months.

Month Top-5 for Increase in Deaths Over 2 Months Note
May 2021 India Turkey Brazil Colombia Argentina Tilt toward S America
June 2021 Peru India Argentina Colombia Bolivia South America surging
July 2021 Peru Ecuador Colombia Argentina Russia South America surging
August  2021 Ecuador Russia Iran Argentina Colombia South America fading
September 2021 Indonesia Iran Russia Turkey Malaysia Asia surging
October 2021 Philippines Russia Ukraine Turkey Iran Asia surging
November 2021 Ukraine Russia Philippines Turkey Malaysia Omicron beginning
December 2021 Ukraine Russia Poland Romania Philippines Omicron growing
January 2022 Poland Russia Ukraine Germany Turkey Omicron surging
February 2022 Canada USA Poland Turkey Russia Omicron surging
March 2022 Chile Canada Turkey Russia USA Omicron spreads

April 2022

Chile Japan Germany UK Russia Europe returns

May 2022

South Korea Chile Japan UK Germany Asia rising with BA-2

June 2022

Australia South Korea Canada Japan Germany Shifting East

July 2022

Australia Japan South Korea Canada Spain Solidifying East

August 2022

Australia Japan South Korea Canada Spain Solidifying East

September 2022

Japan Australia South Korea Canada Germany Solidifying East

October 2022

Japan Australia South Korea Canada Germany Solidifying East

November 2022

Taiwan Japan South Korea Canada Australia East dominant

December 2022

Japan Taiwan South Korea Australia Canada East dominant

January 2023

Japan Australia Taiwan South Korea Canada East dominant
Color Legend: Continent assignment as defined by United Nations and used by worldometers.info
  Asia Africa Europe S America N America Oceania
Note that while Oceania is not included in our Continental analysis because of its minuscule population compared
to other continents, it is included here because of the presence of Australia in the list of monitored countries.

back to top

Mortality Rate

Mortality Rates (percentage of deaths against reported cases) have generally been declining. There are many factors, which I have detailed in previous reports, but the most obvious is th gap between cases and deaths. For most of the last year, following the initial surges related to the omicron variant, cases have continued to climb while the death rate has nearly flattened in comparison. The wider the gap, the lower the morality. In that respect, as long as deaths can be held down, increases in cases should not be as alarming as they are sometimes made out to be.

That is why, I believe, most people feel COVID has become endemic—it no longer seems to be the imminent threat it was in 2020 and 2021, and is more like seasonal flu and the common cold. Many public health officials will be aghast at that kind of statement, but at least where I live in the Chicago area—and I think in much of USA—that is how most people see it. We cannot, however, assume that lower death rates mean they are no longer consequential. As I have pointed out elsewhere in this report, deaths in USA ranked third among the leading causes of death in 2020 and even though the rate has slowed, COVID will remain in the top-10 causes of death for at least another year, if not longer.

The Global mortality rate had dropped from 2.6% in October 2020 to 1.0% by October 2022. The five countries with the highest (worst) mortality rates have appeared since December 2021, with South Africa and Indonesia trading places frequency in that time. All five showed some response to omicron, with cases rising faster than deaths, which drove the mortality rate down.

Since these represent the best mortality rates, where low is good, the "rank" order is actually in reverse.

The same five countries have been on this chart since September. All five are well below the global rate of 1.0$ and piling on top of each other at 0.3, 0.2 and 0.1%.

USA was stuck at 1.2% for six months before dropping to 1.1% in July, where it has been for seven month. After following the global rate for six months, USA stayed where it was, stuck at 1.1%, when the global rate went down to 1% four months ago. Relatively speaking, that is a good mortality rate, yet one-third of the monitored countries, including Belgium, Germany and Netherlands have rates below 1.0% for nine months or more, largely because huge omicron-related surges were not matched with a similar increase in deaths. USA should have been able to keep deaths much lower since the surges here were well below those experienced in Europe and parts of Asia. (It is ironic that had USA experienced higher case surges its mortality rate would also have dropped, but that would only happen if hospitalizations and deaths were kept down).

Even so, without a relatively low mortality rate, the USA death rate would be far higher. Compared to the mortality rate during the 1918 pandemic, it could be ten times worse than it is. At its current mortality rate of 1.1%,(now above the global level) USA has had more than 1.1 million deaths (out of 104 million cases) by the end of January, As pointed out in Figure 1, however, if USA had cases closer to its proportion of world population, we would be looking at 374-thousand deaths out of 32-million cases. The response of the health care system and availability of vaccines are part of keeping mortality down, but the high case rate points to the conflicts already mentioned between opposing sides of the approach to COVID (extreme lockdowns in the name of science versus extreme individualism in the name of freedom). .

How real is the threat of death from COVID?
That's where successful mitigation comes in. Worldwide, by the end of January, 1 in 12 people have been reported as having contracted COVID and 1 in 1,184 people have died. In USA, while the mortality rate is low, because the number of cases is so high, 1 in 296 have died through January 2022—between Chile (1 in 302) and Romania (1 in 282). Japan and Australia, recent additions because of surging cases,are at 1 death in 1,894 and 1,400 respectively (COVID in both countries, however, has increased to the point that both were added to my list of monitored countries and those numbers, while still in sharp contrast with USA, are moving in the wrong direction). .A closer comparison would be neighboring but sparsely populated Canada, at 1 in 762, or Mexico, at 1 in 396, with most European countries between those two.

back to top

Tests

The section on testing has been reduced in size because of the availability of home testing is widespread and not tracked in the statistics. In addition, the statistics that are reported have shown no meaningful change for the past five or six months.

The point of inequality between countries still exists, however, so I will continue to update the following list, which was originally based on the lowest five for testing, but now includes other pairs of similar-sized countries among the 34 I monitor. Remember, however, that the statistics here refer only to officially reported testing and do not include home testing. (Population numbers updated this month, based on "live" estimate from worldometers.info.)

  • Mexico: 19.4M tests for 131.8M population, compared to Japan: 92.6M tests for 125.6M population (4.8X the tests)
  • Philippines: 34.4M tests for 112.5M population, compared to Vietnam: 85.8M tests for 99.0M population (2.5X)
  • Iran: 55.0M tests for 86.0M population, compared to Turkey: 162.7M tests for 85.6M population (3.0X)
  • South Africa: 26.5M tests for 60.8M population, compared to Italy: 268.1M tests for 60.3M population (10.1X)
  • Poland: 38.0M tests for 37.7M population, compared to Canada: 66.3M tests for 38.4M population (1.7X)
  • Peru: 37.5M tests for 33.7M population, compared to Malaysia: 67.7M tests for 33.2M population (1.8X)
  • Ecuador: 3.1M tests for 18.2M population, compared to Netherlands: 26.0M tests for 17.2M population (8.4X)
  • Bolivia: 2.7M tests for 12.0M population, compared to Belgium: 36.6M tests for 11.7M population (13.5X)

Of the east Asian countries I monitor—most relatively recent additions because of surging cases—only Malaysia and Taiwan report enough tests to cover their entire population. Otherwise, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Philippines are all at testing levels that would cover roughly a third of their populations. Yet, they remain among the monitored countries with the lowest mortality rates. While they may not appear high in reported testing, they are all above global rates for fully vaccinated (from 87% for Vietnam and Taiwan, 86% for South Korea, to 83% for Japan).

back to top

Vaccinations

Figure 9A compares USA with the top-5 and bottom-5 of monitored countries by total doses administered. As you can see USA leans toward the upper countries, but like most countries, its total vaccination rate showed virtually no increase in January*, and that remains below the full vaccination rate for all of the top-5. On the other hand, USA remains well ahead of the bottom five of the 34 monitored countries for both total doses and fully vaccinated.

As pointed out in other parts of this analysis, Figure 9A does not tell the whole story. It's a bit of an apples and oranges comparison, with one major factor being the population of each country.

*Numbers for this chart come from ourworldindata.org. The CDC numbers, used in Figure 11, show similar results, with an increase of less than 1% per month in those fully vaccinated over the past twelve months, to a total of 69.2% of USA population.

Taking population into account paints a somewhat different picture for USA compared to other monitored countries. In Figure 9B you see the five most populous countries on the left and the five smallest (of those monitored for this report) on the right.

China and Brazil are ahead of USA, both in total vaccinations, USA total is tied with Brazil's full vaccination rate. USA is ahead of India and Indonesia in both total doses and full vaccination, though the margin for full vaccination is much closer. . .

On the side of the smallest countries, Ecuador is ahead of India, USA and Indonesia. The disparity in earlier months is decreasing as the larger countries (except for USA) continue to slowly improve their vaccination rates. (Chile, which has been in the smallest five and boasted the highest vaccination rate among the monitored countries, has been replaced by Romania with updates to population numbers this month).

In USA and perhaps in other large countries, individual regions, provinces or states may be doing as well as some smaller countries, while the entire country lags behind the smaller ones.

back to top

VACCINATIONS IN USA

 

With remarkable speed (it usually takes years to develop vaccines), two COVID vaccines were granted emergency approval for use in USA starting in January 2021—the one by Pfizer requires super-cold storage, which limits its deployment. The other, by Moderna, requires cold storage similar to other vaccines. Both of these require two doses, which means that vaccine dosages available must be divided in two to determine the number of people covered. By March 2021 Johnson & Johnson had been granted approval for a single-dose vaccine, though that approval has since been rescinded because of a rare but significant heart-related side effect. The numbers in Figure 11 represent the status of vaccination at the end of August as reported by CDC) which is very close to ourworldindata.org data used in earlier vaccination charts). .

A person is considered "fully vaccinated" two weeks after the final vaccine dose; roughly five to six weeks from the first dose for Pfizer and Moderna. A booster dose for both vaccines became available in October 2021 and a second booster updated for the latest variants became available late in 2022 (in Fig. 10 the curve for booster shots dropped in October because CDC switched its tracking from the first to the second available booster).

Figure 10 clearly shows that vaccinations began at a rapid pace. The red line for full vaccinations is lower than doses administered because if takes two does to be fully immunized. So, the first few months were on track, but then the curve for fully vaccinated began to flatten and has risen by 1% or less each month since for the past year (and not much better than that as the rate slowed between March and December 2021. While the difference is small, the rate of increase for cases continues to climb at a slightly higher rate than those who are fully vaccinated.

On the positive side, doses administered continues to climb at a higher rate than cases, but that only means that more people are getting only a single dose and not going on to become fully vaccinated and then boosted. As we saw earlier, this makes USA's vaccination performance unimpressive compared to other countries around the world. Sadly, it may account for a death rate far higher than i could have been.

back to top

CAUSES OF DEATH IN USA

In the first year of the pandemic media attention was focused on numeric benchmarks - causes of death, wars, the 1918 pandemic. When the CDC updated its leading causes of death list for 2000, COVID came in at third place, at 345 thousand deaths (in 10 months), behind heart disease (691K) and cancer (599K). When the table is updated again for 2021, it will show COVID at around 450 thousand for the full year. But by 2022, following the omicron variant, the number will drop to about 270 thousand, still possibly staying in third place. In the 10 months following March 2022, when the curve for deaths took slowed down very noticeably, the number of deaths has dropped to 125 thousand. At the same time, cases in USA continue to rise, but until the death rate slows even more, mortality is likely to stay stuck around its current 1.1%. . . . .

The latest "Ensemble Forecast" from CDC suggests that by our next report we should see:

...the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths will likely decrease over the next 4 weeks, with 1,000 to 5,100 new deaths likely reported in the week ending March 4, 2023. The national ensemble predicts that a total of 1,121,000 to 1,127,000 COVID-19 deaths will be reported by this date.....

Note: As I've referenced in the notes for several charts, data from worldometers.info tends to be ahead of CDC and Johns Hopkins by about 3%, because of reporting methodology and timing. I use it as a primary source because its main table is very easy to sort and provides the relevant data for these reports. Such differences are also found in the vaccine data from ourworldindata. Over time, however, trends track with reasonable consistency between sources.

Perspective

The 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic is estimated to have struck 500 million people, 26.3% of the world population of 1.9-billion at that time. By contrast, we're now at 7.7% of the global population. Deaths a century ago have been widely estimated at between 50- and 100-million worldwide, putting the global mortality rate somewhere between 10 and 20-percent. It has been estimated that 675,000 died in the U.S.

IF COVID-19 hit at the same rate as 1918,
we would see about 2-billion cases worldwide by the time COVID-19 is over, with the global population now at 8.0-billion—four times what it was in 1918. There would be 200- to 400-million deaths. USA is estimated to have had 27-million cases (one-quarter of the population of 108-million) and 675,000 deaths. Today, with a population of 333-million (a three-fold increase from 1918) this would mean more than 80-million cases, and 2- to 4-million deaths. We have now reached closer to one-third of the population with reported COVID infections, at 104 million; fortunately, deaths remain half that projection, at just over 1.1 million.

At the present rate of confirmed cases and mortality while the total number of global cases has already surpassed 500 million—comparable to 1918 in raw numbers—that would be one-quarter of 1918 when taking population growth into account . .. and with the pandemic now set to outlast the Spanish Flu, which went on in three waves over a two year period. (We entered a third year in March 2022). We broke the global 500-million case benchmark in April 2022, propelled by delta and omicron surges since July 2021.

While we are not engaged in a world war as was the case in 1918, today we are fighting global fatigue and information overload. While many public officials are duly concerned, their pronouncements reach the level of "overstated threats" (a term I heard this week from people concerned about the growing tensions between China and USA) that only add to the fatigue and the growing distrust of our bedrock institutions (see my report on Confidence in American Institutions, an analysis of Gallup Poll data spanning nearly five decades).

back to top

Maintaining Perspective

In the tendency to turn everything into a binary right-wrong or agree-disagree with science or government, we ignore the need to recognize the nature of science and the fact that we are dealing with very complicated issues. So, in addition to recommending excellent sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is also wise to consider multiple qualified sources.

While there has been much focus placed on trusting "the science," it is important to recognize that science itself changes over time based on research and available data. In the highly volatile political atmosphere we find ourselves in (not just in USA, but around the world), there is a danger of not allowing the experts to change their views as their own understanding expands, or of trying to silence voices of experts whose views are out of sync with "the science" as reported by the majority of media outlets.

In an earlier report, I mentioned the Greater Barrington Declaration, currently signed by more than 63-thousand medical & public health scientists and medical practitioners (and 869-thousand "concerned citizens"), which states "As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection."

For a personal perspective from a scholar and practitioner who espouses an approach similar to the Focused Protection of the Greater Harrington Declaration, see comments by Scott W. Atlas, Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, in an article "Science, Politics, and COVID: Will Truth Prevail?"

Several months ago on SeniorLifestyle I posted an article by Mallory Pickett of The New Yorker, "Sweden's Pandemic Experiment," which provides a fair evaluation of the very loose protocols adopted by Sweden, essentially a variation of the "Focused Protection" approach. The "jury is still out" on this one, so judge for yourself whether Sweden hit the mark any better than the area in which you live. It does make the case that given the overall approach to mitigation, surging cases do not necessarily lead to surging hospitalization and death, but actually result in lower mortality rates.

FROM PANDEMIC TO ENDEMIC: In November 2021 I posted on SeniorLifestyle an article by Sarah Zhang from The Atlantic, "America Has Lost the Plot on COVID." In it, she suggests that America (and the world) is headed not toward the eradication of COVID-19, but its transformation from pandemic to endemic, joining the seasonal flu as something we will deal with for some time. Getting there, she contends, is more a matter of mixed policy strategies than "following the science," but coming to grips with its inevitability could help lead to more effective strategies.

Zhang mentions Denmark as a counterpoint to what is happening in America, saying

One country that has excelled at vaccinating its elderly population is Denmark. Ninety-five percent of those over 50 have taken a COVID-19 vaccine, on top of a 90 percent overall vaccination rate in those eligible. (Children under 12 are still not eligible.) On September 10, Denmark lifted all restrictions. No face masks. No restrictions on bars or nightclubs. Life feels completely back to normal, says Lone Simonsen, an epidemiologist at Roskilde University, who was among the scientists advising the Danish government. In deciding when the country would be ready to reopen, she told me, “I was looking at, simply, vaccination coverage in people over 50.” COVID-19 cases in Denmark have since risenunder CDC mask guidelines, the country would even qualify as an area of “high” transmission where vaccinated people should still mask indoors. But hospitalizations are at a fraction of their January peak, relatively few people are in intensive care, and deaths in particular have remained low.

Crucially, Simonsen said, decisions about COVID measures are made on a short-term basis. If the situation changes, these restrictions can come back—and indeed, the health minister is now talking about that possibility. Simonsen continues to scrutinize new hospitalizations everyday. Depending on how the country’s transition to endemicity goes, it could be a model for the rest of the world.

Both Sweden and Denmark, illustrate a seeming irony, pairing super high case rates with extremely low mortality rates. Does this prove the point of Zhang's observation about focusing on the prevention of hospitalization? Or the Greater Barrington Declaration's "focused protection."?

Also see "How you'll know when Covid-19 has gone from from 'pandemic' to 'endemic'" by Sigal Samuel, in an October 2022 article on Vox.

Resonating with the growing discussion over the impacts of severe lockdowns, columnist Debra J. Saunders wrote about the impact of school closures and the turnabout in thinking by some politicians who had been its strongest advocates. Her column was titled "Worse Than a Crime, a Mistake." Perhaps it's a bit of 20-20 hindsight, but it is another perspective on the "Focused Protection" idea that may help us better shape responses to future pandemics or similar widespread crises.

How we evaluate the many approaches used to deal with COVID will determine how we prepare for and approach the next global event—including the eventual transition from pandemic to endemic.

My purpose in mentioning these sources is to recognize that there are multiple, sometimes conflicting, sometimes dissenting, voices that should be part of the conversation. The purpose of these monthly reports remains first and foremost to present the numbers about COVID-19 in a manner that helps you understand how the pandemic is progressing and how the U.S. compares to the world—and how to gain more perspective than might be gathered from the news alone.

back to top

Profile of Monitored Continents & Countries

(Data from worldometers.info). - Updated January 2023 after world population announced to reach 8 billion
While there was upward movement in population, density and median age remained the same at continental levels.

 Rank   Country   Population  Share of
 World Population 
Density
 People per 
 square km 
Urban
 Population 
 Median 
Age
   WORLD 8.0B 100% -- -- --
Top 10 Countries by Population, plus Five Major Continents
See lists of countries by continent
-  ASIA 4.64B 59.3% 150  51 countries  32
1  China 1.45B 18.4% 153 61% 38
2  India 1.41B 17.7% 454 35% 28
-  AFRICA 1.34B 17.1% 45  59 countries  20
-  EUROPE 747.6M 9.6% 34  44 countries  43
-  S AMERICA 654.0M 8.4% 32  50 countries  31
-  N AMERICA 369.9M 4.7% 29  5 countries  39
3  USA 335.9M 4.3% 36 83% 38
4  Indonesia** 281.0M 3.5% 151 56% 30
5  Pakistan* 232.2M 2.8% 287 35% 23
6  Brazil 216.4M 2.7% 25 88% 33
7  Nigeria* 219.8M 2.6% 226 52% 18
8  Bangladesh* 168.9M 2.1% 1,265 39% 28
9  Russia 146.1M 1.9% 9 74% 40
10  Mexico 132.4M 1.7% 66 84% 29
*these countries do not appear in the details because they have not yet reached a high enough threshold to be included
**Indonesia was added to the monitored list in July 2021


Other Countries included in Analysis
most have been in top 20 of cases or deaths
Rank is based on 2020 UN statistics, Population is "live" estimate in January 2023, so you can see a few instances where population shifts will impact ranking slightly
 Rank   Country   Population  Share of
 World Population 
Density
 People per 
 square km 
Urban
 Population 
 Median 
Age
11  Japan (5) 125.5M 1.6% 75 92% 48
13  Philippines (2) 113.3M 1.4% 368 47% 26
15 Vietnam (6) 97.3M 1.3% 314 38% 32
17  Turkey 86.7M 1.1% 110 76% 32
18  Iran 86.8M 1.1% 52 76% 32
19  Germany 84.5M 1.1% 240 76% 46
21  United Kingdom 68.8M 0.9% 281 83% 40
22  France 65.6M 0.8% 119 82% 42
23  Italy 60.3M 0.8% 206 69% 47
25  South Africa (1) 61.2M 0.8% 94 67% 28
28  South Korea (6) 51.4M 0.7% 527 82% 44
29  Colombia 52.3M 0.7% 46 80% 31
30  Spain 46.8M 0.6% 94 80% 45
32  Argentina 46.3M 0.6% 17 93% 32
35 Ukraine (1) 43.1M 0.6% 75 69% 41
39  Poland (1) 37.8M 0.5% 124 60% 42
39  Canada 38.6M 0.5% 4 81% 41
43  Peru 34.2M 0.4% 26 79% 31
45  Malaysia (3) 33.4M 0.4% 99 78% 30
55  Australia (7) 26.3M 0.3% 3 86% 38
57  Taiwan (8) 23.9M 0.3% 78 73% 42
61  Romania (4) 18.9M 0.2% 84 55% 43
63  Chile 19.5M 0.2% 26 85% 35
67  Ecuador 18.3M 0.2% 71 63% 28
69  Netherlands (1) 17.2M 0.2% 508 92% 43
80  Bolivia 12.1M 0.1% 11 69% 26
81  Belgium 11.7M 0.1% 383 98% 42

(1) Added to the monitored list in July 2021
(2) Added to the monitored list in August 2021
(3) Added to the monitored list in September 2021
(4) Added to the monitored list in October 2021
(5) Added to the monitored list in February 2022
(6) Added to the monitored list in March 2022
(7) Added to the monitored list in April 2022
(8) Added to the monitored list in September 2022

back to top

Scope of This Report

What I track

From the worldometers.info website I track the following Categories:

  • Total Cases • Cases per Million
  • Total Deaths • Deaths per Million
  • Total Tests • Tests per Million (not reported at a Continental level) - statistics still tracked but charts no longer used (see noted above)
  • From Cases and Deaths, I calculate the Mortality Rate

Instead of reporting Cases per Million directly, I try to put raw numbers in the perspective of several key measures. These are a different way of expressing "per Million" statistics, but it seems easier to grasp.

  • Country population as a proportion of global population
  • Country cases and deaths as a proportion of global cases and deaths
  • Country cases as a proportion of its own population
  • Cases and deaths expressed as "1 in X" number of people

Who I monitor

My analysis covers countries that have appeared in the top-20 of the worldometers case and deaths categories since September 2020. This includes most of the world's largest countries as well as some that are much smaller (see the chart in the previous section). Vaccination data is taken from ourworldindata.org and CDC. Hospitalization date is found at ourworldindata.org.

back to top


This article was also posted on SeniorLifestyle, which I edit



Search all articles by Stu Johnson

Stu Johnson is owner of Stuart Johnson & Associates, a communications consultancy in Wheaton, Illinois focused on "making information make sense."

E-mail the author (moc.setaicossajs@uts*)

* For web-based email, you may need to copy and paste the address yourself.


Posted: February 45, 2023   Accessed 1,485 times

Go to the list of most recent InfoMatters Blogs
Search InfoMatters (You can expand the search to the entire site)

`
Think about it...

There are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up.

Rex Stout

From our partner websites

< Back to List of Posts

InfoMatters

Category: Information / Topics: History Information Management Statistics Trends

COVID-19 Perspectives for January 2023

by Stu Johnson

Posted: February 45, 2023

Threats of a tripledemic and ever-more-contagious variants of COVID keep the pandemic alive, yet as death and hospitalization rates continue to go down, life has taken on a post-COVID tone. Where are we as the pandemic &hellapproaches the three year mark?

Putting the COVID-19 pandemic in perspective (Number 29)


This monthly report was spawned by my interest in making sense of numbers that are often misinterpreted in the media or overwhelming in detail (some would say that these reports are too detailed, but I am trying to give you a picture of how the COVID pandemic in the United States compares with the rest of the world, to give you a sense of perspective).

Report Sections:
January-at-a-glance
The Continental View USA Compared with Other Countries
U.S. COVID Cases versus Vaccinations
COVID Deaths Compared to the Leading Causes of Death in the U.S.
Profile of Monitored Continents & Countries
Scope of This Report

January-at-a-glance

Reminder: you can click on any of the charts to enlarge it. It will open in another tab or window. Close it to return here.

GLOBAL SNAPSHOT

For most of us COVID-19 seems to be receding in the rearview mirror, but while it has slowed, the pandemic continues to spread around the world and in USA as new variants emerge to raise new threats. While the death rate has slowed dramatically both globally and in USA—and well below the mortality of the 1918 pandemic—the numbers remain staggering. COVID ranked third among the top-10 causes of death in USA for 2020 (the latest report available) and the trends in this report suggest it will remain in the top-10 for at least another year.

This is my 29th report, now focused on 34 countries that have been at the top of the COVID statistics. Approaching three full years into the pandemic, we have seen surges move around the world, with Taiwan and other Asian countries added to the list of countries monitored for this report in recent months.

NOTE: World Population recently topped 8 billion. Last month I updated population numbers using the latest "live" estimates from worldometers.info. That update produces a few minor changes in statistics based on population.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • Globally CASES reached nearly 675 million by the end of January 2023, a 2% increase over December, heading back down after bumping up to 3% last month, after being at 2% in recent months. The most recent high of 31% was in January 2022. The percentage of global population with reported cases of COVID-19 rose from 4.8.% in January 2022 to 8.4% in January 2023r. (The 1918 pandemic is generally thought to have infected 25% of the global population). As we will see, however,some countries are far higher than that.

    The blue "cone" in Figure 1 above shows a high and low projection of Global cases based on the pace of spread in the first year of COVID-19. The bottom (roughly 325 million) in January 2023 represents the trajectory of the lower pace in late summer 2020, the upper (approximately 575 million) represents a continuation of the major surge from November 2020 through January 2021. Even when the delta variant in 2021 was announced with alarm, the Global increase in cases stayed within the projection cone Then came omicron, which hit Europe hard in December 2021, and the curve shot through the projection cone in January then raced ahead at a very steep increase into March as it spread around the world, shooting upward by 200 million cases in three month before starting to slow down. 1

    It took 21 months to reach 287 million in December 2021. By the end of January 2023 cases were roughly 75 million more worldwide than the upper edge of the projection cone (and 325 million more than the lower edge of the cone). Note that the curve has been slowly closing the gap with the upper edge of the cone, from roughly 100 million in August to 75 million in January. The gap with the lower edge of the cone, however, continues to widen, from 325 million in August to 350 million in January. This is a result of the different slopes between the top and bottom edges of the cone.
  • DEATHS from COVID around the world, fortunately, continued to rise at a much slower pace than cases, putting on the brakes around March 2022—fueling questions about whether the pandemic has indeed turned into an endemic. Deaths having increased 1% each of th past nine moths, down from the most recent high of 5% in February and over 20% in monthly increases from late 2020 into 2021. (Remember, however, percentages will be higher when the base numbers are lower, but the stark difference over time is still clear). The leveling in the global curve for deaths is obvious, falling nearly 4 million short of the pace through February 2022 after which the curve bent downward most noticeably. That still leaves a death toll from COVID approaching 7.million worldwide 35 months into this pandemic.

  • BY CONTINENT. World wide, COVID cases were reported at 8.4% of global population by the end of January. Europe and North America have clearly outpaced the rest of the world, with sharp increases from the omicron variant from December 2021 through March 2022, both continuing to climb at a fast pace then the other continents, each now reporting one-third of their populations having been infected with COVID according to official reports.
  • USA continues to lead the world in the number of reported cases and death. While it leads the world in the number of COVID tests its vaccination rate remains lackluster in comparison to other countries (which keeps the death rate higher than it could be).
    • While the 104.2 million CASES represents 31.1% of its own population—up from 30.6% in December—the USA proportion of world cases dropped from 20.1% in January to 15.4% in December and January. At the same time, surges in Europe and Asia pushed cases in France to 60.3% and South Korea to 58.8% of their populations by January. Europe, with about 9% of world population, accounts for 36.3% of reported COVID cases in the world.

      The red projection cone surrounding USA cases in Figure 1, based on the same timeline as the global cone described above, stretched from 55 to 160 million cases by January, with the curve for cases staying well within those bounds. Cases in USA flattened significantly from January through July 2021 after vaccinations became available, Then, it rose slightly through November 2021 with a combination of delta and vaccine resistance. Omicron produced a serious upward bend in January 2022, then slowed in February, staying in the middle of the projection cone since then.

      The upward bend for USA cases since December 2021 is clearly visible in Figure 1, but even more pronounced in Figure 10 below, which "zooms in" on USA. Figure 11 provides a detailed view of USA vaccination.

      Figure 1 also shows how much lower cases in USA would be—approaching 32-million by now, instead of 104 million—if they were proportional to the global population. It would also mean about 374 thousand deaths instead of more than 1.1 million. NOTE: These numbers have shifted upward since my previous reports because the update in population numbers made for this report moves USA from 4.2% of global population based on UN numbers for 2020 to 4.7%, the "live: estimate by worldometers.info in early January 2023 at the time of this writing.

    • USA DEATHS continue to represent a proportion of world COVID deaths far in excess of its 4.7% share of world population. (China and India represent roughly one-third of world population between them). USA deaths declined from 20.9% of the world total in September 2020 to 14.5% at the end of August 2021, before inching up again, reaching 16.8% in January (part of that increase could be due to the update in population numbers made for last month's report).

      Most of us have seen the number of people who self-quarantine after testing positive with a home-based text, making the actual number of cases far higher than officially reported. The widening gap between cases and deaths leads to the situation that most of America is acting as if we're already in a post-COVID status. Even in this report and in much media reporting the emphasis is on cumulative numbers but as I mentioned above and will detail below, deaths from COVID on an annual basis have been and will continue to be in the top-10 causes of death is USA for the foreseeable future, well above season flu and pneumonia (53 thousand in 2020).


    • HOSPITALIZATIONS for COVID in USA were reported at 25,787 in January, down 34% from December, and down considerably from the high of 133 thousand in January 2022 when hospitalizations related to omicron peaked. While well off the peak, increases in hospitalization in December raised concerns among public health officials, including the Chicago area where I live. Even though the numbers are back down in January, officials remain cautious.

  • THE OMICRON VARIANT emerged at the end of November 2021 and hit Europe hard, bringing back lockdowns and severe restrictions in several countries. In January 2022 the surge became turbo-charged and spread to North America and to a lesser but noticeable extent to South America and Asia. In April, the increase in Asia continued, while North America had slowed considerably.

    While deaths can follow well behind increases in cases, it appears that both delta and omicron have had minimal impact on the pace of COVID deaths as mortality rates (deaths as a proportion of cases) continue to fall. This also appears to be true of BA-2 and its string of sub-variants, which are causing surges in cases in Asia (and perhaps the slight uptick in USA cases), without a rise in the curve for deaths. While new patterns could emerge, omicron has had the most impact of the three major variant waves so far. While XXB.1.5 appears on the charts tis month, it has produced no significant movement in the statistics so far.

  • TESTING. USA leads in the number of tests, with nearly 1.2 billion tests reported, followed by India, UK, Russia and France. Because home tests have been available for a while (and do not contribute to statistics) and reported resting trends have not changed for several months, the section on Tests is not longer meaningful, so that section of the repost has been scaled back in size this month. .

  • VACCINATIONS. 69% of the world's population have been reported as receiving at least one dose of vaccine by the end of January, the same as December, which was up 1% after being stuck at 68% for four months (See figures 5A, 5B, 5C, 9A, 9B and 11).The vaccination rate by continent has essentially plateaued in the past nine months, as if they have reached a saturation point, even for countries like USA which could keep going until reaching countries with higher vaccination levels.

    South America
    leads the world in vaccination, with Chile reporting 90% fully vaccinated. Ironically, Chile suffered a major surge of cases and deaths in March that continued through May, which may be explained in part by differences in efficacy of available vaccines. USA has plateaued, with 69% fully vaccinated and another 12% partially vaccinated by the end of January, increasing only 18 million since January 2022y, a rate that is slower than the growth of cases (up 28 million in that time).

  • COUNTRIES TO WATCH. Of the top ten countries by population, Pakistan, Nigeria and Singapore have not reached the threshold (the top-20 in cumulative number cases or deaths) I have used for inclusion in my list of monitored countries.

    The weekly comparison report on worldometers.info gives a sense of hot spots to watch—countries not among the 34 already monitored for this report. Based on weekly activity, this includes Austria, Switzerland, Serbia, Hong Kong and Costa Rica, all in the top 20 of new cases and/or deaths in the first week of February as I write this report. While some of these have populations too small to make much of an impact on this report, they generally confirm the continued spread of COVID in Europe, Asia and perhaps a bit of concern for parts of South American. . Where the Countries to Watch list was donated by east Asia several months ago, it has once again become more geographically diverse.

back to top

THE CONTINENTAL VIEW

The most obvious trend since mid-2022 ha been the rise in proportion of COVID cases in Asia and Europe while the pace of increase in deaths has slowed significantly and the portion of deaths among continents has remained more stable. Because global population was recently estimated to pass the 8 billion mark, I updated the population numbers in the last report from those reported by the UN for 2020 to "live" estimates from worldometers.info. Adjustments were minor, with most countries growing and a few (like Romania in the list of monitored countries) shrinking. At the global level, Asia went down by two tenths of a percent, Europe up by two tenths and the other three continents kept the same proportion.

While COVID-19 has been classified as a global pandemic, it is not distributed evenly around the world.

COVID cases now represent 8.4% of world population. (By the end of the 1918 pandemic, it is generally reported to be about 25%, fully one-quarter of the population). Today, where Asia and Africa combined represent about three-quarters (77.0%) of the world's 8.0 billion people, Europe, South America and North America still account for 2 out of 3 COVID cases (65.9% - Figure 3A) and three-quarters of COVID deaths (75.53% - Figure 4A).

In past report, I looked at the difference between the beginning of the chart in November 2020 and the current month, but looking at the overall trends, it is more useful to consider the emergence of the omicron variant in November 2021 as a key reference point. In that time, Europe went up fairly steadily by 10.2%. Asia went down than back up again, ending very close to its starting point. Both South and North America went down more than 4%. Africa is down 1.8% since omicron emerged, but it remains an insignificant proportion of world cases.

While Africa shows only the slightest deviation from its low and slow growth in Cases, the impact of omicron is very visible for the other continents, with the pace slowing for each following one to three months of rapid growth.

Europe shows the greatest impact in number of cases since omicron appeared in late November 2021. After being virtually tied with Asia in December, Europe has seen its COVID cases rise in proportion by 182% since then, while Asia increased by 145%. Both have slowed since March, but continue to climb at a pace faster than the other continents. It appears that Asia is growing faster in cases than Europe, but it's too early to project that their paths will cross.

North America increased significantly in January, then slowed below the pace of Europe and Asia..(Had the January rise continued, it would have caught up with Asia in number of cases by March or April). South America saw the lowest post-omicron increase. The Americas were obviously hit by omicron, but to a lesser level and shorter time span than Europe and Asia, making their curves bend down sooner and deeper.

The raw numbers of Fig. 3B can be deceptive. Fig. 3C gives a more realistic picture of the impact by translating raw case numbers to percentage of population. (By contrast, Figure 3A is distribution of global cases). The shape of the curves is similar to those for raw numbers, but the order and spacing paints a different picture.

The impact of omicron is clearly evident, with the Global share of COVID cases increasing from 3.6% in December 2021 to 6.2% in March, then growing at a slower pact to 8.6% by the end of January. North America has led the continents in cases as proportion of population, but Europe saw a far more significant increase from omicron, nearly matching North America by April. In October and November, Europe continued at the same pace while North America slowed, bringing the two to a near-tie from November through January, with Europe moving ahead by a barely visible 0.2%.

South America stays above the Global level, but at a slower rate. Asia and Africa remain below the Global level, Asia increasing noticeably since omicron became evident, but at a slower rate than the Global level. Africa remains far below the Global level and shows only the slightest increase due to omicron.

The proportion of deaths between continents shows less extreme change than that for cases. Again, as in the previous chart, it now makes sense to look at the emergence of omicron as the key reference point.

Since omicron, Europe has increased in proportion of deaths by 2.7%, North America is up 0.8%,while Africa is down 0.5%, Asia is down 1.0% and South America is down 2.7%. Altogether, that is far more stable than the changes in cases following omicron seen in Figure 3A above.

The most notable characteristic of deaths is the growing detachment from cases. Unlike the first year of the pandemic, when deaths went up dramatically with surges in cases, the death rate (compare it with cases in Figure 1) has slowed significantly even as cases continue to climb, It is important to remember, also, that reports of deaths will be much closer to reality than cases as it is likely that the number of cases detected by home testing and self-quarantining is far higher than official reports of case numbers.

Deaths through January 2023 shows that while the trajectory lags behind cases and has progressed at a steadier rate, it does reflect the overall changes in Cases by continent. Having crossed the 1 million mark in mid-2021, Europe crossed the 2 million mark in deaths in January.

While the omicron surge in Europe went "through the roof," what is interesting here is that the death rate immediately went up as omicron hit, then turned back down and steadily slowed into 2022. The relative steadiness in the path of each curve shows that the death rate has remained much more constant over time than cases, which tend to surge in varying degrees with each new variant. And, as we'll see later, mortality rates (deaths as a proportion of cases) continue to fall.

Vaccinations

Growth in vaccinations has been at a virtual standstill for months. As Fig. 5A shows, two thirds of the global population (69%) has been reported with at least one dose of vaccine, and six in ten (63%) are fully vaccinated, an increase of only 2% in fully vaccinated since August. That is still well below what is commonly thought of for "herd immunity," which is closer to 94% of the population being immune (most through vaccination), but is remarkable nonetheless given the enormity of the effort represented in little over a year since vaccines became available.

South America, which was slow to get into testing and vaccination, soared ahead of the other continents toward the end of 2020, then took the lead in total vaccine doses in August 2022, remaining well ahead of the other continents with 77% fully vaccinated and 86% total. Asia comes next with partial and fully vaccinated ahead of North America. While Europe is fourth in total doses, it has pulled ahead of North America in fully vaccinated. Africa remains far behind, with only one-third of the population (34%) receiving at least one dose and just over a quarter (28%) fully vaccinated.


While South America got into vaccinations later and slower than North America and Europe, Figure 5B shows how it steadily pushed its way to the top of total vaccination doses administered by August 2021, expanding its lead through early 2022 before a global slowdown in the proportion of total vaccine doses. Europe had leveled off more noticeably than Asia and the Americas, which continued very slow growth and now split the deference between Europe and South American. Africa has remained on a steady upward slope, though it remains far below global levels.

back to top

COMPARISON OF USA WITH OTHER COUNTRIES

Cases

Raw numbers are virtually meaningless without relating them to the size of a given country, so looking at cases as a proportion of population helps get a sense of the relative impact. The countries with the greatest proportion of COVID cases illustrates how they amplify the world trend for cases (bottom line in Figure 6A),

The same five countries have been at the top of cases by proportion of population for 9 months, in the same order for the past 4 months.. All six, including USA (and 14 of the 34 monitored countries) have surpassed the 25% level of global infection in 1918. The significant difference remains the much lower mortality rate than a century ago. France and South Korea are beyond 50% and show no sign of slowing down. Netherlands is still teasing the 50% level, but, since March has slowed to a place closer to the Global increase. USA had been growing at a rate slightly ahead of the Global pace, but appears about even with the global pace the past four months, and below those of Germany and Australia.

Another way to look at population proportion is the measure "1 in." The global figure of 8.6% means that 1 in 12 people in the world have been reported with COVID-19 since it began (and that only by official record keeping, not including any unreported and likely asymptomatic cases). Because of rounding to a whole number, all five of the top countries, plus USA, are 1 in 2.

All five countries (of the 34 monitored) in the bottom-5 by proportion of population have been there, in this order, since December 2021.

At the scale of this chart, the rise in Global case proportion is magnified compared to the previous chart, so it clearly shows the acceleration of cases produced by omicron around the world since November 2021. Al five countries show a rapid upturn followed by a leveling off (with varying impact from BA-2 and its sub-variants as this point).

These countries represent a considerable spread in size, from India, the second largest country, to Ecuador, ranked number 67 of the 215 countries tracked by worldometers. For Ecuador, its 5.7% of population means that 1 in 17 have been reported as having had the COVID virus; for India it is 1 in 31, and for Indonesia 1 in 41 (only Indonesia changed since last month)..

Because the size of countries makes the use of raw case numbers illusory, another measure I find helpful is the rate of change from month to month (Figure 6C). The focus of the selection is on recent changes, but the chart covers 12 months.. For this chart, countries are selected based on the change over two-months (end of November to the end of January). For the chart this month Brazil replaces Australia (which replaced Germany last month).
.
The overall trend (red line, reflecting global level) had been climbing, up to a 31% change in January 2022, reflecting the large impact of the omicron variant. Since then it dropped to a monthly change of 4% in May and June, then up to 5% for July and August before wobbling a bit on its way to 2% in January.

USA has a big spike in January 2022 from omicron, then settled close to or below the global rate since then. China showed large surges in March and April, then again from November through January. Japan has been above the global rate mots months, with significant spikes in March, April, and August, along with elevated cases from November through January. South Korea spiked in April, with smaller surges from July through January where it has been above the global rate each. It is notable that all three are in east Asia, where COVID has shifted in recent months, as seen in the chart below (though 5th place has shifted from Europe to Oceania to South America in past three month).

Month Top-5 for Increase in Cases Over 2 Months Note
May 2021 India Argentina Turkey Iran Columbia Asia surging
June 2021 India Argentina Colombia Bolivia Chile South America surging
July 2021 Colombia Iran Argentina UK Bolivia Delta appears
August 2021 Iran UK Mexico Turkey Russia Delta rising
September 2021 Iran UK Mexico Turkey USA Delta fading
October 2021 Philippines UK Ukraine Turkey Russia Mixed
November 2021 Belgium Ukraine Germany UK Netherlands Omicron appears
December 2021 Germany Belgium Netherlands UK France Omicron intensifies
January 2022 France Italy Spain Belgium Canada Omicron intensifies
February 2022 France Italy Germany Netherlands Spain Omicron intensifies
March 2022 Germany Netherlands Chile Russia Malaysia Omicron spreads
April 2022 Germany Japan Malaysia Italy Netherlands Back to Europe, Asia
May 2022 South Korea Japan Germany Italy France BA-2 variants spread
June 2022 Australia Japan Germany Italy Chile Disbursed
July 2022 Japan Australia Italy South Korea Chile Disbursed
August 2022 Japan South Korea Australia Bolivia Italy Disbursed
September 2022 Japan South Korea Australia Italy Germany Europe surging
October 2022 Japan Germany South Korea Russia Italy Back to Europe, Asia
November 2022 Taiwan China Japan South Korea Germany Asia dominant
December 2022 China Japan Taiwan South Korea Australia Solidly East
January 2023 China Japan Taiwan South Korea Brazil Asia dominant
Color Legend: Continent assignment as defined by United Nations and used by worldometers.info
  Asia Africa Europe S America N America Oceania
Note that while Oceania is not included in our Continental analysis because of its minuscule population compared
to other continents, it is included here because of the presence of Australia in the list of monitored countries.

Deaths

Because deaths as a percentage of population is such a small number, the "Deaths-per-Million" metric shown in Figure 7A provides a comparable measure. It is different than mortality rate, which is a measure bases on deaths as a proportion of cases.

The same five countries have been in the top-5 since June, with Chile and Brazil trading places this month by a very small margin.

The Global curve for deaths-per-million shows a very steady growth, despite surges, vaccinations and variants that had a much more obvious influence on cases. In fact, it has been slowing ever so slightly (put a straightedge on the global line and you will see that it is not straight, but gently curving down over time).

Given lower death rates in European and Asian countries that experienced much higher surges in cases, it is striking that USA, whose case rate has been much more moderate, finds itself in the company of countries with the highest death rates as measured by deaths-per-million-population. That situation should lead to serious consideration of what could have been done better, especially as political and ideological division drove the split between over-zealous use of lockdowns in the name of Science and the ethos of a "don't tread on me" individualism, a division that soured the often heroic efforts of the health care system.

The five lowest of monitored countries by deaths-per-million are all Asian and all five have appeared in this chart since October.

While the othe four countries have slowed at or slightly below the gloabel pace, Japan has been climbing steadily since it joined the list of monitored countries in February 2022.

The Global rate of increase in deaths-per-million was very steady through March 2022 when it began a noticeable slowdown, even as BA-2 and its sub-variants began to emerge, increasing the widening gap between cases and deaths—the bit of good news in this pandemic.

As with the comparable chart for Rate of Change for Cases (Figure 6C), countries for Rate of Change for Deaths (Figure 7C) are selected based on the change over two-months (end of November to end of January) in reported COVID deaths. The focus of the selection is on recent changes, but the chart goes back 12 months for perspective.

The same five countries have appeared in this chart since November, with some shifting in order.

The global rate of change by month (red trend line) has dropped from 4% in January 2022 to 1% from September though January.

Japan
and Australia have risen in monthly change for three months, while Taiwan and South Korea have gone down. Candida has not seen much change and USA has been flat at 1% per month since August.

The chart below shows the shift toward east Asia and Australia (Oceania) in recent months.

Month Top-5 for Increase in Deaths Over 2 Months Note
May 2021 India Turkey Brazil Colombia Argentina Tilt toward S America
June 2021 Peru India Argentina Colombia Bolivia South America surging
July 2021 Peru Ecuador Colombia Argentina Russia South America surging
August  2021 Ecuador Russia Iran Argentina Colombia South America fading
September 2021 Indonesia Iran Russia Turkey Malaysia Asia surging
October 2021 Philippines Russia Ukraine Turkey Iran Asia surging
November 2021 Ukraine Russia Philippines Turkey Malaysia Omicron beginning
December 2021 Ukraine Russia Poland Romania Philippines Omicron growing
January 2022 Poland Russia Ukraine Germany Turkey Omicron surging
February 2022 Canada USA Poland Turkey Russia Omicron surging
March 2022 Chile Canada Turkey Russia USA Omicron spreads

April 2022

Chile Japan Germany UK Russia Europe returns

May 2022

South Korea Chile Japan UK Germany Asia rising with BA-2

June 2022

Australia South Korea Canada Japan Germany Shifting East

July 2022

Australia Japan South Korea Canada Spain Solidifying East

August 2022

Australia Japan South Korea Canada Spain Solidifying East

September 2022

Japan Australia South Korea Canada Germany Solidifying East

October 2022

Japan Australia South Korea Canada Germany Solidifying East

November 2022

Taiwan Japan South Korea Canada Australia East dominant

December 2022

Japan Taiwan South Korea Australia Canada East dominant

January 2023

Japan Australia Taiwan South Korea Canada East dominant
Color Legend: Continent assignment as defined by United Nations and used by worldometers.info
  Asia Africa Europe S America N America Oceania
Note that while Oceania is not included in our Continental analysis because of its minuscule population compared
to other continents, it is included here because of the presence of Australia in the list of monitored countries.

back to top

Mortality Rate

Mortality Rates (percentage of deaths against reported cases) have generally been declining. There are many factors, which I have detailed in previous reports, but the most obvious is th gap between cases and deaths. For most of the last year, following the initial surges related to the omicron variant, cases have continued to climb while the death rate has nearly flattened in comparison. The wider the gap, the lower the morality. In that respect, as long as deaths can be held down, increases in cases should not be as alarming as they are sometimes made out to be.

That is why, I believe, most people feel COVID has become endemic—it no longer seems to be the imminent threat it was in 2020 and 2021, and is more like seasonal flu and the common cold. Many public health officials will be aghast at that kind of statement, but at least where I live in the Chicago area—and I think in much of USA—that is how most people see it. We cannot, however, assume that lower death rates mean they are no longer consequential. As I have pointed out elsewhere in this report, deaths in USA ranked third among the leading causes of death in 2020 and even though the rate has slowed, COVID will remain in the top-10 causes of death for at least another year, if not longer.

The Global mortality rate had dropped from 2.6% in October 2020 to 1.0% by October 2022. The five countries with the highest (worst) mortality rates have appeared since December 2021, with South Africa and Indonesia trading places frequency in that time. All five showed some response to omicron, with cases rising faster than deaths, which drove the mortality rate down.

Since these represent the best mortality rates, where low is good, the "rank" order is actually in reverse.

The same five countries have been on this chart since September. All five are well below the global rate of 1.0$ and piling on top of each other at 0.3, 0.2 and 0.1%.

USA was stuck at 1.2% for six months before dropping to 1.1% in July, where it has been for seven month. After following the global rate for six months, USA stayed where it was, stuck at 1.1%, when the global rate went down to 1% four months ago. Relatively speaking, that is a good mortality rate, yet one-third of the monitored countries, including Belgium, Germany and Netherlands have rates below 1.0% for nine months or more, largely because huge omicron-related surges were not matched with a similar increase in deaths. USA should have been able to keep deaths much lower since the surges here were well below those experienced in Europe and parts of Asia. (It is ironic that had USA experienced higher case surges its mortality rate would also have dropped, but that would only happen if hospitalizations and deaths were kept down).

Even so, without a relatively low mortality rate, the USA death rate would be far higher. Compared to the mortality rate during the 1918 pandemic, it could be ten times worse than it is. At its current mortality rate of 1.1%,(now above the global level) USA has had more than 1.1 million deaths (out of 104 million cases) by the end of January, As pointed out in Figure 1, however, if USA had cases closer to its proportion of world population, we would be looking at 374-thousand deaths out of 32-million cases. The response of the health care system and availability of vaccines are part of keeping mortality down, but the high case rate points to the conflicts already mentioned between opposing sides of the approach to COVID (extreme lockdowns in the name of science versus extreme individualism in the name of freedom). .

How real is the threat of death from COVID?
That's where successful mitigation comes in. Worldwide, by the end of January, 1 in 12 people have been reported as having contracted COVID and 1 in 1,184 people have died. In USA, while the mortality rate is low, because the number of cases is so high, 1 in 296 have died through January 2022—between Chile (1 in 302) and Romania (1 in 282). Japan and Australia, recent additions because of surging cases,are at 1 death in 1,894 and 1,400 respectively (COVID in both countries, however, has increased to the point that both were added to my list of monitored countries and those numbers, while still in sharp contrast with USA, are moving in the wrong direction). .A closer comparison would be neighboring but sparsely populated Canada, at 1 in 762, or Mexico, at 1 in 396, with most European countries between those two.

back to top

Tests

The section on testing has been reduced in size because of the availability of home testing is widespread and not tracked in the statistics. In addition, the statistics that are reported have shown no meaningful change for the past five or six months.

The point of inequality between countries still exists, however, so I will continue to update the following list, which was originally based on the lowest five for testing, but now includes other pairs of similar-sized countries among the 34 I monitor. Remember, however, that the statistics here refer only to officially reported testing and do not include home testing. (Population numbers updated this month, based on "live" estimate from worldometers.info.)

  • Mexico: 19.4M tests for 131.8M population, compared to Japan: 92.6M tests for 125.6M population (4.8X the tests)
  • Philippines: 34.4M tests for 112.5M population, compared to Vietnam: 85.8M tests for 99.0M population (2.5X)
  • Iran: 55.0M tests for 86.0M population, compared to Turkey: 162.7M tests for 85.6M population (3.0X)
  • South Africa: 26.5M tests for 60.8M population, compared to Italy: 268.1M tests for 60.3M population (10.1X)
  • Poland: 38.0M tests for 37.7M population, compared to Canada: 66.3M tests for 38.4M population (1.7X)
  • Peru: 37.5M tests for 33.7M population, compared to Malaysia: 67.7M tests for 33.2M population (1.8X)
  • Ecuador: 3.1M tests for 18.2M population, compared to Netherlands: 26.0M tests for 17.2M population (8.4X)
  • Bolivia: 2.7M tests for 12.0M population, compared to Belgium: 36.6M tests for 11.7M population (13.5X)

Of the east Asian countries I monitor—most relatively recent additions because of surging cases—only Malaysia and Taiwan report enough tests to cover their entire population. Otherwise, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Philippines are all at testing levels that would cover roughly a third of their populations. Yet, they remain among the monitored countries with the lowest mortality rates. While they may not appear high in reported testing, they are all above global rates for fully vaccinated (from 87% for Vietnam and Taiwan, 86% for South Korea, to 83% for Japan).

back to top

Vaccinations

Figure 9A compares USA with the top-5 and bottom-5 of monitored countries by total doses administered. As you can see USA leans toward the upper countries, but like most countries, its total vaccination rate showed virtually no increase in January*, and that remains below the full vaccination rate for all of the top-5. On the other hand, USA remains well ahead of the bottom five of the 34 monitored countries for both total doses and fully vaccinated.

As pointed out in other parts of this analysis, Figure 9A does not tell the whole story. It's a bit of an apples and oranges comparison, with one major factor being the population of each country.

*Numbers for this chart come from ourworldindata.org. The CDC numbers, used in Figure 11, show similar results, with an increase of less than 1% per month in those fully vaccinated over the past twelve months, to a total of 69.2% of USA population.

Taking population into account paints a somewhat different picture for USA compared to other monitored countries. In Figure 9B you see the five most populous countries on the left and the five smallest (of those monitored for this report) on the right.

China and Brazil are ahead of USA, both in total vaccinations, USA total is tied with Brazil's full vaccination rate. USA is ahead of India and Indonesia in both total doses and full vaccination, though the margin for full vaccination is much closer. . .

On the side of the smallest countries, Ecuador is ahead of India, USA and Indonesia. The disparity in earlier months is decreasing as the larger countries (except for USA) continue to slowly improve their vaccination rates. (Chile, which has been in the smallest five and boasted the highest vaccination rate among the monitored countries, has been replaced by Romania with updates to population numbers this month).

In USA and perhaps in other large countries, individual regions, provinces or states may be doing as well as some smaller countries, while the entire country lags behind the smaller ones.

back to top

VACCINATIONS IN USA

 

With remarkable speed (it usually takes years to develop vaccines), two COVID vaccines were granted emergency approval for use in USA starting in January 2021—the one by Pfizer requires super-cold storage, which limits its deployment. The other, by Moderna, requires cold storage similar to other vaccines. Both of these require two doses, which means that vaccine dosages available must be divided in two to determine the number of people covered. By March 2021 Johnson & Johnson had been granted approval for a single-dose vaccine, though that approval has since been rescinded because of a rare but significant heart-related side effect. The numbers in Figure 11 represent the status of vaccination at the end of August as reported by CDC) which is very close to ourworldindata.org data used in earlier vaccination charts). .

A person is considered "fully vaccinated" two weeks after the final vaccine dose; roughly five to six weeks from the first dose for Pfizer and Moderna. A booster dose for both vaccines became available in October 2021 and a second booster updated for the latest variants became available late in 2022 (in Fig. 10 the curve for booster shots dropped in October because CDC switched its tracking from the first to the second available booster).

Figure 10 clearly shows that vaccinations began at a rapid pace. The red line for full vaccinations is lower than doses administered because if takes two does to be fully immunized. So, the first few months were on track, but then the curve for fully vaccinated began to flatten and has risen by 1% or less each month since for the past year (and not much better than that as the rate slowed between March and December 2021. While the difference is small, the rate of increase for cases continues to climb at a slightly higher rate than those who are fully vaccinated.

On the positive side, doses administered continues to climb at a higher rate than cases, but that only means that more people are getting only a single dose and not going on to become fully vaccinated and then boosted. As we saw earlier, this makes USA's vaccination performance unimpressive compared to other countries around the world. Sadly, it may account for a death rate far higher than i could have been.

back to top

CAUSES OF DEATH IN USA

In the first year of the pandemic media attention was focused on numeric benchmarks - causes of death, wars, the 1918 pandemic. When the CDC updated its leading causes of death list for 2000, COVID came in at third place, at 345 thousand deaths (in 10 months), behind heart disease (691K) and cancer (599K). When the table is updated again for 2021, it will show COVID at around 450 thousand for the full year. But by 2022, following the omicron variant, the number will drop to about 270 thousand, still possibly staying in third place. In the 10 months following March 2022, when the curve for deaths took slowed down very noticeably, the number of deaths has dropped to 125 thousand. At the same time, cases in USA continue to rise, but until the death rate slows even more, mortality is likely to stay stuck around its current 1.1%. . . . .

The latest "Ensemble Forecast" from CDC suggests that by our next report we should see:

...the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths will likely decrease over the next 4 weeks, with 1,000 to 5,100 new deaths likely reported in the week ending March 4, 2023. The national ensemble predicts that a total of 1,121,000 to 1,127,000 COVID-19 deaths will be reported by this date.....

Note: As I've referenced in the notes for several charts, data from worldometers.info tends to be ahead of CDC and Johns Hopkins by about 3%, because of reporting methodology and timing. I use it as a primary source because its main table is very easy to sort and provides the relevant data for these reports. Such differences are also found in the vaccine data from ourworldindata. Over time, however, trends track with reasonable consistency between sources.

Perspective

The 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic is estimated to have struck 500 million people, 26.3% of the world population of 1.9-billion at that time. By contrast, we're now at 7.7% of the global population. Deaths a century ago have been widely estimated at between 50- and 100-million worldwide, putting the global mortality rate somewhere between 10 and 20-percent. It has been estimated that 675,000 died in the U.S.

IF COVID-19 hit at the same rate as 1918,
we would see about 2-billion cases worldwide by the time COVID-19 is over, with the global population now at 8.0-billion—four times what it was in 1918. There would be 200- to 400-million deaths. USA is estimated to have had 27-million cases (one-quarter of the population of 108-million) and 675,000 deaths. Today, with a population of 333-million (a three-fold increase from 1918) this would mean more than 80-million cases, and 2- to 4-million deaths. We have now reached closer to one-third of the population with reported COVID infections, at 104 million; fortunately, deaths remain half that projection, at just over 1.1 million.

At the present rate of confirmed cases and mortality while the total number of global cases has already surpassed 500 million—comparable to 1918 in raw numbers—that would be one-quarter of 1918 when taking population growth into account . .. and with the pandemic now set to outlast the Spanish Flu, which went on in three waves over a two year period. (We entered a third year in March 2022). We broke the global 500-million case benchmark in April 2022, propelled by delta and omicron surges since July 2021.

While we are not engaged in a world war as was the case in 1918, today we are fighting global fatigue and information overload. While many public officials are duly concerned, their pronouncements reach the level of "overstated threats" (a term I heard this week from people concerned about the growing tensions between China and USA) that only add to the fatigue and the growing distrust of our bedrock institutions (see my report on Confidence in American Institutions, an analysis of Gallup Poll data spanning nearly five decades).

back to top

Maintaining Perspective

In the tendency to turn everything into a binary right-wrong or agree-disagree with science or government, we ignore the need to recognize the nature of science and the fact that we are dealing with very complicated issues. So, in addition to recommending excellent sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is also wise to consider multiple qualified sources.

While there has been much focus placed on trusting "the science," it is important to recognize that science itself changes over time based on research and available data. In the highly volatile political atmosphere we find ourselves in (not just in USA, but around the world), there is a danger of not allowing the experts to change their views as their own understanding expands, or of trying to silence voices of experts whose views are out of sync with "the science" as reported by the majority of media outlets.

In an earlier report, I mentioned the Greater Barrington Declaration, currently signed by more than 63-thousand medical & public health scientists and medical practitioners (and 869-thousand "concerned citizens"), which states "As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection."

For a personal perspective from a scholar and practitioner who espouses an approach similar to the Focused Protection of the Greater Harrington Declaration, see comments by Scott W. Atlas, Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, in an article "Science, Politics, and COVID: Will Truth Prevail?"

Several months ago on SeniorLifestyle I posted an article by Mallory Pickett of The New Yorker, "Sweden's Pandemic Experiment," which provides a fair evaluation of the very loose protocols adopted by Sweden, essentially a variation of the "Focused Protection" approach. The "jury is still out" on this one, so judge for yourself whether Sweden hit the mark any better than the area in which you live. It does make the case that given the overall approach to mitigation, surging cases do not necessarily lead to surging hospitalization and death, but actually result in lower mortality rates.

FROM PANDEMIC TO ENDEMIC: In November 2021 I posted on SeniorLifestyle an article by Sarah Zhang from The Atlantic, "America Has Lost the Plot on COVID." In it, she suggests that America (and the world) is headed not toward the eradication of COVID-19, but its transformation from pandemic to endemic, joining the seasonal flu as something we will deal with for some time. Getting there, she contends, is more a matter of mixed policy strategies than "following the science," but coming to grips with its inevitability could help lead to more effective strategies.

Zhang mentions Denmark as a counterpoint to what is happening in America, saying

One country that has excelled at vaccinating its elderly population is Denmark. Ninety-five percent of those over 50 have taken a COVID-19 vaccine, on top of a 90 percent overall vaccination rate in those eligible. (Children under 12 are still not eligible.) On September 10, Denmark lifted all restrictions. No face masks. No restrictions on bars or nightclubs. Life feels completely back to normal, says Lone Simonsen, an epidemiologist at Roskilde University, who was among the scientists advising the Danish government. In deciding when the country would be ready to reopen, she told me, “I was looking at, simply, vaccination coverage in people over 50.” COVID-19 cases in Denmark have since risenunder CDC mask guidelines, the country would even qualify as an area of “high” transmission where vaccinated people should still mask indoors. But hospitalizations are at a fraction of their January peak, relatively few people are in intensive care, and deaths in particular have remained low.

Crucially, Simonsen said, decisions about COVID measures are made on a short-term basis. If the situation changes, these restrictions can come back—and indeed, the health minister is now talking about that possibility. Simonsen continues to scrutinize new hospitalizations everyday. Depending on how the country’s transition to endemicity goes, it could be a model for the rest of the world.

Both Sweden and Denmark, illustrate a seeming irony, pairing super high case rates with extremely low mortality rates. Does this prove the point of Zhang's observation about focusing on the prevention of hospitalization? Or the Greater Barrington Declaration's "focused protection."?

Also see "How you'll know when Covid-19 has gone from from 'pandemic' to 'endemic'" by Sigal Samuel, in an October 2022 article on Vox.

Resonating with the growing discussion over the impacts of severe lockdowns, columnist Debra J. Saunders wrote about the impact of school closures and the turnabout in thinking by some politicians who had been its strongest advocates. Her column was titled "Worse Than a Crime, a Mistake." Perhaps it's a bit of 20-20 hindsight, but it is another perspective on the "Focused Protection" idea that may help us better shape responses to future pandemics or similar widespread crises.

How we evaluate the many approaches used to deal with COVID will determine how we prepare for and approach the next global event—including the eventual transition from pandemic to endemic.

My purpose in mentioning these sources is to recognize that there are multiple, sometimes conflicting, sometimes dissenting, voices that should be part of the conversation. The purpose of these monthly reports remains first and foremost to present the numbers about COVID-19 in a manner that helps you understand how the pandemic is progressing and how the U.S. compares to the world—and how to gain more perspective than might be gathered from the news alone.

back to top

Profile of Monitored Continents & Countries

(Data from worldometers.info). - Updated January 2023 after world population announced to reach 8 billion
While there was upward movement in population, density and median age remained the same at continental levels.

 Rank   Country   Population  Share of
 World Population 
Density
 People per 
 square km 
Urban
 Population 
 Median 
Age
   WORLD 8.0B 100% -- -- --
Top 10 Countries by Population, plus Five Major Continents
See lists of countries by continent
-  ASIA 4.64B 59.3% 150  51 countries  32
1  China 1.45B 18.4% 153 61% 38
2  India 1.41B 17.7% 454 35% 28
-  AFRICA 1.34B 17.1% 45  59 countries  20
-  EUROPE 747.6M 9.6% 34  44 countries  43
-  S AMERICA 654.0M 8.4% 32  50 countries  31
-  N AMERICA 369.9M 4.7% 29  5 countries  39
3  USA 335.9M 4.3% 36 83% 38
4  Indonesia** 281.0M 3.5% 151 56% 30
5  Pakistan* 232.2M 2.8% 287 35% 23
6  Brazil 216.4M 2.7% 25 88% 33
7  Nigeria* 219.8M 2.6% 226 52% 18
8  Bangladesh* 168.9M 2.1% 1,265 39% 28
9  Russia 146.1M 1.9% 9 74% 40
10  Mexico 132.4M 1.7% 66 84% 29
*these countries do not appear in the details because they have not yet reached a high enough threshold to be included
**Indonesia was added to the monitored list in July 2021


Other Countries included in Analysis
most have been in top 20 of cases or deaths
Rank is based on 2020 UN statistics, Population is "live" estimate in January 2023, so you can see a few instances where population shifts will impact ranking slightly
 Rank   Country   Population  Share of
 World Population 
Density
 People per 
 square km 
Urban
 Population 
 Median 
Age
11  Japan (5) 125.5M 1.6% 75 92% 48
13  Philippines (2) 113.3M 1.4% 368 47% 26
15 Vietnam (6) 97.3M 1.3% 314 38% 32
17  Turkey 86.7M 1.1% 110 76% 32
18  Iran 86.8M 1.1% 52 76% 32
19  Germany 84.5M 1.1% 240 76% 46
21  United Kingdom 68.8M 0.9% 281 83% 40
22  France 65.6M 0.8% 119 82% 42
23  Italy 60.3M 0.8% 206 69% 47
25  South Africa (1) 61.2M 0.8% 94 67% 28
28  South Korea (6) 51.4M 0.7% 527 82% 44
29  Colombia 52.3M 0.7% 46 80% 31
30  Spain 46.8M 0.6% 94 80% 45
32  Argentina 46.3M 0.6% 17 93% 32
35 Ukraine (1) 43.1M 0.6% 75 69% 41
39  Poland (1) 37.8M 0.5% 124 60% 42
39  Canada 38.6M 0.5% 4 81% 41
43  Peru 34.2M 0.4% 26 79% 31
45  Malaysia (3) 33.4M 0.4% 99 78% 30
55  Australia (7) 26.3M 0.3% 3 86% 38
57  Taiwan (8) 23.9M 0.3% 78 73% 42
61  Romania (4) 18.9M 0.2% 84 55% 43
63  Chile 19.5M 0.2% 26 85% 35
67  Ecuador 18.3M 0.2% 71 63% 28
69  Netherlands (1) 17.2M 0.2% 508 92% 43
80  Bolivia 12.1M 0.1% 11 69% 26
81  Belgium 11.7M 0.1% 383 98% 42

(1) Added to the monitored list in July 2021
(2) Added to the monitored list in August 2021
(3) Added to the monitored list in September 2021
(4) Added to the monitored list in October 2021
(5) Added to the monitored list in February 2022
(6) Added to the monitored list in March 2022
(7) Added to the monitored list in April 2022
(8) Added to the monitored list in September 2022

back to top

Scope of This Report

What I track

From the worldometers.info website I track the following Categories:

  • Total Cases • Cases per Million
  • Total Deaths • Deaths per Million
  • Total Tests • Tests per Million (not reported at a Continental level) - statistics still tracked but charts no longer used (see noted above)
  • From Cases and Deaths, I calculate the Mortality Rate

Instead of reporting Cases per Million directly, I try to put raw numbers in the perspective of several key measures. These are a different way of expressing "per Million" statistics, but it seems easier to grasp.

  • Country population as a proportion of global population
  • Country cases and deaths as a proportion of global cases and deaths
  • Country cases as a proportion of its own population
  • Cases and deaths expressed as "1 in X" number of people

Who I monitor

My analysis covers countries that have appeared in the top-20 of the worldometers case and deaths categories since September 2020. This includes most of the world's largest countries as well as some that are much smaller (see the chart in the previous section). Vaccination data is taken from ourworldindata.org and CDC. Hospitalization date is found at ourworldindata.org.

back to top


This article was also posted on SeniorLifestyle, which I edit



Search all articles by Stu Johnson

Stu Johnson is owner of Stuart Johnson & Associates, a communications consultancy in Wheaton, Illinois focused on "making information make sense."

E-mail the author (moc.setaicossajs@uts*)

* For web-based email, you may need to copy and paste the address yourself.


Posted: February 45, 2023   Accessed 1,485 times

Go to the list of most recent InfoMatters Blogs
Search InfoMatters (You can expand the search to the entire site)

`
< Back to List of Posts

InfoMatters

Category: Information / Topics: History Information Management Statistics Trends

COVID-19 Perspectives for January 2023

by Stu Johnson

Posted: February 45, 2023

Threats of a tripledemic and ever-more-contagious variants of COVID keep the pandemic alive, yet as death and hospitalization rates continue to go down, life has taken on a post-COVID tone. Where are we as the pandemic &hellapproaches the three year mark?

Putting the COVID-19 pandemic in perspective (Number 29)


This monthly report was spawned by my interest in making sense of numbers that are often misinterpreted in the media or overwhelming in detail (some would say that these reports are too detailed, but I am trying to give you a picture of how the COVID pandemic in the United States compares with the rest of the world, to give you a sense of perspective).

Report Sections:
January-at-a-glance
The Continental View USA Compared with Other Countries
U.S. COVID Cases versus Vaccinations
COVID Deaths Compared to the Leading Causes of Death in the U.S.
Profile of Monitored Continents & Countries
Scope of This Report

January-at-a-glance

Reminder: you can click on any of the charts to enlarge it. It will open in another tab or window. Close it to return here.

GLOBAL SNAPSHOT

For most of us COVID-19 seems to be receding in the rearview mirror, but while it has slowed, the pandemic continues to spread around the world and in USA as new variants emerge to raise new threats. While the death rate has slowed dramatically both globally and in USA—and well below the mortality of the 1918 pandemic—the numbers remain staggering. COVID ranked third among the top-10 causes of death in USA for 2020 (the latest report available) and the trends in this report suggest it will remain in the top-10 for at least another year.

This is my 29th report, now focused on 34 countries that have been at the top of the COVID statistics. Approaching three full years into the pandemic, we have seen surges move around the world, with Taiwan and other Asian countries added to the list of countries monitored for this report in recent months.

NOTE: World Population recently topped 8 billion. Last month I updated population numbers using the latest "live" estimates from worldometers.info. That update produces a few minor changes in statistics based on population.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • Globally CASES reached nearly 675 million by the end of January 2023, a 2% increase over December, heading back down after bumping up to 3% last month, after being at 2% in recent months. The most recent high of 31% was in January 2022. The percentage of global population with reported cases of COVID-19 rose from 4.8.% in January 2022 to 8.4% in January 2023r. (The 1918 pandemic is generally thought to have infected 25% of the global population). As we will see, however,some countries are far higher than that.

    The blue "cone" in Figure 1 above shows a high and low projection of Global cases based on the pace of spread in the first year of COVID-19. The bottom (roughly 325 million) in January 2023 represents the trajectory of the lower pace in late summer 2020, the upper (approximately 575 million) represents a continuation of the major surge from November 2020 through January 2021. Even when the delta variant in 2021 was announced with alarm, the Global increase in cases stayed within the projection cone Then came omicron, which hit Europe hard in December 2021, and the curve shot through the projection cone in January then raced ahead at a very steep increase into March as it spread around the world, shooting upward by 200 million cases in three month before starting to slow down. 1

    It took 21 months to reach 287 million in December 2021. By the end of January 2023 cases were roughly 75 million more worldwide than the upper edge of the projection cone (and 325 million more than the lower edge of the cone). Note that the curve has been slowly closing the gap with the upper edge of the cone, from roughly 100 million in August to 75 million in January. The gap with the lower edge of the cone, however, continues to widen, from 325 million in August to 350 million in January. This is a result of the different slopes between the top and bottom edges of the cone.
  • DEATHS from COVID around the world, fortunately, continued to rise at a much slower pace than cases, putting on the brakes around March 2022—fueling questions about whether the pandemic has indeed turned into an endemic. Deaths having increased 1% each of th past nine moths, down from the most recent high of 5% in February and over 20% in monthly increases from late 2020 into 2021. (Remember, however, percentages will be higher when the base numbers are lower, but the stark difference over time is still clear). The leveling in the global curve for deaths is obvious, falling nearly 4 million short of the pace through February 2022 after which the curve bent downward most noticeably. That still leaves a death toll from COVID approaching 7.million worldwide 35 months into this pandemic.

  • BY CONTINENT. World wide, COVID cases were reported at 8.4% of global population by the end of January. Europe and North America have clearly outpaced the rest of the world, with sharp increases from the omicron variant from December 2021 through March 2022, both continuing to climb at a fast pace then the other continents, each now reporting one-third of their populations having been infected with COVID according to official reports.
  • USA continues to lead the world in the number of reported cases and death. While it leads the world in the number of COVID tests its vaccination rate remains lackluster in comparison to other countries (which keeps the death rate higher than it could be).
    • While the 104.2 million CASES represents 31.1% of its own population—up from 30.6% in December—the USA proportion of world cases dropped from 20.1% in January to 15.4% in December and January. At the same time, surges in Europe and Asia pushed cases in France to 60.3% and South Korea to 58.8% of their populations by January. Europe, with about 9% of world population, accounts for 36.3% of reported COVID cases in the world.

      The red projection cone surrounding USA cases in Figure 1, based on the same timeline as the global cone described above, stretched from 55 to 160 million cases by January, with the curve for cases staying well within those bounds. Cases in USA flattened significantly from January through July 2021 after vaccinations became available, Then, it rose slightly through November 2021 with a combination of delta and vaccine resistance. Omicron produced a serious upward bend in January 2022, then slowed in February, staying in the middle of the projection cone since then.

      The upward bend for USA cases since December 2021 is clearly visible in Figure 1, but even more pronounced in Figure 10 below, which "zooms in" on USA. Figure 11 provides a detailed view of USA vaccination.

      Figure 1 also shows how much lower cases in USA would be—approaching 32-million by now, instead of 104 million—if they were proportional to the global population. It would also mean about 374 thousand deaths instead of more than 1.1 million. NOTE: These numbers have shifted upward since my previous reports because the update in population numbers made for this report moves USA from 4.2% of global population based on UN numbers for 2020 to 4.7%, the "live: estimate by worldometers.info in early January 2023 at the time of this writing.

    • USA DEATHS continue to represent a proportion of world COVID deaths far in excess of its 4.7% share of world population. (China and India represent roughly one-third of world population between them). USA deaths declined from 20.9% of the world total in September 2020 to 14.5% at the end of August 2021, before inching up again, reaching 16.8% in January (part of that increase could be due to the update in population numbers made for last month's report).

      Most of us have seen the number of people who self-quarantine after testing positive with a home-based text, making the actual number of cases far higher than officially reported. The widening gap between cases and deaths leads to the situation that most of America is acting as if we're already in a post-COVID status. Even in this report and in much media reporting the emphasis is on cumulative numbers but as I mentioned above and will detail below, deaths from COVID on an annual basis have been and will continue to be in the top-10 causes of death is USA for the foreseeable future, well above season flu and pneumonia (53 thousand in 2020).


    • HOSPITALIZATIONS for COVID in USA were reported at 25,787 in January, down 34% from December, and down considerably from the high of 133 thousand in January 2022 when hospitalizations related to omicron peaked. While well off the peak, increases in hospitalization in December raised concerns among public health officials, including the Chicago area where I live. Even though the numbers are back down in January, officials remain cautious.

  • THE OMICRON VARIANT emerged at the end of November 2021 and hit Europe hard, bringing back lockdowns and severe restrictions in several countries. In January 2022 the surge became turbo-charged and spread to North America and to a lesser but noticeable extent to South America and Asia. In April, the increase in Asia continued, while North America had slowed considerably.

    While deaths can follow well behind increases in cases, it appears that both delta and omicron have had minimal impact on the pace of COVID deaths as mortality rates (deaths as a proportion of cases) continue to fall. This also appears to be true of BA-2 and its string of sub-variants, which are causing surges in cases in Asia (and perhaps the slight uptick in USA cases), without a rise in the curve for deaths. While new patterns could emerge, omicron has had the most impact of the three major variant waves so far. While XXB.1.5 appears on the charts tis month, it has produced no significant movement in the statistics so far.

  • TESTING. USA leads in the number of tests, with nearly 1.2 billion tests reported, followed by India, UK, Russia and France. Because home tests have been available for a while (and do not contribute to statistics) and reported resting trends have not changed for several months, the section on Tests is not longer meaningful, so that section of the repost has been scaled back in size this month. .

  • VACCINATIONS. 69% of the world's population have been reported as receiving at least one dose of vaccine by the end of January, the same as December, which was up 1% after being stuck at 68% for four months (See figures 5A, 5B, 5C, 9A, 9B and 11).The vaccination rate by continent has essentially plateaued in the past nine months, as if they have reached a saturation point, even for countries like USA which could keep going until reaching countries with higher vaccination levels.

    South America
    leads the world in vaccination, with Chile reporting 90% fully vaccinated. Ironically, Chile suffered a major surge of cases and deaths in March that continued through May, which may be explained in part by differences in efficacy of available vaccines. USA has plateaued, with 69% fully vaccinated and another 12% partially vaccinated by the end of January, increasing only 18 million since January 2022y, a rate that is slower than the growth of cases (up 28 million in that time).

  • COUNTRIES TO WATCH. Of the top ten countries by population, Pakistan, Nigeria and Singapore have not reached the threshold (the top-20 in cumulative number cases or deaths) I have used for inclusion in my list of monitored countries.

    The weekly comparison report on worldometers.info gives a sense of hot spots to watch—countries not among the 34 already monitored for this report. Based on weekly activity, this includes Austria, Switzerland, Serbia, Hong Kong and Costa Rica, all in the top 20 of new cases and/or deaths in the first week of February as I write this report. While some of these have populations too small to make much of an impact on this report, they generally confirm the continued spread of COVID in Europe, Asia and perhaps a bit of concern for parts of South American. . Where the Countries to Watch list was donated by east Asia several months ago, it has once again become more geographically diverse.

back to top

THE CONTINENTAL VIEW

The most obvious trend since mid-2022 ha been the rise in proportion of COVID cases in Asia and Europe while the pace of increase in deaths has slowed significantly and the portion of deaths among continents has remained more stable. Because global population was recently estimated to pass the 8 billion mark, I updated the population numbers in the last report from those reported by the UN for 2020 to "live" estimates from worldometers.info. Adjustments were minor, with most countries growing and a few (like Romania in the list of monitored countries) shrinking. At the global level, Asia went down by two tenths of a percent, Europe up by two tenths and the other three continents kept the same proportion.

While COVID-19 has been classified as a global pandemic, it is not distributed evenly around the world.

COVID cases now represent 8.4% of world population. (By the end of the 1918 pandemic, it is generally reported to be about 25%, fully one-quarter of the population). Today, where Asia and Africa combined represent about three-quarters (77.0%) of the world's 8.0 billion people, Europe, South America and North America still account for 2 out of 3 COVID cases (65.9% - Figure 3A) and three-quarters of COVID deaths (75.53% - Figure 4A).

In past report, I looked at the difference between the beginning of the chart in November 2020 and the current month, but looking at the overall trends, it is more useful to consider the emergence of the omicron variant in November 2021 as a key reference point. In that time, Europe went up fairly steadily by 10.2%. Asia went down than back up again, ending very close to its starting point. Both South and North America went down more than 4%. Africa is down 1.8% since omicron emerged, but it remains an insignificant proportion of world cases.

While Africa shows only the slightest deviation from its low and slow growth in Cases, the impact of omicron is very visible for the other continents, with the pace slowing for each following one to three months of rapid growth.

Europe shows the greatest impact in number of cases since omicron appeared in late November 2021. After being virtually tied with Asia in December, Europe has seen its COVID cases rise in proportion by 182% since then, while Asia increased by 145%. Both have slowed since March, but continue to climb at a pace faster than the other continents. It appears that Asia is growing faster in cases than Europe, but it's too early to project that their paths will cross.

North America increased significantly in January, then slowed below the pace of Europe and Asia..(Had the January rise continued, it would have caught up with Asia in number of cases by March or April). South America saw the lowest post-omicron increase. The Americas were obviously hit by omicron, but to a lesser level and shorter time span than Europe and Asia, making their curves bend down sooner and deeper.

The raw numbers of Fig. 3B can be deceptive. Fig. 3C gives a more realistic picture of the impact by translating raw case numbers to percentage of population. (By contrast, Figure 3A is distribution of global cases). The shape of the curves is similar to those for raw numbers, but the order and spacing paints a different picture.

The impact of omicron is clearly evident, with the Global share of COVID cases increasing from 3.6% in December 2021 to 6.2% in March, then growing at a slower pact to 8.6% by the end of January. North America has led the continents in cases as proportion of population, but Europe saw a far more significant increase from omicron, nearly matching North America by April. In October and November, Europe continued at the same pace while North America slowed, bringing the two to a near-tie from November through January, with Europe moving ahead by a barely visible 0.2%.

South America stays above the Global level, but at a slower rate. Asia and Africa remain below the Global level, Asia increasing noticeably since omicron became evident, but at a slower rate than the Global level. Africa remains far below the Global level and shows only the slightest increase due to omicron.

The proportion of deaths between continents shows less extreme change than that for cases. Again, as in the previous chart, it now makes sense to look at the emergence of omicron as the key reference point.

Since omicron, Europe has increased in proportion of deaths by 2.7%, North America is up 0.8%,while Africa is down 0.5%, Asia is down 1.0% and South America is down 2.7%. Altogether, that is far more stable than the changes in cases following omicron seen in Figure 3A above.

The most notable characteristic of deaths is the growing detachment from cases. Unlike the first year of the pandemic, when deaths went up dramatically with surges in cases, the death rate (compare it with cases in Figure 1) has slowed significantly even as cases continue to climb, It is important to remember, also, that reports of deaths will be much closer to reality than cases as it is likely that the number of cases detected by home testing and self-quarantining is far higher than official reports of case numbers.

Deaths through January 2023 shows that while the trajectory lags behind cases and has progressed at a steadier rate, it does reflect the overall changes in Cases by continent. Having crossed the 1 million mark in mid-2021, Europe crossed the 2 million mark in deaths in January.

While the omicron surge in Europe went "through the roof," what is interesting here is that the death rate immediately went up as omicron hit, then turned back down and steadily slowed into 2022. The relative steadiness in the path of each curve shows that the death rate has remained much more constant over time than cases, which tend to surge in varying degrees with each new variant. And, as we'll see later, mortality rates (deaths as a proportion of cases) continue to fall.

Vaccinations

Growth in vaccinations has been at a virtual standstill for months. As Fig. 5A shows, two thirds of the global population (69%) has been reported with at least one dose of vaccine, and six in ten (63%) are fully vaccinated, an increase of only 2% in fully vaccinated since August. That is still well below what is commonly thought of for "herd immunity," which is closer to 94% of the population being immune (most through vaccination), but is remarkable nonetheless given the enormity of the effort represented in little over a year since vaccines became available.

South America, which was slow to get into testing and vaccination, soared ahead of the other continents toward the end of 2020, then took the lead in total vaccine doses in August 2022, remaining well ahead of the other continents with 77% fully vaccinated and 86% total. Asia comes next with partial and fully vaccinated ahead of North America. While Europe is fourth in total doses, it has pulled ahead of North America in fully vaccinated. Africa remains far behind, with only one-third of the population (34%) receiving at least one dose and just over a quarter (28%) fully vaccinated.


While South America got into vaccinations later and slower than North America and Europe, Figure 5B shows how it steadily pushed its way to the top of total vaccination doses administered by August 2021, expanding its lead through early 2022 before a global slowdown in the proportion of total vaccine doses. Europe had leveled off more noticeably than Asia and the Americas, which continued very slow growth and now split the deference between Europe and South American. Africa has remained on a steady upward slope, though it remains far below global levels.

back to top

COMPARISON OF USA WITH OTHER COUNTRIES

Cases

Raw numbers are virtually meaningless without relating them to the size of a given country, so looking at cases as a proportion of population helps get a sense of the relative impact. The countries with the greatest proportion of COVID cases illustrates how they amplify the world trend for cases (bottom line in Figure 6A),

The same five countries have been at the top of cases by proportion of population for 9 months, in the same order for the past 4 months.. All six, including USA (and 14 of the 34 monitored countries) have surpassed the 25% level of global infection in 1918. The significant difference remains the much lower mortality rate than a century ago. France and South Korea are beyond 50% and show no sign of slowing down. Netherlands is still teasing the 50% level, but, since March has slowed to a place closer to the Global increase. USA had been growing at a rate slightly ahead of the Global pace, but appears about even with the global pace the past four months, and below those of Germany and Australia.

Another way to look at population proportion is the measure "1 in." The global figure of 8.6% means that 1 in 12 people in the world have been reported with COVID-19 since it began (and that only by official record keeping, not including any unreported and likely asymptomatic cases). Because of rounding to a whole number, all five of the top countries, plus USA, are 1 in 2.

All five countries (of the 34 monitored) in the bottom-5 by proportion of population have been there, in this order, since December 2021.

At the scale of this chart, the rise in Global case proportion is magnified compared to the previous chart, so it clearly shows the acceleration of cases produced by omicron around the world since November 2021. Al five countries show a rapid upturn followed by a leveling off (with varying impact from BA-2 and its sub-variants as this point).

These countries represent a considerable spread in size, from India, the second largest country, to Ecuador, ranked number 67 of the 215 countries tracked by worldometers. For Ecuador, its 5.7% of population means that 1 in 17 have been reported as having had the COVID virus; for India it is 1 in 31, and for Indonesia 1 in 41 (only Indonesia changed since last month)..

Because the size of countries makes the use of raw case numbers illusory, another measure I find helpful is the rate of change from month to month (Figure 6C). The focus of the selection is on recent changes, but the chart covers 12 months.. For this chart, countries are selected based on the change over two-months (end of November to the end of January). For the chart this month Brazil replaces Australia (which replaced Germany last month).
.
The overall trend (red line, reflecting global level) had been climbing, up to a 31% change in January 2022, reflecting the large impact of the omicron variant. Since then it dropped to a monthly change of 4% in May and June, then up to 5% for July and August before wobbling a bit on its way to 2% in January.

USA has a big spike in January 2022 from omicron, then settled close to or below the global rate since then. China showed large surges in March and April, then again from November through January. Japan has been above the global rate mots months, with significant spikes in March, April, and August, along with elevated cases from November through January. South Korea spiked in April, with smaller surges from July through January where it has been above the global rate each. It is notable that all three are in east Asia, where COVID has shifted in recent months, as seen in the chart below (though 5th place has shifted from Europe to Oceania to South America in past three month).

Month Top-5 for Increase in Cases Over 2 Months Note
May 2021 India Argentina Turkey Iran Columbia Asia surging
June 2021 India Argentina Colombia Bolivia Chile South America surging
July 2021 Colombia Iran Argentina UK Bolivia Delta appears
August 2021 Iran UK Mexico Turkey Russia Delta rising
September 2021 Iran UK Mexico Turkey USA Delta fading
October 2021 Philippines UK Ukraine Turkey Russia Mixed
November 2021 Belgium Ukraine Germany UK Netherlands Omicron appears
December 2021 Germany Belgium Netherlands UK France Omicron intensifies
January 2022 France Italy Spain Belgium Canada Omicron intensifies
February 2022 France Italy Germany Netherlands Spain Omicron intensifies
March 2022 Germany Netherlands Chile Russia Malaysia Omicron spreads
April 2022 Germany Japan Malaysia Italy Netherlands Back to Europe, Asia
May 2022 South Korea Japan Germany Italy France BA-2 variants spread
June 2022 Australia Japan Germany Italy Chile Disbursed
July 2022 Japan Australia Italy South Korea Chile Disbursed
August 2022 Japan South Korea Australia Bolivia Italy Disbursed
September 2022 Japan South Korea Australia Italy Germany Europe surging
October 2022 Japan Germany South Korea Russia Italy Back to Europe, Asia
November 2022 Taiwan China Japan South Korea Germany Asia dominant
December 2022 China Japan Taiwan South Korea Australia Solidly East
January 2023 China Japan Taiwan South Korea Brazil Asia dominant
Color Legend: Continent assignment as defined by United Nations and used by worldometers.info
  Asia Africa Europe S America N America Oceania
Note that while Oceania is not included in our Continental analysis because of its minuscule population compared
to other continents, it is included here because of the presence of Australia in the list of monitored countries.

Deaths

Because deaths as a percentage of population is such a small number, the "Deaths-per-Million" metric shown in Figure 7A provides a comparable measure. It is different than mortality rate, which is a measure bases on deaths as a proportion of cases.

The same five countries have been in the top-5 since June, with Chile and Brazil trading places this month by a very small margin.

The Global curve for deaths-per-million shows a very steady growth, despite surges, vaccinations and variants that had a much more obvious influence on cases. In fact, it has been slowing ever so slightly (put a straightedge on the global line and you will see that it is not straight, but gently curving down over time).

Given lower death rates in European and Asian countries that experienced much higher surges in cases, it is striking that USA, whose case rate has been much more moderate, finds itself in the company of countries with the highest death rates as measured by deaths-per-million-population. That situation should lead to serious consideration of what could have been done better, especially as political and ideological division drove the split between over-zealous use of lockdowns in the name of Science and the ethos of a "don't tread on me" individualism, a division that soured the often heroic efforts of the health care system.

The five lowest of monitored countries by deaths-per-million are all Asian and all five have appeared in this chart since October.

While the othe four countries have slowed at or slightly below the gloabel pace, Japan has been climbing steadily since it joined the list of monitored countries in February 2022.

The Global rate of increase in deaths-per-million was very steady through March 2022 when it began a noticeable slowdown, even as BA-2 and its sub-variants began to emerge, increasing the widening gap between cases and deaths—the bit of good news in this pandemic.

As with the comparable chart for Rate of Change for Cases (Figure 6C), countries for Rate of Change for Deaths (Figure 7C) are selected based on the change over two-months (end of November to end of January) in reported COVID deaths. The focus of the selection is on recent changes, but the chart goes back 12 months for perspective.

The same five countries have appeared in this chart since November, with some shifting in order.

The global rate of change by month (red trend line) has dropped from 4% in January 2022 to 1% from September though January.

Japan
and Australia have risen in monthly change for three months, while Taiwan and South Korea have gone down. Candida has not seen much change and USA has been flat at 1% per month since August.

The chart below shows the shift toward east Asia and Australia (Oceania) in recent months.

Month Top-5 for Increase in Deaths Over 2 Months Note
May 2021 India Turkey Brazil Colombia Argentina Tilt toward S America
June 2021 Peru India Argentina Colombia Bolivia South America surging
July 2021 Peru Ecuador Colombia Argentina Russia South America surging
August  2021 Ecuador Russia Iran Argentina Colombia South America fading
September 2021 Indonesia Iran Russia Turkey Malaysia Asia surging
October 2021 Philippines Russia Ukraine Turkey Iran Asia surging
November 2021 Ukraine Russia Philippines Turkey Malaysia Omicron beginning
December 2021 Ukraine Russia Poland Romania Philippines Omicron growing
January 2022 Poland Russia Ukraine Germany Turkey Omicron surging
February 2022 Canada USA Poland Turkey Russia Omicron surging
March 2022 Chile Canada Turkey Russia USA Omicron spreads

April 2022

Chile Japan Germany UK Russia Europe returns

May 2022

South Korea Chile Japan UK Germany Asia rising with BA-2

June 2022

Australia South Korea Canada Japan Germany Shifting East

July 2022

Australia Japan South Korea Canada Spain Solidifying East

August 2022

Australia Japan South Korea Canada Spain Solidifying East

September 2022

Japan Australia South Korea Canada Germany Solidifying East

October 2022

Japan Australia South Korea Canada Germany Solidifying East

November 2022

Taiwan Japan South Korea Canada Australia East dominant

December 2022

Japan Taiwan South Korea Australia Canada East dominant

January 2023

Japan Australia Taiwan South Korea Canada East dominant
Color Legend: Continent assignment as defined by United Nations and used by worldometers.info
  Asia Africa Europe S America N America Oceania
Note that while Oceania is not included in our Continental analysis because of its minuscule population compared
to other continents, it is included here because of the presence of Australia in the list of monitored countries.

back to top

Mortality Rate

Mortality Rates (percentage of deaths against reported cases) have generally been declining. There are many factors, which I have detailed in previous reports, but the most obvious is th gap between cases and deaths. For most of the last year, following the initial surges related to the omicron variant, cases have continued to climb while the death rate has nearly flattened in comparison. The wider the gap, the lower the morality. In that respect, as long as deaths can be held down, increases in cases should not be as alarming as they are sometimes made out to be.

That is why, I believe, most people feel COVID has become endemic—it no longer seems to be the imminent threat it was in 2020 and 2021, and is more like seasonal flu and the common cold. Many public health officials will be aghast at that kind of statement, but at least where I live in the Chicago area—and I think in much of USA—that is how most people see it. We cannot, however, assume that lower death rates mean they are no longer consequential. As I have pointed out elsewhere in this report, deaths in USA ranked third among the leading causes of death in 2020 and even though the rate has slowed, COVID will remain in the top-10 causes of death for at least another year, if not longer.

The Global mortality rate had dropped from 2.6% in October 2020 to 1.0% by October 2022. The five countries with the highest (worst) mortality rates have appeared since December 2021, with South Africa and Indonesia trading places frequency in that time. All five showed some response to omicron, with cases rising faster than deaths, which drove the mortality rate down.

Since these represent the best mortality rates, where low is good, the "rank" order is actually in reverse.

The same five countries have been on this chart since September. All five are well below the global rate of 1.0$ and piling on top of each other at 0.3, 0.2 and 0.1%.

USA was stuck at 1.2% for six months before dropping to 1.1% in July, where it has been for seven month. After following the global rate for six months, USA stayed where it was, stuck at 1.1%, when the global rate went down to 1% four months ago. Relatively speaking, that is a good mortality rate, yet one-third of the monitored countries, including Belgium, Germany and Netherlands have rates below 1.0% for nine months or more, largely because huge omicron-related surges were not matched with a similar increase in deaths. USA should have been able to keep deaths much lower since the surges here were well below those experienced in Europe and parts of Asia. (It is ironic that had USA experienced higher case surges its mortality rate would also have dropped, but that would only happen if hospitalizations and deaths were kept down).

Even so, without a relatively low mortality rate, the USA death rate would be far higher. Compared to the mortality rate during the 1918 pandemic, it could be ten times worse than it is. At its current mortality rate of 1.1%,(now above the global level) USA has had more than 1.1 million deaths (out of 104 million cases) by the end of January, As pointed out in Figure 1, however, if USA had cases closer to its proportion of world population, we would be looking at 374-thousand deaths out of 32-million cases. The response of the health care system and availability of vaccines are part of keeping mortality down, but the high case rate points to the conflicts already mentioned between opposing sides of the approach to COVID (extreme lockdowns in the name of science versus extreme individualism in the name of freedom). .

How real is the threat of death from COVID?
That's where successful mitigation comes in. Worldwide, by the end of January, 1 in 12 people have been reported as having contracted COVID and 1 in 1,184 people have died. In USA, while the mortality rate is low, because the number of cases is so high, 1 in 296 have died through January 2022—between Chile (1 in 302) and Romania (1 in 282). Japan and Australia, recent additions because of surging cases,are at 1 death in 1,894 and 1,400 respectively (COVID in both countries, however, has increased to the point that both were added to my list of monitored countries and those numbers, while still in sharp contrast with USA, are moving in the wrong direction). .A closer comparison would be neighboring but sparsely populated Canada, at 1 in 762, or Mexico, at 1 in 396, with most European countries between those two.

back to top

Tests

The section on testing has been reduced in size because of the availability of home testing is widespread and not tracked in the statistics. In addition, the statistics that are reported have shown no meaningful change for the past five or six months.

The point of inequality between countries still exists, however, so I will continue to update the following list, which was originally based on the lowest five for testing, but now includes other pairs of similar-sized countries among the 34 I monitor. Remember, however, that the statistics here refer only to officially reported testing and do not include home testing. (Population numbers updated this month, based on "live" estimate from worldometers.info.)

  • Mexico: 19.4M tests for 131.8M population, compared to Japan: 92.6M tests for 125.6M population (4.8X the tests)
  • Philippines: 34.4M tests for 112.5M population, compared to Vietnam: 85.8M tests for 99.0M population (2.5X)
  • Iran: 55.0M tests for 86.0M population, compared to Turkey: 162.7M tests for 85.6M population (3.0X)
  • South Africa: 26.5M tests for 60.8M population, compared to Italy: 268.1M tests for 60.3M population (10.1X)
  • Poland: 38.0M tests for 37.7M population, compared to Canada: 66.3M tests for 38.4M population (1.7X)
  • Peru: 37.5M tests for 33.7M population, compared to Malaysia: 67.7M tests for 33.2M population (1.8X)
  • Ecuador: 3.1M tests for 18.2M population, compared to Netherlands: 26.0M tests for 17.2M population (8.4X)
  • Bolivia: 2.7M tests for 12.0M population, compared to Belgium: 36.6M tests for 11.7M population (13.5X)

Of the east Asian countries I monitor—most relatively recent additions because of surging cases—only Malaysia and Taiwan report enough tests to cover their entire population. Otherwise, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Philippines are all at testing levels that would cover roughly a third of their populations. Yet, they remain among the monitored countries with the lowest mortality rates. While they may not appear high in reported testing, they are all above global rates for fully vaccinated (from 87% for Vietnam and Taiwan, 86% for South Korea, to 83% for Japan).

back to top

Vaccinations

Figure 9A compares USA with the top-5 and bottom-5 of monitored countries by total doses administered. As you can see USA leans toward the upper countries, but like most countries, its total vaccination rate showed virtually no increase in January*, and that remains below the full vaccination rate for all of the top-5. On the other hand, USA remains well ahead of the bottom five of the 34 monitored countries for both total doses and fully vaccinated.

As pointed out in other parts of this analysis, Figure 9A does not tell the whole story. It's a bit of an apples and oranges comparison, with one major factor being the population of each country.

*Numbers for this chart come from ourworldindata.org. The CDC numbers, used in Figure 11, show similar results, with an increase of less than 1% per month in those fully vaccinated over the past twelve months, to a total of 69.2% of USA population.

Taking population into account paints a somewhat different picture for USA compared to other monitored countries. In Figure 9B you see the five most populous countries on the left and the five smallest (of those monitored for this report) on the right.

China and Brazil are ahead of USA, both in total vaccinations, USA total is tied with Brazil's full vaccination rate. USA is ahead of India and Indonesia in both total doses and full vaccination, though the margin for full vaccination is much closer. . .

On the side of the smallest countries, Ecuador is ahead of India, USA and Indonesia. The disparity in earlier months is decreasing as the larger countries (except for USA) continue to slowly improve their vaccination rates. (Chile, which has been in the smallest five and boasted the highest vaccination rate among the monitored countries, has been replaced by Romania with updates to population numbers this month).

In USA and perhaps in other large countries, individual regions, provinces or states may be doing as well as some smaller countries, while the entire country lags behind the smaller ones.

back to top

VACCINATIONS IN USA

 

With remarkable speed (it usually takes years to develop vaccines), two COVID vaccines were granted emergency approval for use in USA starting in January 2021—the one by Pfizer requires super-cold storage, which limits its deployment. The other, by Moderna, requires cold storage similar to other vaccines. Both of these require two doses, which means that vaccine dosages available must be divided in two to determine the number of people covered. By March 2021 Johnson & Johnson had been granted approval for a single-dose vaccine, though that approval has since been rescinded because of a rare but significant heart-related side effect. The numbers in Figure 11 represent the status of vaccination at the end of August as reported by CDC) which is very close to ourworldindata.org data used in earlier vaccination charts). .

A person is considered "fully vaccinated" two weeks after the final vaccine dose; roughly five to six weeks from the first dose for Pfizer and Moderna. A booster dose for both vaccines became available in October 2021 and a second booster updated for the latest variants became available late in 2022 (in Fig. 10 the curve for booster shots dropped in October because CDC switched its tracking from the first to the second available booster).

Figure 10 clearly shows that vaccinations began at a rapid pace. The red line for full vaccinations is lower than doses administered because if takes two does to be fully immunized. So, the first few months were on track, but then the curve for fully vaccinated began to flatten and has risen by 1% or less each month since for the past year (and not much better than that as the rate slowed between March and December 2021. While the difference is small, the rate of increase for cases continues to climb at a slightly higher rate than those who are fully vaccinated.

On the positive side, doses administered continues to climb at a higher rate than cases, but that only means that more people are getting only a single dose and not going on to become fully vaccinated and then boosted. As we saw earlier, this makes USA's vaccination performance unimpressive compared to other countries around the world. Sadly, it may account for a death rate far higher than i could have been.

back to top

CAUSES OF DEATH IN USA

In the first year of the pandemic media attention was focused on numeric benchmarks - causes of death, wars, the 1918 pandemic. When the CDC updated its leading causes of death list for 2000, COVID came in at third place, at 345 thousand deaths (in 10 months), behind heart disease (691K) and cancer (599K). When the table is updated again for 2021, it will show COVID at around 450 thousand for the full year. But by 2022, following the omicron variant, the number will drop to about 270 thousand, still possibly staying in third place. In the 10 months following March 2022, when the curve for deaths took slowed down very noticeably, the number of deaths has dropped to 125 thousand. At the same time, cases in USA continue to rise, but until the death rate slows even more, mortality is likely to stay stuck around its current 1.1%. . . . .

The latest "Ensemble Forecast" from CDC suggests that by our next report we should see:

...the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths will likely decrease over the next 4 weeks, with 1,000 to 5,100 new deaths likely reported in the week ending March 4, 2023. The national ensemble predicts that a total of 1,121,000 to 1,127,000 COVID-19 deaths will be reported by this date.....

Note: As I've referenced in the notes for several charts, data from worldometers.info tends to be ahead of CDC and Johns Hopkins by about 3%, because of reporting methodology and timing. I use it as a primary source because its main table is very easy to sort and provides the relevant data for these reports. Such differences are also found in the vaccine data from ourworldindata. Over time, however, trends track with reasonable consistency between sources.

Perspective

The 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic is estimated to have struck 500 million people, 26.3% of the world population of 1.9-billion at that time. By contrast, we're now at 7.7% of the global population. Deaths a century ago have been widely estimated at between 50- and 100-million worldwide, putting the global mortality rate somewhere between 10 and 20-percent. It has been estimated that 675,000 died in the U.S.

IF COVID-19 hit at the same rate as 1918,
we would see about 2-billion cases worldwide by the time COVID-19 is over, with the global population now at 8.0-billion—four times what it was in 1918. There would be 200- to 400-million deaths. USA is estimated to have had 27-million cases (one-quarter of the population of 108-million) and 675,000 deaths. Today, with a population of 333-million (a three-fold increase from 1918) this would mean more than 80-million cases, and 2- to 4-million deaths. We have now reached closer to one-third of the population with reported COVID infections, at 104 million; fortunately, deaths remain half that projection, at just over 1.1 million.

At the present rate of confirmed cases and mortality while the total number of global cases has already surpassed 500 million—comparable to 1918 in raw numbers—that would be one-quarter of 1918 when taking population growth into account . .. and with the pandemic now set to outlast the Spanish Flu, which went on in three waves over a two year period. (We entered a third year in March 2022). We broke the global 500-million case benchmark in April 2022, propelled by delta and omicron surges since July 2021.

While we are not engaged in a world war as was the case in 1918, today we are fighting global fatigue and information overload. While many public officials are duly concerned, their pronouncements reach the level of "overstated threats" (a term I heard this week from people concerned about the growing tensions between China and USA) that only add to the fatigue and the growing distrust of our bedrock institutions (see my report on Confidence in American Institutions, an analysis of Gallup Poll data spanning nearly five decades).

back to top

Maintaining Perspective

In the tendency to turn everything into a binary right-wrong or agree-disagree with science or government, we ignore the need to recognize the nature of science and the fact that we are dealing with very complicated issues. So, in addition to recommending excellent sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is also wise to consider multiple qualified sources.

While there has been much focus placed on trusting "the science," it is important to recognize that science itself changes over time based on research and available data. In the highly volatile political atmosphere we find ourselves in (not just in USA, but around the world), there is a danger of not allowing the experts to change their views as their own understanding expands, or of trying to silence voices of experts whose views are out of sync with "the science" as reported by the majority of media outlets.

In an earlier report, I mentioned the Greater Barrington Declaration, currently signed by more than 63-thousand medical & public health scientists and medical practitioners (and 869-thousand "concerned citizens"), which states "As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection."

For a personal perspective from a scholar and practitioner who espouses an approach similar to the Focused Protection of the Greater Harrington Declaration, see comments by Scott W. Atlas, Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, in an article "Science, Politics, and COVID: Will Truth Prevail?"

Several months ago on SeniorLifestyle I posted an article by Mallory Pickett of The New Yorker, "Sweden's Pandemic Experiment," which provides a fair evaluation of the very loose protocols adopted by Sweden, essentially a variation of the "Focused Protection" approach. The "jury is still out" on this one, so judge for yourself whether Sweden hit the mark any better than the area in which you live. It does make the case that given the overall approach to mitigation, surging cases do not necessarily lead to surging hospitalization and death, but actually result in lower mortality rates.

FROM PANDEMIC TO ENDEMIC: In November 2021 I posted on SeniorLifestyle an article by Sarah Zhang from The Atlantic, "America Has Lost the Plot on COVID." In it, she suggests that America (and the world) is headed not toward the eradication of COVID-19, but its transformation from pandemic to endemic, joining the seasonal flu as something we will deal with for some time. Getting there, she contends, is more a matter of mixed policy strategies than "following the science," but coming to grips with its inevitability could help lead to more effective strategies.

Zhang mentions Denmark as a counterpoint to what is happening in America, saying

One country that has excelled at vaccinating its elderly population is Denmark. Ninety-five percent of those over 50 have taken a COVID-19 vaccine, on top of a 90 percent overall vaccination rate in those eligible. (Children under 12 are still not eligible.) On September 10, Denmark lifted all restrictions. No face masks. No restrictions on bars or nightclubs. Life feels completely back to normal, says Lone Simonsen, an epidemiologist at Roskilde University, who was among the scientists advising the Danish government. In deciding when the country would be ready to reopen, she told me, “I was looking at, simply, vaccination coverage in people over 50.” COVID-19 cases in Denmark have since risenunder CDC mask guidelines, the country would even qualify as an area of “high” transmission where vaccinated people should still mask indoors. But hospitalizations are at a fraction of their January peak, relatively few people are in intensive care, and deaths in particular have remained low.

Crucially, Simonsen said, decisions about COVID measures are made on a short-term basis. If the situation changes, these restrictions can come back—and indeed, the health minister is now talking about that possibility. Simonsen continues to scrutinize new hospitalizations everyday. Depending on how the country’s transition to endemicity goes, it could be a model for the rest of the world.

Both Sweden and Denmark, illustrate a seeming irony, pairing super high case rates with extremely low mortality rates. Does this prove the point of Zhang's observation about focusing on the prevention of hospitalization? Or the Greater Barrington Declaration's "focused protection."?

Also see "How you'll know when Covid-19 has gone from from 'pandemic' to 'endemic'" by Sigal Samuel, in an October 2022 article on Vox.

Resonating with the growing discussion over the impacts of severe lockdowns, columnist Debra J. Saunders wrote about the impact of school closures and the turnabout in thinking by some politicians who had been its strongest advocates. Her column was titled "Worse Than a Crime, a Mistake." Perhaps it's a bit of 20-20 hindsight, but it is another perspective on the "Focused Protection" idea that may help us better shape responses to future pandemics or similar widespread crises.

How we evaluate the many approaches used to deal with COVID will determine how we prepare for and approach the next global event—including the eventual transition from pandemic to endemic.

My purpose in mentioning these sources is to recognize that there are multiple, sometimes conflicting, sometimes dissenting, voices that should be part of the conversation. The purpose of these monthly reports remains first and foremost to present the numbers about COVID-19 in a manner that helps you understand how the pandemic is progressing and how the U.S. compares to the world—and how to gain more perspective than might be gathered from the news alone.

back to top

Profile of Monitored Continents & Countries

(Data from worldometers.info). - Updated January 2023 after world population announced to reach 8 billion
While there was upward movement in population, density and median age remained the same at continental levels.

 Rank   Country   Population  Share of
 World Population 
Density
 People per 
 square km 
Urban
 Population 
 Median 
Age
   WORLD 8.0B 100% -- -- --
Top 10 Countries by Population, plus Five Major Continents
See lists of countries by continent
-  ASIA 4.64B 59.3% 150  51 countries  32
1  China 1.45B 18.4% 153 61% 38
2  India 1.41B 17.7% 454 35% 28
-  AFRICA 1.34B 17.1% 45  59 countries  20
-  EUROPE 747.6M 9.6% 34  44 countries  43
-  S AMERICA 654.0M 8.4% 32  50 countries  31
-  N AMERICA 369.9M 4.7% 29  5 countries  39
3  USA 335.9M 4.3% 36 83% 38
4  Indonesia** 281.0M 3.5% 151 56% 30
5  Pakistan* 232.2M 2.8% 287 35% 23
6  Brazil 216.4M 2.7% 25 88% 33
7  Nigeria* 219.8M 2.6% 226 52% 18
8  Bangladesh* 168.9M 2.1% 1,265 39% 28
9  Russia 146.1M 1.9% 9 74% 40
10  Mexico 132.4M 1.7% 66 84% 29
*these countries do not appear in the details because they have not yet reached a high enough threshold to be included
**Indonesia was added to the monitored list in July 2021


Other Countries included in Analysis
most have been in top 20 of cases or deaths
Rank is based on 2020 UN statistics, Population is "live" estimate in January 2023, so you can see a few instances where population shifts will impact ranking slightly
 Rank   Country   Population  Share of
 World Population 
Density
 People per 
 square km 
Urban
 Population 
 Median 
Age
11  Japan (5) 125.5M 1.6% 75 92% 48
13  Philippines (2) 113.3M 1.4% 368 47% 26
15 Vietnam (6) 97.3M 1.3% 314 38% 32
17  Turkey 86.7M 1.1% 110 76% 32
18  Iran 86.8M 1.1% 52 76% 32
19  Germany 84.5M 1.1% 240 76% 46
21  United Kingdom 68.8M 0.9% 281 83% 40
22  France 65.6M 0.8% 119 82% 42
23  Italy 60.3M 0.8% 206 69% 47
25  South Africa (1) 61.2M 0.8% 94 67% 28
28  South Korea (6) 51.4M 0.7% 527 82% 44
29  Colombia 52.3M 0.7% 46 80% 31
30  Spain 46.8M 0.6% 94 80% 45
32  Argentina 46.3M 0.6% 17 93% 32
35 Ukraine (1) 43.1M 0.6% 75 69% 41
39  Poland (1) 37.8M 0.5% 124 60% 42
39  Canada 38.6M 0.5% 4 81% 41
43  Peru 34.2M 0.4% 26 79% 31
45  Malaysia (3) 33.4M 0.4% 99 78% 30
55  Australia (7) 26.3M 0.3% 3 86% 38
57  Taiwan (8) 23.9M 0.3% 78 73% 42
61  Romania (4) 18.9M 0.2% 84 55% 43
63  Chile 19.5M 0.2% 26 85% 35
67  Ecuador 18.3M 0.2% 71 63% 28
69  Netherlands (1) 17.2M 0.2% 508 92% 43
80  Bolivia 12.1M 0.1% 11 69% 26
81  Belgium 11.7M 0.1% 383 98% 42

(1) Added to the monitored list in July 2021
(2) Added to the monitored list in August 2021
(3) Added to the monitored list in September 2021
(4) Added to the monitored list in October 2021
(5) Added to the monitored list in February 2022
(6) Added to the monitored list in March 2022
(7) Added to the monitored list in April 2022
(8) Added to the monitored list in September 2022

back to top

Scope of This Report

What I track

From the worldometers.info website I track the following Categories:

  • Total Cases • Cases per Million
  • Total Deaths • Deaths per Million
  • Total Tests • Tests per Million (not reported at a Continental level) - statistics still tracked but charts no longer used (see noted above)
  • From Cases and Deaths, I calculate the Mortality Rate

Instead of reporting Cases per Million directly, I try to put raw numbers in the perspective of several key measures. These are a different way of expressing "per Million" statistics, but it seems easier to grasp.

  • Country population as a proportion of global population
  • Country cases and deaths as a proportion of global cases and deaths
  • Country cases as a proportion of its own population
  • Cases and deaths expressed as "1 in X" number of people

Who I monitor

My analysis covers countries that have appeared in the top-20 of the worldometers case and deaths categories since September 2020. This includes most of the world's largest countries as well as some that are much smaller (see the chart in the previous section). Vaccination data is taken from ourworldindata.org and CDC. Hospitalization date is found at ourworldindata.org.

back to top


This article was also posted on SeniorLifestyle, which I edit



Search all articles by Stu Johnson

Stu Johnson is owner of Stuart Johnson & Associates, a communications consultancy in Wheaton, Illinois focused on "making information make sense."

E-mail the author (moc.setaicossajs@uts*)

* For web-based email, you may need to copy and paste the address yourself.


Posted: February 45, 2023   Accessed 1,485 times

Go to the list of most recent InfoMatters Blogs
Search InfoMatters (You can expand the search to the entire site)

`
Home | About | Religion in America | Resouce Center | Contact Us
©2024 Stuart Johnson & Associates
Home | About | Religion in America
Resouce Center |  Contact Us
©2024 Stuart Johnson & Associates