Let’s begin with the bad news.
The United States has not seen any meaningful expansion of coronavirus testing since the November 2020 fall-off (see the stall in the purple graph below). Such suggests the United States is undertesting by at least two-thirds.
New testing and new positive results (red) have not been a useful measure of anything for roughly three months now. We are so late in the epidemic at this point that a testing recovery is unlikely. This is very bad. Without sufficient testing and accurate data, it is impossible for any jurisdiction to plan for anything. Instead, the first sign that something is wrong is that hospitals fill up. At that point, the issue is no longer prevention, or even planning, but instead crisis mitigation.
So, sadly and unsurprisingly, the figure to watch has become hospitalizations and only hospitalizations (blue). Hospitalizations have been, in a word, heartbreaking. They have been over double their August peak for some time.
But but but BUT we are very clearly past the peak in hospitalizations caused by the Thanksgiving and Christmas surges. It even appears *fingers crossed* that deaths (grey) have peaked as well. This is the second-best news we have had during the past six months of the epidemic.
The even-better news is there are now three coronavirus vaccines in various stages of dispersal. All three – Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca – are rapidly ramping up manufacturing. And more are coming. Novavax and Johnson & Johnson’s formulas will be added to the mix in the weeks to come.
This all raises a lot of questions:
- How soon will we be able to start quietly dreaming of herd immunity and a “normal” world?
- What are the differences among the vaccines and how will those differences play out?
- Which countries and economic sectors are likely to recover first, and how quickly?
- How will the new coronavirus variants percolating in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa impact the broader picture?
Please join Zeihan on Geopolitics on February 9 for COVID, Vaccines, and the Road to Recovery, a webinar and Q&A session tackling these questions and more. Registration information and more at the link below.