This week brings another week of declining cases and declining percent positivity. You don't need me to tell you that we are headed the right direction! I'll caution, as I did last week, that these case rates are far higher than we've seen in this community before this surge, and as such, please remember that there is a large amount of virus circulating in our community. Your very best continued approach to your health and to help our community emerge from this surge is to continue your daily routine, wear a high-quality mask, and make sure you are fully vaccinated and boosted.
The best estimate of our case trajectory in the coming weeks comes from locations that have already been through the surge. I'm including a graphic again this week of South Africa and the US, with the addition of the UK. All is as discussed last week - a sharp increase, sharp decrease and slow decline to a high plateau. That is still the case in South Africa, and it looks like the UK is just a week or so ahead of the US on that same trajectory. I would expect us to see a continued decrease in our cases in the coming weeks. The visual this week is a graph of the case rate (the 14-day average) in Easthampton since early last year, color coded to match how our category of transmission during that time (green, yellow, red). As you can see, while our rates are dropping, our cases are very high. While the height of the peak is an important piece of data, so is the rate of decline. I hope we see rates drop quickly.
I want to stress this week how incredibly valuable vaccines are, and how well they prevent severe disease and death. There are varying estimates of the risk difference according to vaccine status, but the numbers all have one thing in common: those who are vaccinated have lower risk of infection and dramatically lower risk of severe disease and death. The booster dose decreases risk even further. I'm including a visual published in the New York Times this week that illustrates the stark risk difference. Being vaccinated is the single most impactful thing you can do to avoid a severe outcome. Our country is in the midst of an enormous surge, and those who are suffering the most severe outcomes are unvaccinated. If you can get vaccinated, please do so as soon as possible. If you haven't had a booster dose, do that as soon as possible. If you are vaccinated and boosted while you are reading this, I hope you will continue your risk mitigation strategies (wear a high-quality mask!) but I also hope this puts some of your concerns in perspective. You really are well protected.
We may be coming down the other side of this surge, and it may, for most people, be less severe, but keep in mind the context of the situation. About 2400 people are dying in the US each day from COVID-19, most of them unvaccinated. That's one every 37 seconds. As a comparison, about 1900 people die each day from heart disease and about 1600 die each day from cancer. COVID-19 is our leading cause of death right now, and death from COVID-19 is largely vaccine preventable.
Finally, a visual is included of vaccine rates by age and race/ethnicity in Easthampton. Overall rates are included in the dashboard (as always). Vaccination rates, including the primary series and the booster dose, are lowest among Hispanic and Black members of the 01027 community. We don't have enough data to estimate vaccination rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or those who identify primarily with another racial / ethnic group. We have high vaccination rates, over 80%, among those 12-19 years old and those over 30 years old. Only 65% of 20-29 year olds are vaccinated, however, and just 55% of 5-11 year olds. Those subgroups with the lowest vaccination rates are at highest risk in the coming weeks, as we ride out the decline.
Take good care, and take care of each other.