The numbers of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths in early autumn will make it clear where we are with the pandemic between vaccines, viral variants, green passes and anti-contagion measures
During the month of September, the data on the Covid-19 pandemic progressively had less and less space on the Italian media. As always, newspapers, radio and TV reported the data from the bulletins on a daily basis, but the general impression is that no longer made the news, so much so that they are confined far from front pages and featured content. In addition to the chasing of other relevant news, from Italy and the world, the numbers of the health emergency ended up relegated to a corner of the information map probably for their values in themselves: after the peak of new infections around end of August, the curves of the positive cases and that of hospitalizations (in the ward and in intensive care) have had a slow but inexorable decline.
In short, a succession of updates not very relevant e all in all positive, which currently leads to having just over 400 people hospitalized in intensive care, less than 100,000 currently positive, an average of 3,000 new cases per day and an average of 40-50 deaths per day.
Looking at how things went in 2020, and also based on the scientific plausibility of the effects induced by the change of season, in the month of October it will be particularly interesting to understand the evolution of the curves. With the end of the summer, the less and less time spent outdoors and the resumption of many activities (school, sports, associations …), in fact, we could be faced with the proof of the facts how much the combination of the strategies implemented – vaccines, green pass, anti-contagion regulations still in force – and the new viral variants in circulation impacts on the health situation. That is to say, if we are to consider ourselves still in full pandemic or if we can finally breathe a sigh of relief and begin to feel that the worst is behind us.
If we look at what exactly happened one year ago, digging up the old numbers, we immediately notice that October was the month in which the virus circulated regained strength more quickly. At the beginning of the month there were a thousand new cases of contagion a day, and in the end it exceeded 20 thousand. The trend has affected deaths even more: oscillating around twenty a day in the first week of October, they have risen to almost 300 (then even reaching over 800 in November, because as known the death curve always moves late compared to that of infections). The same applies to intensive care, which in just one month went from an occupation of 300 to 2 thousand, and for hospitalizations, from about 3 thousand to 18 thousand.
Certainly at the time theexcessive loosening from the measures and attention during the summer (when more than one was under the illusion that Covid-19 was now just a memory), but the coincidence with the resumption of the various activities and with the end of the summer season does not seem to have been a coincidence at all.
More than 2020, less than 2020
One of the issues that has been taking hold for some months now, also regarding the debate (not scientific, but in the collective chatter) regarding theefficacy of vaccines, is the direct comparison between last year’s epidemic curves and those of 2021. One of the arguments most often raised by the no-vax camp and by the hesitant ones is in fact that – despite an advanced vaccination campaign – the absolute numbers of this summer they were higher than in 2020.
The argument is obviously fallacious, because the differences between the two summers cannot be attributed to the vaccine issue alone (and perhaps argue that vaccines circulate the virus more, it goes without saying), ignoring the differences between the durations and especially the intensities of the various ones lockdown. In fact, in 2020 we lived for a long time “on income” thanks to a particularly rigid and prolonged spring lockdown, something that this year due to the traffic light system of the regions there was no.
In any case, looking at the graphs, this superiority of the numbers of 2021 compared to those of 2020 seems to have short life: even if as we have written several times here on Wired it makes little sense to make forward projections of the curves or even forecasts, it is undeniable that last year all the curves in this phase were starting to surge, while now they are in the waning phase. So much so that, to cite a numerical example, the employment fork of intensive care 2020-vs-2021 which had reached 500 in August has now been reduced to a hundred, and the gap in the number of new positives is just a few hundred cases per day (while in August the difference was in the order of 3 thousand cases). In short, if the trend does not change, the curves of the absolute numbers of 2021 will end soon below those of 2020.
What the data might tell us in October
What happens in the next few weeks will be determined by the overlap and combination of a long series of factors. There is the aforementioned effect due to the change of season (the real news of these weeks). There is a vaccination campaign which advances with about 80% of the over 12s who have completed their course of administration. There are the different ones variants that continue to mix. There is the practice of green pass now fully operational (with the upgrade on October 15 coming). There are new indications on the capacity of cinemas, theaters and stadiums and there is – it must be said – a slight general relaxation which is noted in recent weeks, in conjunction with the minor hammering media,confidence-effect determined by vaccinations and the fact that the curves at the moment seem under control.
In any case it will be difficult, if not impossible, uncouple the effect of various factors and establish that what exactly will determine the ascent or descent curves. The comparison between the trend of the epidemic in the vaccinated and in the unvaccinated population already clearly indicates that the vaccines are working, but this evidence cannot be sufficient in itself to determine how the curves will evolve.
However, in front of the October stress test, it will be useful to see and understand the overall general effect, that is, if the mix of conditions that we now have is enough to keep the impact of Covid-19 on the health system at an acceptable level, or if the specter of new restrictions begins to emerge. To date i data would seem to favor the first hypothesis more, but it is not excluded that there may still be an inversion of the trend. That is why numbers can now become a useful beacon again orient ourselves in the continuation of the pandemic.