COVID trends update for church risk management

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Over the past couple of days we’ve seen the first fall in the daily figures for new COVID cases by reported date for a long time.

Now, we need to approach the data with some caution recognising that

  • The reported date is not the same as the actual specimen date when the test was taken. There is a lag time and there seems to be a suggestion that in some places there’s been a little bit of a delay to get the reported data through although probably not enough to affect the data as much as we are seeing.
  • The old adage “one swallow doesn’t make a summer” needs repeating. Sometimes you see bumps in the data before the upward (or downward) trajectory continues.
  • We still do not know for certain whether or not the 4th stage unlocking on the 19th July will significantly affect cases.

My view, shared by many is that we are now seeing a correction back to the underlying trend in case growth that we were seeing pre the Euros.  This is represented in the chart below.

Pre the spiking in cases we saw during the tournament, growth had slowed to about 30%, so I’ve modelled this here and then plotted the actual data against it.  What this means is that although reported cases are falling, we cannot be certain that this is the genuine long term trend until the orange line crosses the blue line. If daily cases reported continue to fall after that, then we might assume that the curve in growth has begun to bend.

One interesting question is “Why did the Euros create a spike in cases and not a surge?” In other words, you might expect the exponential case growth to continue after the first infections among supporters because they would go out and continue to infect their friends leading to a long period of increased growth. I suspect there are two answers to that, vaccines and contact tracing. What this means is that those people were infected through contact among supporters will have been people in their 20s to 40s who were not fully vaccinated. However, they would then have in tially mixed with work colleagues and family who were double vaccinated, this would have reduced the number of follow on infections, additionally as they returned to work, they and their colleagues will hae been pinged on the COVID app and so self-isolated. The result was that the mini exponential curve will have been turned back by a targeted firewall around the super-spreader event.

You will notice that my modelled data with the Euro effect removed gives us a more optimistic forecast than I suggested a few days back when I gave my best, possible and worst predictions. We are now looking at a best possible case where infection cases peak at about 58,000 although it is still possible that the 19th July changes lead to a fresh surge in growth and that we will see the worst case scenario of over 150,000 cases.  However the risk of that looks lower at the moment.

This is important for hospitalisations.  As you can see from the next graph, the % of admissions to cases is continuing to hover at about 2.4%. 

On this bases we might expect admissions to peak at around 1400 which whilst being significant in terms of the pressure it will put on healthcare services is substantially lower than what we have seen in the first two COVID waves. Again, this is dependent upon the recent changes to restrictions not leading to further rapid case growth.

We can therefore go into the week ahead with a level of cautious optimism but still significant uncertainty.  My advice would be to keep an eye on what the data does this week before making any further changes to your arrangements for church gatherings.