The number of cases, test positivity, hospitalizations and deaths being reported by local and state health departments, the mainstream media and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have little meaning these days.
Case counts meant something very early on in the epidemic when each case reliably was associated with a certain risk of severe disease, hospitalization or death. Once there was a substantial number of people with immunity to severe outcomes due to recovery or vaccination those case counts became disconnected from expected outcomes.
While case counts were always underestimated due to the fraction of asymptomatic infection, now with the widespread availability of self-testing, reported cases greatly underestimate the number of circulating true cases even further.
Test positivity also used to be a reliable measure of the community burden of infection with increased positivity correlating with increased spread of infection and hospitalization. But because now many only seek medical testing to confirm a home-based positive test for employment sick-leave or other purposes, the frequency of those testing positive through medical testing is artificially high.
Remember the days of “flatten the curve,” the idea that we had to preserve hospital capacity through efforts to reduce the spread of infection? That curve was the number of hospital admissions due to COVID-19 and reasonably reflected the number of people admitted to hospitals severely ill with COVID-19. Now, however, due to the continued …