MUSC predicts 2-month COVID cycle, says percentage of people being hospitalized declining

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 3:37 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2021 at 7:31 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials at the Medical University of South Carolina say the COVID-19 pandemic has settled into a 2-month pattern, based off the peaks and troughs of the virus over the past year and a half.

Data from the MUSC COVID-19 Tracking Team shows the first wave of COVID began in June 2020 and came down months later in August. Then, the next major wave started in November and eventually began to fall again in January.

It’s a trend, Dr. Michael Sweat—the leader of the COVID tracking team—says will likely continue.

“When the numbers go up, we have history that shows they’ll come down again,” he said. “When they come down, people need to be aware that they will often come back up again. We’ve been through this several times where the numbers sort of drop pretty quickly and many people think it’s gone and it’s over with. So that’s something to be aware of that these waves sort of can come quickly. I would just encourage people to remain vigilant.”

Sweat predicts another wave in the coming months.

“As we approach winter, I do think there’s a significant risk we’re going to see an increase in the number of infections,” he says. “When you just look around the country right now, where the highest rates of growth are and the highest number of cases are occurring are in cold places: Alaska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Colorado. All of those people are seeing increases right now.”

Being proactive about behaviors that prevent the spread of the virus is important to stay on top of the 2-month patterns, according to Sweat.

“It’s shown very clearly in the science that what matters most for slowing these peaks is to implement reductions and behaviors early, as it’s climbing,” he says. “When the numbers are going up rapidly, that’s when people ought to be particularly careful about being inside crowded places with poor ventilation and with wearing masks. Often what’s happening is these numbers shoot up and they shoot up very quickly and by the time people realize that the spread of the virus has really gotten out into communities and it’ll play out.”

Sweat says there is, however, some good news. The percentage of people diagnosed with COVID who end up in the hospital is declining.

“It was 25 percent in the first wave, then in the winter wave it was around 15 percent—maybe lower,” he said in a release. “And then in this current wave, we’re down here around 10 percent. It’s all suggesting that immunity is starting to have an effect.”

Sweat says these numbers mean the vaccine and immunity within the community are starting to have an effect.

Data from the COVID tracking team shows COVID’s impact on the Charleston has been reduced from “severe” to significant. That data is based on the number of reported cases per day per 100,000 people. Sweat says the rate has dropped to about 22 cases per 100,000 people, which is the lowest it’s been since July, according to MUSC.

“I do want to emphasize the best way we can get to high levels of immunity and stop this epidemic going to be vaccination,” Sweat says. “And also people who have been infected, it’s been demonstrably proven that getting a vaccine after you’ve had an infection is absolutely an important thing to do and it actually puts those people in a position of having some of the best protection of anybody.”

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