Many U.S. COVID-19 indicators are looking great — but one hot question is whether we already have cases of the same omicron variant now making people sick in and around Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capital cities.
For now, the best public domain tracking indicator available to life insurers and financial professionals may be the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s local case count numbers.
The latest COVID-19 Community Profile Report, which is produced by public health specialists at the CDC and another federal agency, shows that the overall number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people fell to 504,056 in the week ending Nov. 28, down 21% from the total for the previous week.
But, at the metropolitan area level, week-over-week changes ranged from a drop of 100% to an increase of 12%.
The five metro areas with increases might be good places to hunt for omicron variant cases.
The Omicron Variant
The COVID-19 has killed about 800,000 people in the United States, or about on in every 400 people.
The pandemic has killed about 90,000 people in South Africa, or about one in 667 of the people who live there.
Pandemic trackers in South Africa were able to detect the worrisome variant quickly, because they have a large program for sequencing the genes in COVID-19 test samples.
Unlike the United States, South Africa also has a large, systematic program for detecting changes in COVID-19 early, by testing wastewater throughout the country for signs of COVID-19.
No one is sure how quite how dangerous the omicron variant is, but public health officials in South Africa can say that the COVID-19 wastewater test results for an area that includes Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capital, suddenly began to how a big increase in signs of COVID-19 about two weeks ago, and that the increase in signs of COVID-19 in the wastewater coincided with an increase in the number of patients entering that area’s hospitals with new cases of COVID-19.
The U.S. New COVID-19 Case Numbers, by Metropolitan Area
Changes in the number of new cases reported could be due to anything from an actual change in the number of cases, to new school or workplace testing programs, to the number of local epidemiologists who are out sick.
But, because the time from developing a scratchy throat from the virus that causes COVID-19 to needing oxygen can take two weeks or more, the number of new cases can be an indicator of what might happen to hospitalization rates two or more weeks in advance.
In South Africa, the omicron variant began to lead to an increase in the number of new cases in the area around Pretoria about three weeks ago. The number of reported cases in other places in South Africa, and the number of hospitalizations in the Pretoria area, are only now starting to rise.
One possibility is that any places in the United States or Europe where case counts are starting to tick up could have about as many omicron variant cases as places in South Africa, like the Cape Town area, where the case counts have begun to increase.
For a look at the five U.S. metropolitan areas with the biggest percentage increases in the number of new COVID-19 cases reported for the week ending Nov. 26, see the slideshow above.
For data for 54 metropolitan areas, see the table below.
Other Leading Indicators
Dynata posts an interactive, survey-based COVID-19 symptom-tracking map. That map appears to show how percentages of survey takers suffering from the symptoms of the omicron variant — fatigue and a dry cough — in places like Arkansas, Louisiana and Michigan.
Kinsa, a digital thermometer company, offers interactive tracking and forecast maps based on digital thermometer readings. Kinsa is predicting that COVID-19 risk could be higher in much of New England, parts of the Midwest and Nevada.
Metropolitan Area COVID-19 Case Count Trends
|Place||Population||Cases, last 7 days||Cases per 100,000 people, last 7 days||Cases – % change||People who are fully vaccinated as % of total population|
|Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta (Georgia)||6,020,364||2,966||49||-38.0%||+29.6%|
|Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown (Texas)||2,227,083||1,091||49||-28.0%||+61.2%|
|Boston-Cambridge-Newton (Massachusetts, New Hampshire)||4,873,019||11,340||233||+3.0%||+68.0%|
|Buffalo-Cheektowaga (New York)||1,127,983||5,333||473||-1.0%||+63.2%|
|Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia (North Carolina, South Carolina)||2,636,883||2,662||101||-30.0%||+50.3%|
|Chicago-Naperville-Elgin (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin)||9,458,539||14,756||156||-21.0%||+63.1%|
|Cincinnati (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana)||2,221,208||4,773||215||-11.0%||+54.5%|
|Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (Texas)||7,573,136||3,808||50||-35.0%||+53.6%|
|Grand Rapids-Kentwood (Michigan)||1,077,370||5,042||468||-41.0%||+53.9%|
|Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown (Connecticut)||1,204,877||1,533||127||+5.0%||+69.2%|
|Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land (Texas)||7,066,141||2,920||41||-25.0%||+56.7%|
|Kansas City (Missouri, Kansas)||2,157,990||3,703||172||-38.0%||+54.2%|
|Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, (Nevada)||2,266,715||2,094||92||-28.0%||+51.2%|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim (California)||13,214,799||6,805||51||-33.0%||+64.2%|
|Louisville/Jefferson County (Kentucky, Indiana)||1,265,108||1,989||157||-8.0%||+54.2%|
|Memphis (Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas)||1,346,045||763||57||-49.0%||+48.1%|
|Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach (Florida)||6,166,488||-||-||-100.0%||+69.8%|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington (Minnesota, Wisconsin)||3,640,043||15,043||413||-18.0%||+60.6%|
|New Orleans-Metairie (Louisiana)||1,270,530||331||26||-46.0%||+58.3%|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania)||19,216,182||26,850||140||-8.0%||+67.6%|
|Oklahoma City (Oklahoma)||1,408,950||1,348||96||-27.0%||+53.2%|
|Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland)||6,102,434||10,992||180||+2.0%||+60.8%|
|Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro (Oregon, Washington)||2,492,412||1,744||70||-37.0%||+66.2%|
|Providence-Warwick, (Rhode Island, Massachusetts)||1,624,578||4,937||304||+5.0%||+64.4%|
|Raleigh-Cary (North Carolina)||1,390,785||1,231||89||-27.0%||+61.1%|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, (California)||4,650,631||933||20||-82.0%||+51.8%|
|Rochester (New York)||1,069,644||3,968||371||-17.0%||+63.5%|
|Salt Lake City (Utah)||1,232,696||3,420||277||-20.0%||+60.1%|
|San Antonio-New Braunfels (Texas)||2,550,960||1,389||54||-39.0%||+59.9%|
|San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad (California)||3,338,330||2,487||74||-9.0%||+54.0%|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley (California)||4,731,803||517||11||-77.0%||+74.2%|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (California)||1,990,660||330||17||-75.0%||+76.7%|
|San Juan-Bayamón-Caguas (Puerto Rico)||2,023,227||313||15||-41.0%||+69.1%|
|St. Louis (Missouri, Illinois)||2,803,228||4,844||173||-14.0%||+53.8%|
|Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (Florida)||3,194,831||-||-||-100.0%||+56.8%|
|Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News (Virginia, North Carolina)||1,768,901||1,586||90||+12.0%||+52.0%|
|Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia)||6,280,487||5,296||84||-10.0%||+66.1%|