Weekly Update: A month into #Omicron, it's still a whole new ballgame...but there's already hints of a revert to form?


For months I posted weekly looks at the rate of COVID-19 cases & deaths at the county level since the end of June, broken out by partisan lean (i.e, what percent of the vote Donald Trump received in 2020), as well as by the vaccination rate of each county in the U.S. (nonpartisan).

This basically amounts to the point when the Delta Variant wave hit the U.S., although it had been quietly spreading under the radar for a few months prior to that.

Now that we're a full month into the Omicron Variant wave, I've updated my case/death rate tracking to reflect that as well...because the data so far is showing a completely new chapter as we enter the 3rd year of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The "start" of the Delta Wave was easy to lock in for my purposes; both cases and deaths from COVID had dropped off dramatically right up until around the end of June. The Delta Wave started showing up in the daily deaths pretty quickly as July started. The transition from the Delta to Omicron was a lot fuzzier, but I've decided to go with December 15th as my transition point.

As always, here's my methodology:

Remember: "Decile" means 1/10th or 10% of the total population (all 50 states + DC).

Here's the final ratios for the Delta wave (6/15/21 - 12/15/21):

  • Delta wave CASE rates: 2.46x higher in the reddest decile than the bluest decile
  • Delta wave DEATH rates: 5.77X higher in the reddest decile than the bluest decile
  • Delta wave CASE rates: 2.12 higher in the least-vaccinated decile than the most-vaccinated decile
  • Delta wave DEATH rates: 4.77x higher in the least-vaccinated decile than the most-vaccinated decile

What about Omicron? Remember, this is since December 15th only, so there's only one month of data below.

First, the partisan breakout: The case rate ratio is a very different picture under Omicron. For the first month of Omicron, case rates are 1.9x higher in the bluest decile than the reddest. It's worth noting, however, that this is down from 2.2x higher only a week earlier:

Death rates since Omicron started still swing red, as the death rate in the reddest decile is 2.3x higher than in the bluest. This is down from 2.9x higher a week earlier, however, and down from nearly 5.8x higher during the Delta wave. Remember, deaths tend to lag new cases by about 3 weeks, so it actually makes sense that the two would be shifting in opposite directions at the moment:

It's a similar story with the nonpartisan vaccination rate ratios:

Case rates have gone from being 2.1x higher in the least-vaccinated counties to being 2.1x higher in the most-vaccinated counties...except that this is down from 2.4x higher a week ago:

The death rate, however, is still 2.8x higher in the least-vaccinated decile than the most. This is down from 3.3x higher a week ago, and way down from the 4.8x higher ratio during the Delta wave:

Going forward, my guess is that the case rates will continue to shift back towards being higher in the reddest/least-vaccinated counties, while the death rates will continue to shift more towards the bluest/most-vaccinated counties...but only for a few weeks, at which point those will start reversing themselves as well.

However, I don't expect to see anything close to the 6:1 ratios we saw during Delta; it'll probably hit perhaps 3:1 or so by May or June, I'd imagine.

In the meantime, get vaccinated & get boosted, dammit.