U.S. Covid-19 Rates Overtake The EU, Highlighting A Difference In Travel Restrictions

Covid-19 statistics on both sides of the Atlantic are severe. But new figures show that the case rates of Covid-19 infections across many states are surging past most European countries.

It’s important because of Thanksgiving–as people move around this holiday weekend, so too will the virus, so rates are expected to rise–and it’s also indicative of the travel restrictions currently in place on both sides of the ocean.

The stats show the U.S. with higher rates than the EU

As Axios reported, not so long ago, U.S. health officials were looking at Europe and imagining how the country would cope if the same thing happened and a second wave surged–and now the U.S. has a higher per capita caseload than the EU has ever had during the second wave of the pandemic.

The World Health Organization announced that in Europe, one person is dying every 17 seconds from Covid-19; in the U.S. on Thanksgiving weekend, the country is bracing itself for one of the worst weeks since the pandemic began. More than 1.2 million cases have been identified in the past week and the country is on track to meet the 13 million mark for identified cases, with a seven-day average of daily deaths at 1,600.

On Saturday, the EU country with the highest case load was Luxembourg at just above 80 cases per 100,000 people. In the U.S., 15 states had a higher caseload–with North Dakota the highest, at just above 160 cases per 100,000 people. Wyoming, South Dakota, Wyoming and Minnesota had case loads ranging from 140 to 120 cases per 100,000 people.

Across the country, the U.S. had 52.4 cases per 100,000 people and the EU stood at 37.6 per 100,000 people (the EU peak was on Nov 8 at 46.7 cases per 100,000).

The EU has more severe travel restrictions in place

The EU brought in many nationwide, government-controlled curfews and lockdowns. Masks have been mandatory for the past few months in most countries, both in enclosed spaces and now on the streets.

For the most part, travel is currently banned into the EU from most countries (there are some exceptions). Travel between EU states isn’t advised, except where extremely necessary for work or school purposes (although many countries plan to allow internal travel throughout Christmas week).

In the U.S. it’s been a mixed bag. With no national mandate, the U.S. has a Covid-19 strategy with travel restrictions that are different from state to state. Some of the worst hit states, such as Iowa, are only now issuing mask mandates and the vast majority of states have no travel restrictions in place at all.

President-elect Joe Biden asked people to forego travel, as did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), more than 2 million people were screened at U.S. airports the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving. It’s obviously far lower than last year, but Friday was only the second time since March that daily airport screenings moved above 1 million.

The COVID Tracking Project is expecting a “double weekend pattern” to appear in the Covid-19 data over Thanksgiving because fewer people will get tested and report statistics over the holiday weekend, causing a slowdown in reported numbers, which won’t represent real life.

What’s more, due to the lags between reporting and hospitalizations, it is likely that the real effect of Thanksgiving in health terms will take a few weeks to show up in the statistics–meaning the rates in the U.S. will continue to rise for some time.

Flattening the curve, without restrictions?

However, as reported by Axios, there are signs that some states are starting to flatten their curves, reducing the increase in the number of new cases–the implication being that people are starting to modify their behaviour on their own, without government intervention on travel restrictions at a national level.

The New York Times reported that whilst some people are choosing to visit family and friends, others are holding pot lucks via zoom or limiting the holiday to include household members or close family.

Data from John Hopkins University shows states which are currently flattening their curve (updated daily).

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