We've Come So Far: A Look Back at the COVID Pandemic Compared to Today
The Dane County COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 looks completely different from the pandemic we experienced in 2020. While 2020 was a rollercoaster, we have seen cases, hospitalizations, and deaths steadily drop in 2021. We continue to see progress in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and outbreaks, even as different variants spread in the US. Contrasting current data with fall of 2020 data allows us to see how much progress we’ve made and how well vaccines have worked in our county. We can thank vaccines for the huge amount of progress we have made!
Our 14-day average of cases per day has been below 10 since June 8, and below 20 since May 28. The last time our cases were so low was in spring 2020 (see Image 1).
On June 6 and June 14, we also recorded only one case. This is in stark contrast to our peak of 682 confirmed new cases on November 13, 2020. In fact, in all of November, the lowest case count on any given day was 138 cases. In the entire month of June 2021, we have seen only 185 cases total. That’s less than almost any single day in November 2020.
COVID has been staying steady or going down for almost all of 2021. The downward trends of 2021 are proof of the importance of vaccines. Before vaccines, we saw surge after surge of cases. But once we started vaccinating people, we have seen a steady decline, with the exception of a slight bump in April 2021. That bump in cases may have been because of the Alpha variant (also known as B.1.1.7.) and was much smaller than we would have expected thanks to our vaccination rate. You can see how our vaccine rate has increased as our case counts have gone down in Image 1 below.
Image 1. As the percent of Dane County with at least one dose of vaccine increased, the 14-day average of cases continued to trend downward.
Hospitalizations & Deaths
Throughout 2021, we have seen a steady downward trend both in the total number of people hospitalized with COVID and people in the ICU with COVID. Note that the way we track hospitalization trends include anyone hospitalized in Dane County, which may not represent only Dane County residents. All our other data points count only Dane County residents.
- The peak number of inpatient hospitalizations was 179 on November 18, and peak number of ICU hospitalizations was the next day on November 19 at 49.
- 92 deaths were recorded in December, more than the total number of deaths so far in 2021 (88).
Treatment for COVID-19 has gotten better over the past year. Hospitals are able to care for people who need it without having to stretch capacity. 99% of Dane County residents hospitalized for COVID-19 have been over the age of 11. Deaths have become exceedingly rare—of the 315 lives we’ve lost to COVID-19 in Dane County, less than 3% have occurred in the past two months.
The number of cases in long term care facilities, childcare facilities, and schools all peaked in mid- to late-November. The number of cases in correctional facilities peaked in mid-January (see Image 2).
There have been ten or fewer active cases in long term care facilities, childcare facilities, and correctional facilities for the past month. Schools had a spike in cases in late April/early May but have been declining since then. A big part of the spike in April/May spike was likely schools opening for in-person class. Now, 12-15 year olds are 60.9% vaccinated and 16-17 year olds are 71.3% vaccinated, which should provide more protection when schools open again in the fall.
Image 2. The number of cases in long term care facilities, childcare facilities, and schools all peaked in mid- to late-November. The number of cases in correctional facilities peaked in mid-January.
Age Group Trends
While cases among young children have remained comparatively low throughout the pandemic, we have seen improvements in trends among children. In November, we saw an average of 10 cases per day among 0-7 year olds, 15 cases per day among 8-11 year olds, and 31 cases per day among 12-17 year olds. Today, we’re averaging less than one case per day in each child age group. While there may be multiple reasons for this, one reason may be that herd immunity in adults is protecting our young children who cannot yet get the vaccine.
Cases among highly vaccinated age groups, such as people 65+, have nearly disappeared. After dozens of cases per day in the fall, today we’re averaging less than one case per day in each of our oldest age groups.
We’ve come a long way, and we hope cases continue to decrease as even more people in our community are vaccinated. If you still need to get vaccinated, find options—including lots of mobile clinics!—at publichealthmdc.com/vax. Need to talk to someone you love about getting vaccinated? See our blog post for answers to common questions.