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The Holiday Surge Is Just Beginning

January 14, 2021  ||  kinsa data team

Chart showing the increasing rate of transmission

Prior to the end-of-year holidays, there was justifiable concern about an impending surge in COVID cases. Now, two weeks after New Year’s day, it’s tempting to think we are past the damage caused by mass travel and indoor gatherings. Unfortunately, according to Kinsa data, the true holiday surge is just beginning.

Rate of transmission, (Rt) is a key metric epidemiologists use to understand how fast a disease is spreading by estimating how many additional people each infected person will go on to infect. Because Kinsa’s network of thermometers reports temperatures in real time, we get the earliest possible look at Rt trends -- which accurately predict cases. 

Starting just before the new year, national Rt rose sharply to levels we have not seen since June 2020. This is driven by regional pockets where transmission is increasing rapidly. Rt in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic is highly elevated. Washington state, Idaho and other Pacific Northwestern states are also experiencing high Rt, as is with western Texas and parts of New Mexico.

While it is too early to determine conclusively, it’s possible that this rise in transmission is the result of the new, more transmissible coronavirus variant. Regardless, because Kinsa’s Rt signal leads case surges by several weeks, the fact that we are seeing extreme elevation means cases are likely to rise for at least the rest of January.