COVID-19: A comparison with other public-health burdens

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In our August 2021 update to When will the COVID-19 pandemic end? we discussed the transition from viewing COVID-19 as a special threat to managing it as an endemic disease. Each country will decide whether, when, and how to make the change. But in calibrating interventions, it may be helpful to compare the burden of COVID-19 to other health conditions that countries have grown comfortable in managing (Exhibit 1).

As the exhibit shows, COVID-19 outcomes diverge widely based on vaccination status. Overall, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have risen recently in France and the United Kingdom, and even more sharply in the United States. US hospitalizations are now nearly as high as the peak reached in January 2021, and deaths are at about half their winter peak. In France and the United Kingdom, both hospitalizations and deaths are smaller fractions of what these countries experienced last winter.

Looking more closely at the most recent figures (week of August 22, 2021), we can see more precisely how COVID-19 hospitalizations compare with long-term averages of other public-health threats (Exhibit 2).

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