Pandemic 2020 #4 – Current COVID19 Situation

The United States is too large to look at the entire country’s cases as a single entity. For example, when COVID19 cases were exploding in New York City, most of the country had very few cases. However, NYC is seeing fewer cases and starting to open up again, yet we have other areas in the country seeing record daily cases and have hospitals initiate emergency backup plans. The below is from the New York Times newsletter from 6-09-2020 and shows the new trouble spots:

If you’re in one of these hot spots, you should be preparing for a large amount of cases. Ideally, right now, I should be telling you to get ready for another round of shutdowns. So far, it looks like the authorities aren’t going to be shutting down because they fear more an economic collapse. You need to know we’re likely to see an economic collapse one way or the other, because if people start dying in large numbers, people will spontaneously stay at home.

The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919 saw three waves of infections:

Technically, I think we are still in the first wave of COVID19, as the number of cases in the US continues to rise. A second wave occurs after the number of cases drops significantly and everyone thinks it’s over, then we “surprisingly” see a large up tick in cases again. It’s far too early to tell if we’re going to have more than a single wave, but I wanted to illustrate the point the pandemic isn’t over within a few months. The Spanish Flu pandemic lasted almost two years, which is probably how long it took for it to infect enough people to achieve herd immunity. Which is likely the same time frame we’re looking at with COVID19.

I’ve been tracking the data everyday and here are the daily deaths in the US since March 1, 2020: 

Because the way the numbers are reported, there can be sharp spikes or low spots in the data. Spikes can be artificially caused when old cases are reviewed and added to the current day’s numbers. Low spots often occur on weekends when reporting is incomplete. To smooth out these variances, we use a “7 Day Average” to show us the trends.

Looking at the chart above, we can see a rapid increase in deaths in April, and a downward trend starting at the end of April. April was when NYC was getting hit the hardest. Since then, total deaths for the US has been on a down trend, which is a good thing. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story.

The above chart is plotted in a linear scale because it’s easier to compare one day to another, but when we want to be able to project into the future, it’s often easier to do this on a logarithmic scale. The next two charts, showing the US Daily Cases and the US Daily Deaths, use logarithmic scales.

If you’re not used to looking at a log scale, the first thing you may find unsettling is the scale on the Y axis. A log scale goes up by a power of 10 for each cycle. It looks weird, but trust me, it’s extremely useful. 

So looking at this chart, we see the rapid rise and then the cases start to taper off. I’ve made some demarcations for significant events, such as the beginning and ending of most shutdowns, when the riots began, and several milestones. The big red line is June 15th, which is when I expect the current trend to start changing. The light blue curve is the 7 Day Average, and the straight red line extending forward from the data points is a projection of trend from the middle of May. Here’s a closer look at that area:

Because the points for each day have dropped below the red line, we can see the actual number of cases is lower than what we expected. This is a good thing, because it means we’re having less cases each day than where we were previously headed, but the chart doesn’t tell us why this is happening. I surmise it’s due to greater number of people wearing masks and social distancing, but it could be any number of things.

Now let’s look at the US Daily Deaths on a logarithmic scale:

This chart is similar to the US Cases chart, in that it shows a rapid rise and then begins to level off. We have the same significant milestones and the ominous red line on June 15th. Let’s take a closer look at what’s currently going on:

The red line is the projected deaths going forward from the trend a couple of weeks ago. Again, we see the actual daily deaths are lower than expected. In fact, I would say we’re having a significantly less deaths than expected. When you compare the decline of cases to deaths, we can see that while daily cases are down, daily deaths are down even more. Again, this is a good thing, though we don’t know why.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, not every location is experiencing less cases. In my state of Arizona, people have been crazy stupid and pretending there is no pandemic. The consequence of this, of course, is we’re having – what I would call – runaway cases. Here is a chart of Daily cases in Arizona, along with the daily deaths and some milestones:

The average incubation time for COVID19 is 5 to 14 days. Even though the number of cases was slightly increasing while we were in “lockdown,” you can see the daily cases started picking up 9-10 days after the shelter orders were lifted (the average of 5 and 14 is 9.5 – so not really shocking that we see this increase at the 9 – 10 day mark). Starting on the 10th day after the stay-at-home orders expired, the cases increase dramatically. In fact, over the past seven days, we’ve averaged 1,071 cases per day, which is three times as many for the same period a month prior. 

At the bottom of the chart, in red, you can see the daily deaths. So far, this remains low, but deaths usually follow cases by about 14 days. This would bring us to, approximately, June 15th. This is when I expect to see a reversal of the current trend and an increase in deaths. I don’t know if this will occur on a scale we’ll be able to see on a national scale, but people in those locations experiencing increased cases, such as Arizona, Arkansas, California, Oregon, Texas, Utah, North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi will need to be extra cautious.

Why are We Seeing Less Deaths?

This is a question no one has answers to yet. The virus could have mutated to a slightly less virulent strain, or hospital care has improved on treating the disease. More likely, because the deaths follow cases by, at least, two weeks, we simply won’t see the deaths increase until later.

I’m pretty sure this increase in cases is only a precursor of what we’ll be seeing in the next two to three weeks. It takes time for this virus to spread among family members and reach other people. There’s also the many people who were engaged in protests and riots on many occasions. Though these occurred outside, in some places people were very close together and too many weren’t wearing masks. It’s my guess we’ll start to see cases from these events begin to rise about June 15th, and increase over the next 

Get Prepared, Be Prepared.

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