August 7 COVID Update: More States Appear to Peak

The following summary and its attached report are the fifteenth in the ongoing series by the W. Capra Data Science team on the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the industries we service over time.  The previous reports can be found in the following links: April 14, April 23, April 30, May 6, May 13, May 20, May 28, June 4, June 11, June 18, June 26, July 2, July 9, July 16, July 23, and July 31.

Introduction

Using data current as of August 6, this report compiles updated results for testing, cases, and deaths, and categorizations of each state’s current circumstances. Furthermore, a broader view of county-level data is available, which looks at the top 100 counties in the country by cases and deaths.  This summary will highlight some of the findings and conclusions for the past week. Additionally, the summary will examine business impacts, both domestically and internationally, that can inform the US of its possible outcomes and timescales, considering the trends seen today.

A note before we begin: This outbreak and the data surrounding it changes daily. This report was created when looking at the outbreak as a data problem that might benefit from data-driven solutions and insights. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical or safety advice, nor is it a recommendation on outbreak response currently in place in various locations around the country. Individual assessment of local laws and current official government and health guidance should be reviewed before making any decisions.

Analysis

18.24% of the entire US population has been tested. This number only represents the total number of tests administered, so the actual testing rate is lower as some individuals have been tested more than once. The distribution of these tests is also unevenly distributed – states around the US, and especially in the Northeast, are leading the country with testing rates.  Case rates around the country also vary widely, with a few states reaching greater than a 15% case rate. Death rates, or the rate of positive cases that result in morbidity, is currently 3.1% for the US. The US appeared to have peaked with new cases and deaths sometime in April followed by a period of decline in both statistics. However, the past few weeks had seen a significant increase in cases, and deaths have begun to increase in the US.  The number of new cases in the US has passed the previous peak in new cases from April, and the overall case curve appears to have peaked again for the US in the past two weeks.  This is a slight flattening of the case curve and will update as the weeks progress.  There had also been a continual increase in testing over the past month – which may point to the case acceleration for some states – however, testing has decreased slightly in the past week.  This decrease in testing is worrisome but may be attributed to high testing states like FL closing some testing sites in response to Hurricane Isaias.  

The acceleration or deceleration of cases is used to classify where each state is regarding the outbreak situation.  The situation looks dire for many states but has seen some improvement in the last week.  For the past few weeks, many states have shown that they are experiencing rapid spread.  At the beginning of reopening, only a few states were in the worst of four classifications – Exponential Growth – which is a positive new case velocity with a positive new case acceleration.  In recent weeks, nearly the entirety of the South and the West was in the exponential growth stage with many in the Midwest experiencing similar situations.  In the last week, most of the states have moved to the Linear growth stage – positive new case velocity but near-zero case acceleration.  Overall, there are now only 8 total states in the exponential stage, down from 22 last week.  Linear growth has grown proportionately to 32 states, the highest count of the classifications.  Overall, that means that 40 states are not improving their outbreak situations – a worrying trend.  However, the movement from Exponential to Linear for many states is a positive trend.  The other two classifications, Improving and Contained, both account for five states each.  The Northeast was the only region where these two stages were despite being the original hotspot of the virus, but this past week AZ and UT have entered the improvement stage as well. To read an unabridged version of the results, please see the attached report for a complete view of specific states and counties.

Conclusions

The United States continues to experience positive acceleration in deaths, but the acceleration rate of new cases has appeared to peak and has been decreasing.  Monitoring the case rate will continue over the coming weeks to see if the case rate continues to decline. At the beginning of this new period of case increases, southern states were struggling with significant case growth while many northern states continued to improve, reaching a point where every state across the US besides those in the Northeast were seeing negative trends.  Most states in the past week have flattened their new case curves with some even beginning to decrease. Last week, AZ began to decrease its new cases and has continued that trend this week, reaching the improvement stage.  Many other states, including hotspots CA, FL, and TX have also begun to improve.  Lockdowns being lifted and a decreasing adherence to health guidelines has contributed to the struggles of containing the virus, causing some states to remain in a stage of growth for the outbreak.  This case increase also does not necessarily precipitate a proportionate increase in deaths, but there is a lag between case results and death results and as new cases are increasing the death rate will be monitored.  There has been an increase in deaths but over the past weeks, which follows the lag from increasing cases.  Indications from new case velocities and accelerations point to longer recovery periods than those of rapid acceleration experienced in March and April.  This trend is in line with what other countries across the world experienced with COVID-19. Overall, the effects of reduced mobility from lockdowns and social distancing measures continue to be strongly correlated with the deceleration of new cases.

Several states have reverted on their remarkable success in flattening their initial growth-rate curves of per-capita cases and deaths.  However, many states remain in a growth stage of the outbreak, many of which are heavily populated states with aggressive reopening measures.  This trend in case growth for states appears in the “Daily Cases (normalized to state maximum)” visualization on page 11 of the attached report.  Many of the states are flattening their new daily cases but still not decreasing their case numbers.  This is true for the three most populous states in the US: CA, FL, and TX. The current situation is no longer rapidly devolving but holding steady from the state of the last few weeks.  Without lockdowns or widespread adherence to current medical best practice advice, this trend is anticipated to continue.  Monitoring these trends will be important as all states have reopened their economies to varying degrees with increasing consumer activity outside of the home.

The Business Environment

The business environment of the US continues to suffer from the resurgence of the coronavirus within the country’s borders.  The jobs report for July showed a slowdown from job growth in May and June that reflects the resurgence of the virus and the subsequent reduction in consumer spending and business activity in July.  Only 1.8 million jobs were added in July, just over 1/3 the total of June, for an economy that is still down nearly 13 million jobs.  Additionally, most of the jobs were only part-time work.  However, a positive outlook from the jobs report is that the number of permanent job losses is flat from June at 2.9 million.  Had the number increased, the proportion of the population who would need long-term support beyond the pandemic would be higher.  This jobs report is different from weekly unemployment claims, which were over 1.2 million.  The 1.2 million new claims are high, but the unemployment claims continue to shrink from the peak of the pandemic in April.  The numbers for jobs are worrying if the pandemic situation continues to worsen as fewer will be able to find jobs and the previous government support policies expire. Continuing talks on various sections of the next round of government stimulus may help prevent the worst fallout from a very tepid job market.  Eviction moratoriums and unemployment money are two major points that will have a direct effect on businesses – the extra unemployment money was found to have boosted consumer spending and kept millions of Americans housed.  The extra money in Americans’ pockets – along with the potential for more one-time checks – also helped keep Americans employed as spending was boosted to keep businesses in operation.

The risks of a spreading pandemic can be seen in the current situation in CA.  The state underwent a second round of shutdowns after the first reopening attempt led to surges in cases across the state.  Unemployment claims grew by over 450,000 from the previous week – nearly half of the unemployment claims of the country.  Increased unemployment has also been coupled with a shrinking job market, pinching workers in the current jobs, and when they try to find a new job.  This has been happening across sectors and industries in CA and is at risk as companies begin closing permanently.

The increasing prevalence of the pandemic is not only seen within the US.  Many other countries have seen spikes as they have tried to restart and reopen their own countries.  France and Germany have both seen higher cases this week than in months – Wednesday’s numbers were 1,700 and 1,000, respectively.  Spain has set its own record with over 1,700 cases on Wednesday, which was a daily record since lifting its national lockdown in June. While the surges are not on the same level as the US, the results are concerning as they have been increasing since the beginning of August and reaching in-country levels like May.  Thousands of miles away, in Melbourne – the second largest city in Australia – a new six-week lockdown began on Thursday.  The lockdown closed most businesses to combat the second wave of coronavirus in the city.  These secondary waves, their severity and the response is both informative for the US response but also some circumstances in the US will help to inform those countries and businesses internationally, such as the current situation concerning the CA economy with subsequent lockdowns.

For further discussion of data modeling or anticipated COVID-19 business impacts, contact the W. Capra Data Science team:

Nate at nrao@wcapra.com

Stu at sgreenlee@wcapra.com

Sources

Data from The New York Times, based on reports from state and local health agencies. (2020, April 6). Retrieved April 3, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html

The COVID Tracking Project. (2020, April 6). Retrieved April 3, 2020, from https://covidtracking.com/

COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports, Google, https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/

Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Counties in the United States, U.S. Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/data/datasets/time-series/demo/popest/2010s-counties-total.html#par_textimage_739801612

Cohen, Patricia, Ben Casselman, and Gillian Friedman. “An Extra $600 a Week Kept Many Jobless Workers Afloat. Now What Will They Do?” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 29, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/29/business/economy/unemployment-benefits-coronavirus.html

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Packham, Colin. “Australia’s Second-Biggest City Enters Strict New Coronavirus Lockdown.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, August 6, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-australia/australias-second-biggest-city-enters-strict-new-coronavirus-lockdown-idUSKCN252077

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Tappe, Anneken. “US Economy Added 1.8 Million Jobs in July but Still down Nearly 13 Million Jobs during the Pandemic.” CNN. Cable News Network, August 7, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/07/economy/july-2020-jobs-report/index.html