COVID-19 Trends by State: May 28 Update

The following summary and its attached report are the seventh of an 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 first report can be found here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, and the sixth here.

Introduction

The following summary and its attached report are the sixth of an ongoing series by the W. Capra Data Science team on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the industries we service over time. Using data current as of May 26, a cohesive view of the situation the US and each individual state finds itself in is discussed as well as each state’s success in recovering from the pandemic. Included in this report are 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 concerning states’ testing, cases, deaths, and the direction that all three are trending. Additionally, the summary will examine how other regions, both domestically and internationally, that are emerging from quarantines and lockdowns 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

Currently, 4.65% of the entire US population has been tested. This is very small from a sampling perspective, but not too far off from the rest of the world. The distribution of these tests is also very unevenly distributed – states in the Northeast are leading the country with testing rates above 6% whereas some states such as TX and MO remain closer to 2%. Case rates around the country also vary widely, with a few states reaching greater than a 20% case rate. The true rate is probably much lower, but because every individual cannot be tested at this time, the true rate is unknown. Death rates, or the rate of positive cases that result in morbidity, is currently 5.6% for the US. It tends to be higher for populations with comorbidities and advanced ages. MI is currently experiencing the highest rate at 9.6% with CT and LA following closely behind.

The growth of positive cases is directly tied to testing availability, but trends exist showing how transmission rates might differ between different states. Overall, the US appears to have peaked with new cases flattening over the last month with deaths following similar trends. NY, RI, NJ, MA, and CT are decelerating in terms of cases – while testing at similar or increased rates – which indicates improvement. However, some states have seen a slight acceleration of cases. There has also been a surge in testing over the past month, which may point to the case acceleration for some states. The testing surge does not explain all accelerations by state. Some states like LA and VA have seen an increase in cases compared to the increase in testing, which may indicate a negative turn for the pandemic situation in these states.

The acceleration or deceleration of cases is used to classify where each state is with regard to the outbreak situation. Many are improving – that is, these states have a negative new case acceleration such as NY, MI, and IL. A few states have reached a preliminary “contained” stage, where acceleration is near zero with a low velocity for cases. The states in this subgroup include AK, MT, and VT, all states with low travel and low population densities. Many states, however, are still in a linear growth stage of new cases with new case acceleration near 0. States in this subgroup include CA, GA, and FL. Death velocities, while not directly following case rates, peak about 5-7 days after peaks in case velocities. Most states are experiencing a deceleration or plateau in deaths. Across the country, the positive trend recently of increasing testing while cases have remained flat has been a good sign. A lag time exists between testing and receiving results, but current results indicate an overall good trend as testing is increasing and cases are remaining flat. Some changes have been implemented with regard to state assignments. The current assignment criteria have been improved to avoid states appearing as if they are in one stage for only a short period before reverting to their larger macro trend. 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 see a decreasing number of new cases and new deaths. With the recent acceleration in testing, a small acceleration in cases is expected proportionate to testing but this does not necessarily precipitate a proportionate increase in deaths. This testing acceleration has been developing for over a month, but case growth has not materialized as hypothesized with relation to the testing increases – a great sign. So far, there have been only regional case increases, so the testing increase will help to provide a safer environment for returning to normal life. In terms of new cases, many states remain in a linear growth stage while a large number have entered a stage of improvement – negative new case acceleration. Indications from new case velocities and accelerations point to longer recovery periods than those of rapid acceleration experienced in March and April. The duration of these recovery periods for more heavily populated states will be monitored as more and more regions emerge from the worst of the outbreak. 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 had remarkable success in flattening their initial growth-rate curves of per-capita cases and deaths and will be continually reported on moving forward. However, many states remain in a growth stage of the outbreak, many of which are heavily populous states with aggressive reopening measures. Recently, trends in the data suggest early signs of a second wave in a few states such as OK, WV, and SC. Monitoring these trends will be important as states have begun reopening their economies in the past week. All states have begun reopening plans, with each state in a different situation with regards to the outbreak.

Assessing the Business Impact

The global novel coronavirus outbreak has obviously wreaked havoc on international and domestic economies alike. All businesses have suffered to different degrees. As the world has begun to reopen in the past few weeks, examining the impending rebound of the economy and the risks presented by moving forward will be imperative to all parties involved to get some insight on the potential outcomes. Using data from the supplied report, a view on recovery and reopening efforts where those might be headed come a bit more into focus.

The longer the period of economic reopening, the greater the amount of data on economic recovery can be done. Varying reports paint different pictures, one with the economy taking a long time to return to pre-pandemic levels, and others believing the economic downturn may not even last a calendar year. According to a new survey released by CNN Business, two-thirds of US executives expect the American economy to recover from the coronavirus related recession within a year. Outside of a precipitous drop in late February and March, the US stock market has surged in the time since late March and the V-shaped recovery contrasts the warnings from others about an uneven economic recovery. If the optimism translates into more investment and jobs, that confidence could limit the economic damage of the crisis. Conversely, various reports on the economic recovery paint a bleaker picture. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the economic reopening efforts may not lead to economic recovery as expected. The easing of lockdowns has not resulted in a large-scale return to work for the millions of Americans laid off from their jobs at the beginning of this pandemic. As noted in last week’s report, according to Goldman Sachs’ Global Investment Research, economic reopening and people returning to work have not translated into rapid recovery and increases in spending as predicted. The overall economic activity in some of the states which reopened earliest – CO, GA, TN, TX, to name a few – have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels and have only recovered at a marginally faster pace than the country overall. Customers aren’t returning to stores as they were before the pandemic, evidenced by the mobility data for the four states above show that people in those states have only begun to emerge from lockdowns and are returning to these businesses despite some being open for more than a month. Additionally, JPMorgan released a report on consumer spending that has a more bearish market sentiment with regards to recovery. At the peak of lockdowns, when the lockdowns were most widespread, consumer spending was down 40 percent year-over-year. That number has been reduced to closer to 20 percent today and is steadily growing. However, reopening has not been the main driver in the rebound. The earlier reopening has led to a greater amount of consumer spending than those still locked down, but marginally so – only a few percentage points separate those reopened and those that were not. Additionally, the rebounds were mostly concentrated in the same verticals as those in lockdown. Grocery and discount stores have avoided a slide, but hospitality and entertainment continue to see depressed spending. These are all heightened by the move away from Card Present to Card Not Present transactions, as many businesses rely on in-person spending in their stores. The same JPMorgan report noted that Card Not Present transactions have returned to near the same levels of spending as before the pandemic, but Card Present transactions have not experienced nearly the same amount of return. This may suggest for all verticals, including those that W. Capra most closely works, that a more permanent shift in spending to online vendors from physical retailers may be here to stay.

In addition to the economic impact and outlook from reopening, reexamining current policies and their potential for a second wave of the virus is important as well. With the recent holiday weekend and the turn towards summer weather, the threat of a second wave remains. Even before the holiday weekend, some states were seeing dangerous increases in positive coronavirus cases. South Carolina, one of the states that have been reopened the longest, has had an accelerating case rate for more than a week and every single area of life has seen an increase in mobility outside of residential and grocery – suggesting higher human-to-human contact and more chances for a second wave. The holiday weekend only served to increase the potential for a second wave as large groups of people in countless regions across the US gathered to celebrate over the weekend. Large scale events and gatherings may have an immediate impact, such as the hypothesized Mardi Gras fallout from the beginning of the pandemic, but many of these mass gatherings over the weekend involved distance travelers and non-local individuals. Gathering and then returning to various locations across the US may impede contact tracing and lead to outbreaks in regions not previously hit by the pandemic. Despite the economic relief these consumers may have brought for a weekend, the potential danger may outweigh the benefits. With the already precarious business environment in the US, a potential round two of lockdowns and imposed social distancing may only further exacerbate the difficult position many businesses find themselves in. The consequences of these actions will reveal themselves in the weeks to come as the results come in.

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

“Big Memorial Day Weekend Crowds Raising Virus-Linked Concerns.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, May 25, 2020. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-big-memorial-day-weekend-crowds-raising-concerns/

Winck, Ben. “JPMORGAN: Economic Reopening Isn’t Enough to Drive a Consumer Spending Rebound, Credit-Card Data Show | Markets Insider.” Business Insider. Business Insider, May 28, 2020. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/economic-reopening-not-necessary-consumer-spending-rebound-jpmorgan-coronavirus-recession-2020-5-1029250731

Brown, Andrew. “Unemployment Claims in SC Remain Stubbornly High amid Reopening Economy.” Post and Courier. The Post and Courier, May 28, 2020. https://www.postandcourier.com/business/unemployment-claims-in-sc-remain-stubbornly-high-amid-reopening-economy/article_8a6a8efa-a0db-11ea-8120-534de6ce3007.html

Egan, Matt. “Corporate America Is Very, Very Bullish on the Economic Recovery from Coronavirus.” CNN. Cable News Network, May 28, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/28/business/recession-ceo-confidence-coronavirus/index.html

Belmonte, Adriana. “Reopening Economy ‘Will Have a Much Smaller-than-Expected Impact,’ Experts Argue.” Yahoo! Finance. Yahoo!, May 22, 2020. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/reopening-economy-will-have-a-much-smallerthanexpected-impact-experts-argue-120701242.html

“Goldman Sachs US Reopening Scale.” Goldman Sachs Insights. Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, May 13, 2020. https://www.goldmansachs.com/insights/pages/gs-research/measuring-reopening-america-13-may-20/report.pdf.