COVID-19 Trends by State: May 20 Update

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.  The first report can be found here, the second report can be found here, the third report can be found here, the fourth can be found here, and the fifth can be found 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 19, new trends and patterns are emerging as more data is collected, giving a more complete view of the situation the country finds itself in. 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, 3.74% 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 states such as TX and SC remain closer to 2%. Case rates around the country also vary widely, with some states reaching greater than a 30% 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 5.7% 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 are emerging to see 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 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 LA. A few states have reached a preliminary “contained” stage, where acceleration is near zero with a low velocity for cases. Many states, however, are still in a linear growth stage of new cases with new case acceleration near 0. States in this subgroup include TX, SC, and CA. 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. In terms of new cases, most states remain in a linear growth stage while a few 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 from reduced mobility from lockdowns and social distancing measures continues to be strongly correlated with 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. Monitoring these trends will be important as states have begun reopening their economies in the past week. All states have begun releasing reopening plans or are reopening with each state in a different situation with regards to the outbreak.

Assessing the Business Impact

Examining the employment trend for the US paints a bleak picture. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment contracted by 20.5 million in April, equating to a 14.7 percent unemployment rate – a 10.3 percentage point increase over the month – for the country through April. These numbers have continued to balloon to 36 million jobless with the latest Labor Department figures and look well on their way to reaching the 40 million unemployed estimates released by Goldman Sachs. However, nearly every state has begun reopening various parts of their economies and lifting their stay-at-home orders. These measures to help jobless citizens has had a varying effect. Unemployment claims have continued to rise in states like GA and FL, but declined dramatically in others, like TX and SC. All four of these states were some of the earliest to reopen and restart their economies.

The employment situation is only part of the overall problem with regard to the economy. According to Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, economic activity for states that have reopened is only slightly higher than the rebound for the US in general and other states that reopened later. The recovery rate is positive everywhere, and reopening has not dramatically improved the economic rebound so far. Additionally, for the four states mentioned above – FL, GA, SC, TX – the mobility of the populations of those states has risen, but only marginally so according to the most recent W. Capra report. Retail and overall workplace activity has only risen by a maximum of 10 percentage points, which remains, at best for any state, almost 20 percentage points below pre-outbreak baselines for population mobility at those locations. Full economic recovery will be impossible until consumer confidence in public spaces rebounds and free movement in those sectors of the economy recovers.

The last main section of domestic economic recovery is the likelihood that reopening will return the outbreak to levels comparable to early in the lockdown, or worse, and cause new and potentially stricter lockdowns in the future. According to the most recent White House projections, the country will experience a total of between 75,000 and 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. The data so far has just over 86,000 deaths related to COVID-19 with the daily number of deaths over 1,500. According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Coronavirus Policy Response Simulator, which measures and simulates potential health and economic effects of state reopenings, postulates that partial reopening of the country with baseline behavior (e.g. social distancing) will increase deaths by over 15,000 but net an additional 5.6 million jobs over the forecast window. All these numbers are important to remember as states progress forward with reopening and the resulting outcomes from those decisions become clearer.

Looking abroad for reopening plans and consequences remains a powerful predictor for potential outcomes at home. Two weeks ago, South Korea began reopening its economy and reduced the social distancing mandates countrywide with the outbreak seemingly contained with fewer than 50 new cases every day for a country with a population of over 50 million. However, a cluster of new infections arose in a district of the country’s capital, Seoul, due to an infected nightclub patron. South Korea has since revised its plans for reopening and point to a new long-term vision for reopening and effective solutions to maintaining proper social distancing. Additionally, Australia and New Zealand have begun reopening efforts as the outbreak has steadily declined over the past weeks. Australia began a three-phase reopening effort last week that will bring back business and social gatherings slowly across the country’s states and territories before a full reopening. New Zealand began relaxing business and social restrictions last week as well. The two countries are also working together to reopen their borders to each other soon and will be a test case to examine how and when trade will resume with other countries. These examples also follow others that have been reopening, like those in Europe (Germany, Spain, Italy, etc.) and China. Germany, a leader in virus containment, has begun reopening and given some guidance with potential policies and best practices. Germany began reopening with increased testing investment in early May. Businesses reopened with increased health guidelines, religious services opened their doors, and the Bundesliga, the German soccer league, recommenced play. However, one region experienced a jump in cases and lockdown was immediately reimposed on the region. Despite the surge, the country quickly reverted to safe levels and the regional lockdown was lifted soon after contact tracing for the virus was complete. Strategies such as the one imposed in Germany may help lead potential responses to future viral outbreaks in the US as states reopen.

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

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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

“The Employment Situation – April 2020.” BLS News Releases. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 8, 2020. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

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