July 16 COVID Update: Continued Increase in Case and Death Rates

The following summary and its attached report are the fourteenth 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, and July 9.

Introduction

Using data current as of July 15, 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

Currently, 13% of the entire US population has been tested. The distribution of these tests is also very 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 3.7% 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 have seen a significant increase in cases and deaths have begun to increase in the US.  The number of new cases in the US has now passed the previous peak in new cases from April and shows no signs of slowing down.  There has also been a continual increase in testing over the past month, which may point to the case acceleration for some states.  Despite the increase in testing, the acceleration of cases has outpaced that of new tests, so the increase in testing does not appear to fully explain the rise in cases.

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 and continues to trend negatively as more states continue with reopening.  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.  That is a positive new case velocity with a positive new case acceleration.  Now, nearly the entirety of the South and the West is in the exponential growth stage.  Overall, 30 total states are in this stage.  The next worst classification, linear growth, represents states that have a positive new case velocity, but new case acceleration is near zero.  This classification has 10 states, the next highest count of the classifications.  Overall, that means that 40 states are not improving their outbreak situations – a worrying trend.  The other two classifications, Improving and Contained, have three and seven states, respectively.  Included in these classifications are IL, PA, MA, NJ, and NY – the original hotspots of the virus.  These states, however, are seeing an increase in cases day-over-day but not enough increase to change their classification.  That may change in the coming weeks as the situation changes.  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 rapidly accelerate in both cases and deaths.  With the recent acceleration in testing, a small acceleration in cases is expected, but the testing acceleration does not necessarily explain the increase in positive cases as the testing distribution is uneven across the country. 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 but now states across the country in the South, West, and Midwest are seeing this exponential growth.  As of this week, AZ has begun to slightly decrease its new cases, so it may have peaked in cases but will continue to be monitored as it was one of the worst states over the past few weeks.  Lockdowns being lifted and a decreasing adherence to health guidelines has contributed to the struggles of containing the virus.  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.  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 back 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.  Recently, trends in the data suggest early signs of a second wave in a growing number of states.  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 reaching new highs in new daily cases which completely dwarf previous peaks.  This is true for the three most populous states in the US: CA, FL, and TX. The current situation is worse now than it was ever before, which indicates this may be the “first wave” of sorts, with the US now greatly surpassing its case peak from April.  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 climate in the US has reached new levels of uncertainty in the past week and the forward outlook is also fraught with instability.  News concerning both the outbreak and the economy is filled with positives and negatives, but recent trends have highlighted major causes for concern.  The resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak across the country has major implications for people from coast to coast.  As stated earlier in this summary, most major centers in the US are facing large increases in outbreak numbers – places like CA, TX, and FL.  This is further exacerbated by the increasing strain on regional medical services as these places fill up hospitals and ICUs as the outbreak grows.  In CA, nearly 7,000 patients are COVID-19 positive in hospitals; in FL, over 19,000 patients are COVID-19 positive, with more than 50 hospitals across the state filled to ICU capacity.  TX meanwhile is experiencing similar situations in urban hospitals.  The growth of the outbreak has put economic recovery further into limbo as business activity fell in the second week of July over renewed virus fears and unemployment rose by 1.3 million last week.  Additionally, major companies like Amazon are extending their work-from-home orders and other major industries – like airlines – continue to cut back on flights and other offerings due to lack of demand.  However, some good news came this week as retail spending was up 7.5% in June compared to May, which had the benefit of federal stimulus and tax refunds.  These conflicting metrics on economic recovery will be under further strain if regions undergoing case resurgence reinstitute lockdowns.  LA County in CA has not ruled out another lockdown, and other areas around the country have begun to reimplement previous measures to get the virus under control.  While this would have a difficult economic impact, the danger of overwhelming medical facilities in these locations may necessitate shutdowns.  While testing capacity lags behind the spread of the virus and previously successful efforts to curb the spread of the virus are avoided, there may not be a way to bring the outbreak back under control.

Similar issues are occurring internationally, with varying responses.  Countries like Germany and South Korea continue to reinstitute lockdowns as new hotspots of the virus emerge.  Others, like Britain and France, are moving towards requiring masks and other coverings in public without reinstituting lockdown.  Other countries, like India and Brazil, are experiencing similar case growth as the US with a varying response – like reinstituting lockdowns – being implemented on a regional but not national level.  All of this is in comparison to New Zealand, which has not seen a community-transmission case in over two months and has begun to fully reopen its domestic economy, with restaurants, sporting events, and concerts all taking place with almost no restrictions. 

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

“Coronavirus Live Updates: Russian Hackers Trying to Steal Vaccine Research, Intelligence Agencies Say.” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 16, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/16/world/coronavirus-updates.html

Karimi, Faith. “Arizona and Texas Counties Hit Hard by Coronavirus Bring in Refrigerated Trucks as Morgues Fill Up.” CNN. Cable News Network, July 16, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/16/health/us-coronavirus-thursday/index.html

“New Zealand Must Prepare for New Coronavirus Outbreaks, PM Says.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, July 15, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-newzealand/new-zealand-must-prepare-for-new-coronavirus-outbreaks-pm-says-idUSKCN24G05A

Tankersley, Jim, and Ben Casselman. “A Resurgence of the Virus, and Lockdowns, Threatens Economic Recovery.” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 15, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/15/business/economy/economic-recovery-coronavirus-resurgence.html