July 2 COVID Update: Continued Downtrend Spreads Across the US

The following summary and its attached report are the eleventh in 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, and June 26.

Introduction

Using data current as of July 1, 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 emerging 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, 10.04% 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 4.5% 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 a flattening of deaths in the US.  As of this past week, the number of 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, the entirety of the South and the West, with exception to LA, is in the exponential growth stage.  Overall, 27 total states are in this stage.  The next classification up, 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 37 states are not improving their outbreak situations, a worrying trend.  The other two classifications, Improving and Contained, have six and seven states, respectively.  Included in these classifications are IL, PA, MA, NJ, and NY – the original hotspots of the virus.  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 is seeing a flattening of the number of new deaths, but the number of new cases has been accelerating greatly in the past few weeks and especially this past week.  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 increase, 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.  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.  The duration of these recovery periods 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 regressed 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 previously reported experiencing a sort of “second wave” 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 a “first wave” of sorts and has the US now 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 environment in America continues to feel the various strains from the COVID-19 outbreak.  This past week, a few of the states with the most aggressive and earliest reopening policies began pausing further efforts or even rolling some reopening policies back.  In Texas, patronizing bars had been commonplace for weeks as the state rolled back business regulations concerning the pandemic.  However, cases in Texas grew by over 100% in the past two weeks, leading the state’s Governor to close bars and other tourist-heavy businesses while returning restaurants and other establishments to 50% capacity.  In Florida, bar operations were suspended as well with its Governor stated was due to people disobeying reopening guidelines.  Both Florida and Texas were some of the earliest states to reopen and moved through their respective phased reopenings quickly.  Despite the current conditions and trends for both states, their governors have no given word on whether lockdowns would be reintroduced if their situations continue to worsen.  Additionally, both states, especially Texas, have also seen a rapid increase in hospitalizations due to the virus – which was the original reason for lockdowns in the first place.  These responses from leaders in reopening speed and strategy are a wary sign for the rest of the country, as further 20-plus states are in similar positions now with rapid reopening strategies and acceleration of cases.  Keeping watch with how these states and others respond to the growing prevalence of coronavirus in their own states will both inform both reopening and lockdown strategies moving forward that businesses can look too. 

Business activity abroad has also suffered under the coronavirus.  Many different regions and countries have been experiencing their own successes and failures with regard to the outbreak.  These places have moved ahead with reopening their economies and reviving a semblance of normal life.  However, despite the success, the virus remains.  Outbreak clusters in Germany and Italy all the way to China and South Korea threaten reopening and business.  Just this week, the WHO warned that, with the accelerating numbers of positive cases, the worst of the outbreak may be on the horizon – not in the past.  These clusters may not represent a second wave of the virus that is about to hit these countries, but officials in these places have responded to their various circumstances with more difficulties for business, like closures.  Additionally, many times these outbreaks revolve around various parts of a vertical – such as supply chains – which can have an international effect.  In Germany, the outbreak was connected to a meat-processing plant.  While that may not have an international effect, if similar circumstances are replicated in other verticals such as oil, there may be an outsized effect felt globally.  Since the US is currently behind these other regions in coronavirus response, watching how their businesses respond to these challenges will inform how reopening will proceed and the pitfalls along the way. 

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

Siemaszko, Corky. “Texas and Florida Close Bars after Explosion of COVID-19 Cases.” NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, June 26, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-close-bars-limit-restaurant-dining-due-explosion-covid-19-n1232233

Svitek, Patrick. “Gov. Greg Abbott Orders Texas Bars to Close Again and Restaurants to Reduce to 50% Occupancy as Coronavirus Spreads.” The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune, June 26, 2020. https://www.texastribune.org/2020/06/26/texas-bars-restaurants-coronavirus-greg-abbott/

Graham-Harrison, Emma. “New Covid-19 Clusters across World Spark Fear of Second Wave.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, June 27, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/new-covid-19-clusters-across-world-spark-fear-of-second-wave

Neuman, Scott. “WHO Chief On COVID-19 Pandemic: ‘The Worst Is Yet To Come’.” NPR. NPR, June 29, 2020. https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/06/29/885049691/who-chief-on-covid-19-pandemic-the-worst-is-yet-to-come