July 23 COVID Update: State Reopening Paused or Reversed Across the US

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, and July 16.

Introduction

Using data current as of July 22, 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

14.69% 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 3.4% 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 positive 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 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 – which 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, 32 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 9 states, the next highest count of the classifications.  Overall, that means that 41 states are not improving their outbreak situations – a worrying trend.  The other two classifications, Improving and Contained, have two and seven states, respectively.  The Northeast is the only region where these two stages are currently – the original hotspots of the virus – with major states IL and PA regressing in the past week. 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 both cases and deaths, but the acceleration rate has appeared to peak and has been decreasing over the last week.  Monitoring the case rate will continue over the coming weeks to see if the case rate continues to decline.  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 every state across the US besides those in the Northeast are seeing negative trends.  As of this week, AZ has continued its decrease in 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 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

Businesses across the country are experiencing many different circumstances that are changing daily.  The recent increases in the outbreak throughout America have resulted in many regions and states changing their plans for reopening.  Most states continue to see exponential growth in cases, coupled with a precarious rise in hospitalizations.  Hospitalizations due to the outbreak are growing in 34 states, with some like FL experiencing shortages in certain regions. Other states, like Texas, are also seeing a heavy portion of their hospitals being filled. Texas is seeing consistent hospitalization numbers, with that steady-state hopefully predicting improvement to come. These hospitalization numbers follow what is seen in the data, as increasing cases leads to more deaths, with deaths usually following hospitalization.

The prevalence of coronavirus in nearly every state in the US and their current situations has led to a huge range of reopening policies following months of lockdown and subsequent months of reopening.  Currently, 22 different states have begun either pausing or reversing their reopening plans.  These states are mainly in the South and West – regions that were the first to experience the growth happening across the US today.  However, most of these reversals do not appear to approach the full lockdowns of April.  The governor of Texas has said that if the virus spread continues, lockdowns would be the next step, but that a shutdown is still far off despite the rise in cases and hospitalizations.  In Illinois, the governor has warned of more restrictions soon for some regions, with the Chicago region already having plans for indoor business restrictions coming later this week.  Planning for more restrictions across the country will be imperative as the consequences of more lockdowns – such as decreasing consumer traffic – will have major effects on business for months to come.  These dangers are on top of the already 26% jump year-over-year of corporate bankruptcies that have happened in 2020.

There are other economic outlooks at play other than purely shutdowns and hospitalizations of working-age people. Several school districts around the country have indicated that they will hold classes virtually for the start of the school year, keeping thousands of kids at home if the pandemic does not improve. The start of school and other services may have a worse outlook due to recent statements from major voices in the public health field.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, this week said that COVID-19 may never be eradicated but indicated optimism that the situation will improve with better public health guidelines and the hope of a vaccine later in 2020 or early 2021. These scenarios present more challenges on top of a declining situation with the outbreak now.

Internationally, more news has been released about the economic recovery, especially in Europe.  In recent weeks, Sweden has been in focus regarding its coronavirus response.  Sweden never imposed a lockdown and asked citizens to be personally responsible for their and their community’s health to keep businesses open.  Recently, a report on the economic impact of the pandemic in Europe showed that the Swedish economy was the least hurt in Europe. Sweden was not immune to all economic impacts, but the lack of lockdown has helped Sweden beat economic predictions and growth forecasts.  Outside of Sweden, Europe’s economic outlook is trending positively as this past week, the EU government has announced nearly 2 trillion euros in relief.  The stated goal of the relief package is to “help businesses rebound from the pandemic, reform economies for the future, and protect against future crises”.  Following how the relief efforts in Europe further the continent’s recovery may help inform future decisions here as the recovery in the US progresses.

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

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