July 31 COVID Update: States Appear to Peak Again

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, July 16, and July 23.

Introduction

Using data current as of July 30, 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

16.71% 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 3.2% 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 passed the previous peak in new cases from April, and the overall case curve appears to have peaked for the US in the last week.  This is a slight flattening of the case curve and will update as the weeks progress.  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 but has seen minor improvement in the last week.  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.  In recent weeks, nearly the entirety of the South and the West was in the exponential growth stage with many in the Midwest experiencing similar situations.  In the last week, many of the worst states have moved to the Linear growth stage – positive new case velocity but near-zero case acceleration.  Overall, 22 total states are in the exponential stage, down from 32 last week.  Linear growth has 21 states, the next highest count of the classifications.  Overall, that means that 43 states are not improving their outbreak situations – a worrying trend.  However, the movement from Exponential to Linear for many states is a positive trend.  The other two classifications, Improving and Contained, have two and five states, respectively.  The Northeast is the only region where these two stages are currently despite being the original hotspot 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 continues to experience positive acceleration in both cases and deaths, but the acceleration rate has appeared to peak and has been decreasing.  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.  Last week, AZ began to decrease its new cases and has continued that trend this week.  Many other states, including hotspots CA, FL, and TX.  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.  There has been an increase in deaths but over the past weeks, which follows the lag from increasing cases.  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 flattening the new daily cases, but not setting new records.  This is true for the three most populous states in the US: CA, FL, and TX. The current situation is no longer rapidly devolving but holding steady from the state of the last few weeks.  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 news surrounding business and the economy in the last week has seen varying positives and negatives for businesses of all sizes.  This week, the US government introduced varying bills on economic stimulus, including business relief and payments to citizens.  If the stimulus checks for consumers come quickly, the second round of payments would hopefully have a similar outcome as the first round as the economic impact of COVID-19 on business was delayed in part by the extra consumer spending.  However, despite the news of the second round of stimulus, other news this week was worrisome.  The US Commerce Department said that US gross domestic product fell by nearly 33% (at an annualized rate) in the second quarter of 2020.  This is the largest fall in GDP in 80 years.  This is slightly better than economists were expecting, predicted to be around a 35% drop, but the news is still harrowing for the size of economic contraction. 

The range of economic news juxtaposed with the current situation across the country remains on the negative trend.  While many states have begun to flatten their case curves, they are not improving.  Meanwhile, deaths are climbing.  Looking at the new circumstances, jurisdictions continue to monitor and move toward reverting reopening or reintroducing lockdown.  This has been especially true over the last few weeks in TX, as various levels of government have come out to warn of lockdowns if compliance is not followed.  The TX governor mandated masks a few weeks ago, and it appears to have helped stem the tide of the outbreak; however, the governor has also said that lockdowns are not needed as long as guidelines are followed, showing that lockdowns – which would presumably also incorporate businesses – are still a possibility.  Other municipalities in TX, such as Austin, are seeing improvements after weeks of increasingly negative trends.  This past week, Austin and Austin-Travis county have seen hospitalization improvements for nearly two weeks, which would hopefully precipitate further improvement for the outbreak.  The majority of states are in negative territory with regards to the outbreak, but the beginning of positive improvements will start to benefit business domestically as more consumers are confident in the safety of going out and the additional money from the government.

Globally, the situation in many countries is beginning to revert as other countries move forward with reopening.  Every continent is seeing worsening circumstances in various countries.  Australia on July 30 recorded a record number of new cases.  Vietnam, a country heralded for its coronavirus response, has experienced its first locally transmitted cases in over three months this past week.  South Africa has also seen a rapid increase in cases, with over seven thousand new cases per day this week, the worst in Africa.  Even with top public health procedures and guideline adherence, the outbreak will never fully go away.  Watching how the other countries respond to these outbreaks will help inform both public policy and the associated economic effects for the US domestically as it starts to come out of this second peak.

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

Bax, Pauline. “South Africa News: Covid-19 Deaths Higher Than Reported.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, July 30, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-30/south-africa-covid-19-deaths-higher-than-reported-experts-say

“Coronavirus Live Updates: Global Infections Top 17 Million; Australia Reports New Daily Record Cases.” CNBC. CNBC, July 30, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/29/coronavirus-live-updates.html

Livengood, Paul. “Austin Seeing ‘Substantial Decrease’ in Active COVID-19 Cases, Positivity Rate, Health Authority Says.” kvue.com, July 28, 2020. https://www.kvue.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/texas-coronavirus-austin-health-update-july-28/269-6d178d74-a683-4e07-a2ad-c8c0565e1f5f

Reinicke, Carmen. “US GDP Plunged by a Record 33% Annual Rate in the 2nd Quarter as Coronavirus Lockdowns Raged.” Business Insider. Business Insider, July 30, 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/us-q2-gdp-record-decline-coronavirus-pandemic-recession-lockdowns-economy-2020-7

Walters, Edgar. “Mask Mandate Appears to Be Helping in Texas, but Experts Ask Gov. Greg Abbott Not to Rule out a Shutdown.” The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune, July 24, 2020. https://www.texastribune.org/2020/07/24/greg-abbott-texas-lockdown-mask/

Wang, Jim. “Next Stimulus Package Released Today: $1,200 Stimulus Check, Reduced Unemployment Aid In HEALS Act.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, July 29, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimwang/2020/07/26/next-stimulus-package-on-monday-1200-stimulus-check-eviction-moratorium-and-reduced-unemployment-aid-in-cares-2-act/