July 9 COVID Update: Death Rate Begins to Increase After Weeks of Case Rate Increases

The following summary and its attached report are the thirteenth 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, and July 2.

Introduction

Using data current as of July 8, 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, 11.45% 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 4.1% 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 this past week, deaths began increasing 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, the entirety of the South and the West, with exception to AR, is in the exponential growth stage.  Overall, 28 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 11 states, the next highest count of the classifications.  Overall, that means that 39 states are not improving their outbreak situations – a worrying trend.  The other two classifications, Improving and Contained, have five and six 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 now seeing an increase in the number of new deaths, but the number of new cases has been accelerating greatly in the past few weeks.  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.  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 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 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 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

Every week that passes since the start of state reopening across the US has brought a more fraught economic situation for the country.  New records for daily new cases continue to be set with few places going back to the lockdowns which saved many medical centers from being overwhelmed.  California, Florida, and Texas remain at the head of a large group of states which have seen an explosion in cases and hospitalizations.  Some locations within these states are beginning plans to shut down again or at least stop moving forward with reopening.  In Austin, TX, the mayor outlined a plan for a 35-day shutdown if the trends do not improve.  While this strategy would not be a full lockdown seen earlier in the year, it would greatly roll back business openings and capacities as well as require the use of masks.  Similarly, the city of San Francisco is delaying further reopening efforts, pushing back the reopening date for indoor services to an undetermined date.  These actions in San Francisco are more aggressive than in surrounding jurisdictions and San Francisco has not seen as drastic of a case increase as the surrounding area, so how San Francisco responds to both the outbreak and how its economy recovers once reopening begins again will be an important data point in determining how faster and stiffer lockdowns benefit or hurt business in the long run. Some regions are planning for shutdowns or paused reopening at the state level.  Two states that have been in some of the best position and had successful first responses to the outbreak – Michigan and New Jersey – have had some talk about shutdowns and slowdowns coming back.  Governor Murphy of New Jersey this week said that reopening in his state would be paused as the transmission rate broke its threshold of one for paused reopening for the first time in 10 weeks.  Businesses like restaurants and movie theaters in the state would remain closed until the next phase of New Jersey reopening could begin.  Governor Murphy also said that all reopening efforts that have gone ahead so far would not be rolled back.  Governor Whitmer of Michigan this week has said that if her state begins to see increases, she will do whatever was necessary to protect the lives of her constituents – including rolling back reopening and reinstituting lockdowns. Michigan is seeing increases recently over lows from May, but the numbers are nothing near the peaks from April. Despite these examples, the pandemic is poised to continue in many locations as they are not reverting to the strategies that made flattening the curve possible before. The locations that are looking to reimplement those strategies will have to face the added problem of other nearby regions that lay across state lines not having to follow the same lockdowns and bringing the virus despite the community’s best efforts. 

The international community is both struggling in many of the same ways as the US but there are also some positive outlooks for different global regions. Various major countries like India and Brazil continue to see major growth with regards to their outbreaks, with prolonged negative effects for their economies.  Economies in countries that locked down fastest and most aggressively at the start of the pandemic are seeing the fastest recoveries. Germany and Vietnam are examples of aggressive lockdowns early into their pandemics, followed by measured reopening after weeks of case improvement.  Both countries have shown fast economic recovery, almost the proverbial V-shaped recovery. The business climate in Germany has rebounded to March levels, and innovation and flexibility helped keep major German industries like manufacturing running during the pandemic by converting to producing pandemic and health related products for both domestic and international businesses and consumers. Vietnam locked down in March then began reducing social distancing measures in April and has not suffered any major outbreak reoccurrences.  Vietnam has completely reopened its domestic economy. The Vietnamese GDP grew at a 3.8% rate through lockdown by relying on domestic consumption.  Germany, in comparison, is looking at a GDP contraction of around 6%.  However, both countries face difficulties in the long run.  With international trade facing increasing challenges due to the pandemic and global trends, Germany may not be able to maintain the same level of growth if international trade continues to slow.  Similarly, the Vietnamese economy relies on international spending on industries like travel and tourism, and as international travel remains largely frozen Vietnam will have difficulty growing on domestic spending alone.  These two countries represent positive responses to the outbreak and positive economic outcomes compared to much of the world.  Another European country, Sweden, had a vastly different outbreak response and is seeing a vastly different economic recovery.  The Swedish economy – left open with few prohibitions and having thousands more deaths than neighboring countries who all locked down – fared little better. Sweden has 40% more deaths than the US per million, 12x of Norway, 7x of Finland, 6x Denmark.  Swedish central bank expects economy to contract 4.5% this year, with 9% unemployment in May, up from 7.1% in March.  Danish central bank expects Danish economy to contract 4.1% this year, with 5.6% unemployment in May, up from 4.1% in March.  Swedish economy also suffered from the fact it is a global economic zone with closures and recession in the international community.  Additionally, fears in the Swedish populace caused a drop-in shopping activity – not enough to prevent deaths, but enough to hurt businesses.  Norwegian central bank predicts 3.9% contraction, up from 5.5% contraction in lockdown – Norway locked down aggressively and quickly and relaxed as testing grew exponentially.  The Swedish experience with lockdown and it’s economy shows that lockdown works and staying open does not necessarily mean that economic recovery will happen immediately.

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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