June 4 COVID Update: New Case Acceleration Begins for Some States

The following summary and its attached report are the eighth 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 first report can be found here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, and the seventh here.

Introduction

Using data current as of June 3, a cohesive view of the situation the US and each individual state finds itself in is discussed as well as each state’s success in recovering from the pandemic. Included in this report are 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 how other regions, both domestically and internationally, that are emerging from quarantines and lockdowns 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, 5.57% 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 above 9% whereas some states remain closer to 3%. 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 5.5% for the US. Overall, the US appears to have peaked with new cases flattening over the last month with deaths following similar trends. However, the past few weeks have seen a slight increase in both cases and deaths in the US, which may signal a second wave ahead. There has also been a surge in testing over the past month, which may point to the case acceleration for some states.

The acceleration or deceleration of cases is used to classify where each state is with regard to the outbreak situation. Many are improving – that is, these states have a negative new case acceleration such as LA, MI, IL, and MA. A few states have reached a preliminary “contained” stage, where acceleration is near zero with a low velocity for cases. The states in this subgroup include NY, NJ, and VT. Many states, however, are still in a linear growth stage of new cases with new case acceleration near 0 but having a positive case velocity. States in this subgroup include CA, GA, FL, and TX. Most states are in this stage. A concerning trend to emerge is the number of states reverting to a place of the exponential growth of the outbreak. These include AR, TN, and SC, and other states, mainly in the southern region of the US, are trending towards this designation. 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 see a decreasing number of new cases and new deaths. With the recent acceleration in testing, a small acceleration in cases is expected proportionate to testing but this does not necessarily precipitate a proportionate increase in deaths. This testing acceleration has been developing for over a month, but case growth has not materialized as hypothesized with relation to the testing increases – a great sign. So far, there have been only regional case increases, so the testing increase will help to provide a safer environment for returning to normal life. In terms of new cases, many states remain in a linear growth stage while a large number have entered a stage of improvement. 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 for more heavily populated states 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 had remarkable success in flattening their initial growth-rate curves of per-capita cases and deaths and will be continually reported on moving forward. However, many states remain in a growth stage of the outbreak, many of which are heavily populous states with aggressive reopening measures. Recently, trends in the data suggest early signs of a second wave in TN and WV with others appearing to trend the same way. Additionally, other states are reverting to a stage of exponential growth, and those include AR, AZ, TN, and SC. Monitoring these trends will be important as all states have reopened their economies to varying degrees with increasing consumer activity outside of the home.

Assessing the Business Impact

The business environment in the US is tenuous right now, tiptoeing often between public safety and existential crises. Current data on the outbreak and the state economies around the country give a view that all states are in different situations. Looking at these situations will inform businesses of their current environment and what their outlook is moving forward.

With the state of the outbreak in this country, the largest worry revolves around the dreaded “second wave”. The second wave of the outbreak will seemingly bring about more forced business closures, another round of mandated isolation, and a continuation of the loss of jobs across the US. According to the data compiled in this report, these waves are not far off. Looking at the heatmap for daily cases normalized to each state’s maximum from page 11 of the report, TN and WV are the most obvious early candidates for a second wave. These states peaked in cases weeks ago and have been trending down since. However, over the past week, both states have quickly reached near-daily maximums for cases. Another worrying look with regards to the outbreak is the number of states that remain near their daily case maximums. Whereas TN and WV reached maximums and declined for a long period of time, some states have been increasing or maintaining maximums over the same time. TX, MD, and VA have all maintained their maximum daily cases for weeks with no sign of improvement. With the success of social distancing and lockdowns, reopening the economies in these states appears to have reopened some states to another potential mass outbreak. Coming in close contact with a wide number of people known and unknown has shown that it will spread the novel coronavirus, so finding a solution for maintaining social distancing while states are opened will be imperative to restarting economies across the country while continuing the trends of outbreak containment during lockdown. Some states have planned for the possibility of a second wave with their reopening plans. According to the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts reopening plan has guidelines for the state to return to the lockdowns that were in the state for April and most of May. Planning for these types of possibilities will be imperative for businesses planning for their futures.

Examining the outlook of state economies and local businesses after reopening has been the forefront of discussion now more than a full month after reopening began. Moving forward, the outlook for businesses, whether their state has fully reopened or not and regardless of current pandemic circumstances, does not appear to be recovering quickly or to the levels before the pandemic. On June 1, the Congressional Budget Office released its projections for the US economy, predicting that the US economy may take nearly a decade to recover. All sectors of the economy continue to be affected by the pandemic even without the lockdowns, as consumer spending has been curtailed with continued business closures and other necessities, like energy, shrink as consumers continue to stay at home and don’t spend the same amount as they would in the summer months. No matter where business is located in the country, the same trends are permeating across the country of reduced consumer activity coupled with fears of resuming pre-pandemic activity due to the lack of jobs and potential danger to public health.

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

Moore, Dasia. “With Reopening Comes the Threat of a Second Wave of COVID-19, Scientists Warn – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. The Boston Globe, May 25, 2020. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/05/25/metro/with-reopening-comes-threat-second-wave-covid-19-scientists-warn/

Reinicke, Carmen. “The US Economy Could Take Nearly a Decade to Recover from the Coronavirus Pandemic, According to the CBO.” Business Insider. Business Insider, June 2, 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/us-economy-recovery-coronavirus-cbo-report-nearly-decade-pandemic-recession-2020-6