Leaving the Bubble

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Getting Dad all settled in at his new place was the first time I’ve gone anywhere outside my little bubble since the whole virus things started. It was an interesting experience. The state to the north is either being cautious or is run by a petty tyrant who just loves enforcing rules. Your view likely depends on your political beliefs or how serious you think this virus is.

Masks are required in all public spaces and there are big fines to businesses that allow people to enter without masks. So the businesses put signs up to tell you this. Probably so you won’t take it out on them if you try to enter without a mask.

And that meant you couldn’t walk into the hotel lobby without a mask. I can understand that during check in even though there is a giant piece of plexiglass between you and the person checking you in. But when you are taking the short walk from the elevator to the door in an empty lobby, it seems a bit silly. I’ve not yet seen compelling evidence that you can catch this thing randomly walking by people. Kind of takes more close contact. I guess people can’t be trusted to use judgement so masks for all.

Restaurants are the same way. You stand up, you put on a mask. So you wear one to walk from the door to your table. Then you can take it off and be exposed to all the loud talkers around you since the restaurants in that particular town didn’t really do much to reduce capacity. Not sure we were six feet from the next tables in most cases.

Oh and the hotel wouldn’t clean your room unless you asked. Most people just opted for “towels and trash”. I guess the fear that the cleaning person might leave cooties behind is too strong so they leave it up to you to determine if you want to face the peril.

Well I guess it is time for our weekly look at things. Unfortunately, the trend was broken as everything kicked back up a bit from last week. Still below where we were two weeks ago. And there were again 5.5 million tests done last week. We wait and see whether this is another upward trend or if it fades.

Going state by state, we did see a significant number move in the wrong direction – mostly due to higher average numbers of newly reported cases. I’ll illustrate some of the main culprits later.

So we start again with the first group which starts with New York and New Jersey with 5 points. Massachusetts and Connecticut follow with 6 points and then we have Vermont with 7. The group closes out with Arizona, DC, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Washington with 8 points. Washington has been trending down the last three weeks as newly reported cases have dropped and now they end up in this group.

We start the next group with New Hampshire, Nevada, California and Louisiana with 9 points. Florida is next with 10 points followed by Maine and Oregon with 11. The group closes with Maryland, Mississippi, Delaware and Hawaii with 12 points. Hawaii is our big dropper of the week. They’ve gone from being the worst off to one of the better situations. There current case load is less than half of it was at the peak.

In the middle of the pack, we start with Texas and Pennsylvania with 13 points. Then we have Colorado and Georgia with 14. I’ll get back to Colorado later – they moved in the wrong direction due to an increased number of newly reported cases. Then we have Idaho, Michigan and North Carolina with 15 and the group closes with Alabama and Alaska with 16 points. Texas gave up some gains from last week as they saw an increase in cases but are still well off their peak.

Moving along we start the next group with South Carolina, Minnesota and Illinois with 17 points. Then we have Indiana and Virginia with 18 and Tennessee with 19. The group closes with Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and West Virginia with 20 points. Wyoming has been a big mover in the wrong direction over the last two weeks (a trend in the Rockies – more later). Most of the rest have been relatively consistent.

And, now we come to the last group which starts with Kentucky and Arkansas with 21 points. Next we have Utah and Montana with 23 points. Utah really moved in the wrong direction and we’ll see a graph later. Montana also moved back from last week. Maybe this last wave is in the Rockies. Finishing out the group we have Oklahoma with 24 points, Missouri with 25, Iowa and South Dakota with 26 points, Wisconsin with 27 and North Dakota with 28 points. So North Dakota brings up the rear again.

If the theory around burn out is true, I’d kind of expect North Dakota and South Dakota to start dropping and perhaps rather rapidly. The number of cases per million people is pretty high. Still might have some more room to run but not much more. Wisconsin might be one to watch as well. Based on cases per population, if they were at the rate of some of the worst states, they could see their current number of cases double.

I’ll just finish with some pictures. We’ll start with Colorado. They still sit in the middle of the pack because the 10 day average is below the peak set in early August. Too early to know if they’ve hit a plateau so we need the next week to know what is going to happen.

Next, we have Wyoming. There is some silliness in the beginning of the graph that can be ignored. They had a slow, gradual increase throughout June and July and have gone up and down since then. The spike a couple of days ago is potentially skewing the curve but four of the last five days are among the highest in terms of newly reported cases. Wyoming is not densely populated so I’m guessing it doesn’t go much higher than this. Could stay at this level for a bit though.

Next we have Utah. I can’t find anything on their website to explain what is going on. One flaw in this is that I don’t have number of tests tallied to know if some of this is an artifact of increased testing. Still, the last four days have really spiked high compared to the rest of the year leading to what looks like some exponential growth. Another case where we need more time to know if this continues.

Next up is Montana. The noise you see in the blue line here and in other places is typical. Most places show a drop on the weekends and into Monday probably because fewer labs report. Then, they dump all their cases on the other days. Right now, a lot of this is driven by the single point from yesterday although the two days before that were also high. Too early to know if this is an anomaly or the start of an upward movement. In terms of cases per population, Montana is still way behind Idaho and the Dakotas which could mean there is more room to run here.

Last graph is Wisconsin which is the only state outside the Rockies I’m showing. Wisconsin seemed to avoid the worst of it back in April and they are among the 10 states with the lowest number of deaths per million. I don’t know if I would be encouraged by the dip at the end. That low value is still far above the other low points on the graph. It is just possible that they are going to see the increase now that they’ve mostly missed out on.

And, because I am still the eternal optimist, I’m not all that alarmed that things ticked back up this week. If you look at places where the cases are rising fastest, most of them are smaller states. Among the top half in population, only Missouri and Wisconsin increased by more than 10% over the last week. When things were exploding this summer, it was in large part due to Texas, California and Florida which are the three largest in terms of population. I don’t see us getting back to those levels because the states where things are increasing don’t have as many people. Guess we again just wait and see.

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