US Covid Numbers for July

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My opening disclaimer is that I’m using data from the CDC. The analysis is only as good as the data that is provided. It seems like the CDC lags on reporting test numbers and they seem to be making some adjustments to the data to deal with the fact that a lot of places don’t report on weekends. Like taking a total for Monday and dividing it over the missing days. I’m fairly confident any changes in case numbers for July will be small but you never know.

The highlight is that we’ve blown past the number of new cases we had in the summer wave of 2020. Now case numbers are only part of the picture because you need to look at the severity of the cases which is reflected in hospitalizations and deaths. But the numbers still provide some information so that’s what I’m focused on.

For the week ending on August 1, there were 562,962 newly reported cases. Last year, the peak was 478,981 so we’ve clearly gone beyond that. Cases were up 44% from a week ago marking the fifth large (more than 20% increase) so this wave is going to be with us longer than the one we had last summer.

Now, you know I try to find the good even among all the bad. And I can point out that the rate of change has dropped three weeks in a row. The raw numbers look scary high but signs of slowing in the rate of change is a good thing. Based on previous waves in other places, it looks like we may still have 2-3 weeks for this one to run. Ideally, we’d like to see the rate of change really drop but that hasn’t happened yet.

I understand that certain states are getting all the attention but this has been a nationwide thing. Again, if you look at raw numbers, places like Florida and Texas stand out. But if you look at percentage change, there are some very interesting cases.

To do this, I’m actually looking at seven day totals. That evens out some of the day to day variability. So my comparison is the seven day total for the week ending on July 1 to the seven day total for the week ending on July 31. Those two days fall on different days of the week which has some influence but is minor given the increases we see.

In terms of this measure and looking at percentage increase, the top ten may shock you:

  • Massachusetts up 1042% (427 to 4878)
  • Louisiana up 1002% (2724 to 30008)
  • Wisconsin up 892% (554 to 5496)
  • Rhode Island up 864% (107 to 1032)
  • Mississippi up 848% (1187 to 11247)
  • Tennessee up 799% (1398 to 12565)
  • South Carolina up 794% (1239 to 11079)
  • Florida up 793% (12874 to 114949)
  • Alabama up 735% (1645 to 13743)
  • Georgia up 687% (2764 to 21755)

Now clearly the public health consequences of 114949 cases are much greater than 4878 cases but the point is that cases are up everywhere.

Is there any good news? Maybe but we need another week or two to confirm the trends. Lets look at the following pool of states: Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Missouri, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Nevada.

They all rank high in terms of number of cases. On July 1, the average for the group was 13. On July 31 it was 10. The top ten in cases on July 1 was Florida, California, Texas, Missouri, Arizona, Nevada, Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana. On July 31, the top ten is Florida, Texas, California, Louisiana, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee. Lots of overlap and the lists are dominated by this group of states.

If I look at percentage change, the ranks for this group over the four weeks in July were 17, 19, 25 and 25. Not much of a trend but it suggests that the rate of growth is slowing for this group. It isn’t universal but it is true for places like Missouri, Arkansas, North Carolina, Arizona and even Florida.

Now this could just mean that the wave is about to move out of the south and into other places. That remains to be seen. And slower growth doesn’t mean no growth so we certainly expect cases to continue rising. When looking for a top, you need to see growth start to slow and that is what seems to be happening in the hardest hit places.

Don’t get me wrong, July was not a good month for cases. It buried any hope I had that we were going to see a muted wave compared to last year. Not yet sure what, if anything, this means for the fall/winter. And it is clearly not over yet so August could be bad as well. It is just me trying to find some light in the doom and gloom when there isn’t much to find.

We’ll have a better idea this week of whether places like Missouri and Arkansas have really topped. As they were among the first to see cases take off, it would be a positive sign for them to hit tops.

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