US Covid – Waiting for the Peak

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As a reminder, many states don’t report cases on weekends anymore. That leads to a big increase on Monday in a lot of places. When the CDC gets the numbers, it seems like they just evenly spread them over the missing days. Not perfect but it smooths out the curves better than what would happen with gaps on the weekends.

It also means I have to wait a few extra days to get the state information to speak about the previous week.

The cliff notes version of this update is that we continue to see overall case growth slowing. But there are states that are seeing surges and it looks like things are shifting from the South to other parts of the country.

For the week ending on August 22nd, there were 981327 newly reported cases. This is up 7.6% from last week and marks the first time that the increase was less than 10% since this wave started back in the last full week of June. This is the ninth straight week of increases and the total number of cases is up more than ten fold from back in June. I don’t have reliable data on tests so I can’t speak to that and death data always lags although it is showing a consistent upward trend as well.

Calling a peak here is difficult when compared to other places just due to the size and diversity in climate zones. But as Florida, California and Texas slow down, it would not be a shock to see the total case count fall in the next week or two. Whether that becomes a true peak depends on what happens in the north as we go into fall and winter.

Moving to the state level, I do have a different end date since it was harder to go back and align the individual states to calendar week. So we are looking at the week ending on August 21.

The top ten for total cases per million people last week were Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky and Alaska. Alaska is the wild card as the rest are Southern states.

If I change the scale and look at the ten states with the largest percentage change in cases from this week to last week, the list is South Dakota, West Virginia, North Carolina, North Dakota, Alaska, Michigan, Delaware, Colorado, Nebraska and New Hampshire. North Carolina makes the list because of one day in the previous week where there was an unusually low number. But it is a different group – Alaska makes both lists.

There were six places that saw a decline in cases and those were Kansas, DC, Missouri, Louisiana, California and Maine. So, even with overall case growth slowing, the majority of states saw cases rise from last week to this week.

On to the graphs and we start, as always, in the Northeast. We still see growth in all the states except Maine but one week does not make a trend. The increases were largest in New Hampshire (35%) and Pennsylvania (33%) but most of the rest of the region saw growth just a little higher than the 7.6% for the country as a whole. Most of the curves show slowing growth. What remains unusual is that we see case growth at a time when last year things were flat and what that means for the rest of the year is unknown.

North Carolina is why we don’t react to a single point. After seeing cases drop two weeks ago, they increased by 54% last week. So the one week drop in DC is likely an outlier given the performance in the rest of the region. Cases increased by 40% in Delaware, 22% in Virginia and 16% in Maryland. Interesting that Maryland continues to see slower growth than the rest of the region. Last year, things didn’t really kick off here until late October/early November. Typically, waves don’t last that long so we have to wait and see what happens here as we move into fall and winter.

Cases in Michigan grew 41% but they start from a very low number so they still lag behind the other states in the region. Indiana leads the way in cases and saw them increase by 31% last week. Looks like I could be sitting in a hot spot in a week or two. Cases were up 25% in Ohio, 14% in Illinois and 4.5% in Wisconsin. I don’t yet buy the Wisconsin data but things really do seem to be slowing in Illinois so we’ll watch for a peak there.

As I mentioned, West Virginia ranked second in the nation in terms of case growth with things increasing b 60% this last week. Tennessee saw cases go up by 20% and Kentucky saw them go up by 13%. The Kentucky data is a bit suspect because of an abnormally low total on the 17th. We may see them show a greater rate of growth next week. The increase has slowed in Tennessee but they are only seven weeks in and probably still 2-3 weeks away from a peak.

Alabama is another state where we saw a one week decrease that didn’t hold and cases were up 34% there to lead the way in this region. Cases were up 27% in Georgia, 18% in South Carolina, 5% in Mississippi and 2% in Florida. Don’t yet see a peak anywhere but it looks like Florida and Mississippi are the closest. Rates do continue to slow across the region though.

We previously mentioned South Dakota where cases were up 90% from last week and it saw the largest percentage increase in the country. North Dakota (52%) and Nebraska (36%) also made the top ten. Rounding out the region are Minnesota (22%) and Iowa (16%). As I’ve mentioned before, this is one of two regions that kicked off the fall wave last year right about at this time. One of the places to really watch over the next month.

Probably the region that looks the best right now. We saw cases decline in Kansas, Missouri and Louisiana. Cases have now dropped two weeks in a row in Missouri and the daily numbers also support that a peak was hit and things are on the way down. While cases were up 2% in Arkansas, they have two weeks that are below what looks to be a peak as well. And the numbers suggest we’ve seen peaks in Louisiana and Kansas as well. Cases were up 20% in Texas and 11% in Oklahoma so there really isn’t explosive growth anywhere in this region.

Actual number remain low in Colorado but cases were up 36% there last week so they ranked in the top 10. Wyoming has the highest number of cases (per million) in this region and is still seeing fast growth with cases increasing 34% last week. Cases were up 25% in Montana, 22% in Utah, 17% in Idaho and 9% in New Mexico. This is like the upper Midwest where we saw the fall wave start in early September and most states peaked by mid November. So it isn’t clear if this is just a slightly earlier start or if we’ll get a different pattern from last year. That’s what needs to be watched over the next month.

Actually, this group probably looks slightly better than the one I mentioned earlier. Cases were down in California and it looks like they are past a peak. We saw only small increase in Hawaii (9%), Arizona (7%) and Nevada (5%). Nevada did hit a new local high last week but they’ve really been in a plateau for four weeks. We did see slow downs in growth in both Arizona and Hawaii indicating that they could be close to a peak as well.

Alaska saw cases jump by 46% last week. That type of increase seems a bit unusual given the pattern of the previous weeks where cases had been slowing. But then we saw a similar big jump last October so we’ll watch and see. Cases were up 22% in Oregon and 13% in Washington. Growth rate has slowed but no obvious signs of a peak. What is interesting is I just looked at data from Canada and British Columbia (which is in the same area) looks to be one of the provinces in Canada seeing the highest growth rate right now.

This is typical for the US where cases will be rising in some states and falling in others. Right now, the overall trend is still up and only a handful of states have likely hit a peak. I would expect to see several more in the next couple of weeks and then we have to watch and see if it moves to northern plains and Rockies.

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