COVID-19 – Update #3 – State & County Level Reporting

It’s been a while since I posted a Covid update so I thought I would share some thoughts on what I am seeing now that we’ve been at this for over a month. Yes, I am still looking at the daily report of confirmed cases and deaths from Johns Hopkins University. From a data standpoint, this is a fascinating time as dozens of departments have literally opened up reporting on this so we can all learn about what’s happening.

Setup

To lead off, I want to start by saying I am not looking at the numbers like most people. Yes, I am looking at cases but I’ve applied a per capita rating to it as well. Since this virus spreads quickly, looking at sheer volume isn’t the story. If there are 1,000 cases in a county of 10,000 people, that’s a major problem. If it has 1,000,000 people, then it’s not as severe. Yes, I am looking at deaths too but still prefer cases since looking exclusively at deaths is, well, too late. I would prefer to look at hospitalized but its not available from a reliable source yet.

The second thing I want to point out to people is, we know this virus lasts about 2 weeks and we’ve been at this for 4-6 weeks. When you look at the case volume for any state, it looks like a scary number because they’re reporting on cases dating back to January in some states. For me, I really care about the growth seen in the last 14 days since we know, that’s when it’s the most contagious. Most of the reports below look at case growth per capita since 4/1.

State Level Review

Ok, some thoughts at the state level – New York, hands down the worst situation. The good news is, it looks like they are on the decline now seeing significant slowing the last three days. The bad news is, the states surrounding them are not yet. Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania may have spiked over the weekend so I hope to see their decline starting this week. States to watch in this are are Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia. Will we see it spread from the NY and NJ area and move west?

In my last post I called out Louisiana and Michigan, both of those states are seeing declines now. States to watch are Florida, Illinois (mainly Chicago), Texas and Georgia (I will go into more detail on this one later) and I still have Washington and California on my list. In the national chart below, I excluded NY and NJ since they skew the map but the shade of the map shows higher cases per 1,000 people and the number represents cases (top) and deaths (bottom) since 4/1.

County Level Review

Since my last post I’ve transitioned more to looking at county level data. To me, this is the most interesting since we know the spread happens locally. State level is too high but county right now is the place to look at.

For me, there’s one area to keep an eye on right now and it’s Albany, GA. I know, right? Where? Southern Georgia. Here there are 8 counties that make up 200,000 people since April they’ve seen 1,747 new cases and 119 deaths. That’s 1 case per 500 people, 2nd highest in the country behind New York. Why is this interesting? Because like I said earlier, New York is unique with the population density, dependance on public transportation and social life. There are only a couple cities in the US that are similar. But rural Georgia? There are 1,000s of these communities across the US so what’s happening here is repeatable. This is what we need to be watching.

What is causing their growth? A couple of things. 1) Georgia is one of the states who still have non-essential businesses open. Right now, their only recommendation is social distancing. 2) A couple weeks ago they had a couple good ‘ol southern funerals which drew in people from the surrounding area. A couple days after the funeral, some people in attendance of the funerals ended up testing positive for Covid-19 which then spread to many other people attending the funeral who then traveled back to their hometown and continued passing it on.

And here’s a closer look at those 8 counties:

Another interesting area is the Sioux Falls area of South Dakota. In the last week Minehaha county has seen 737 cases confirmed in a county with only 186,000 people in it. Today they announced that 80% of the cases are linked to one employer which explains the very rapid growth. This will certainly be a county to watch in the coming days. So far they only have 2 deaths but with the increase in cases last week I suspect those will start happening.

A couple other quick hit areas:

Blaine, Idaho – 0ver 260 cases in a county this month that has 22,000 people. They have cooled off in the last week but I am still monitoring this area to see if they start going up like we’ve seen in other areas.

Tama, Iowa (Washington and Louisa have cooled down):

Indianapolis and Dearborn IN:

Bringing it back home

What about Minnesota? Well, good question. As I write this House members are trying to end Governor Walz’s Peacetime Emergency saying we’ve shut down too much and it’s killing our economy. We continue to kick the bucket down the road two weeks at a time. Since April 1st, Minnesota has seen 1,012 new cases and 70 deaths. How does that rank to other states? For confirmed cases that’s the best in the nation and 29th in deaths (both per capita).

Does that warrant all these closures? That’s a good question that’s up for debate by many. Major metro markets seem to be handling the spread fairly well and we’re just now seeing pockets pop up in rural areas and to me, this is an area of concern. These communities have shown (via cell phone data) they’re more relaxed on social distancing and they have fewer resources.  Our early closures and location in the US (centrally located) are certainly reasons why we have the lowest confirmed cases in the US per capita but as we can see from Albany, GA and Sioux Falls, SD case growth can get out of hand quickly. Is it worth it? For me, the potential is dangerous.

In terms of growth, we are doing very well being one of the only states who flattened the growth out between days +14 t0 +25 (after reaching 100 confirmed cases).

Thanks for taking the time to read. If there are specific regions you’re looking for, let me know and I can send them to you.

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