Top news, reports and insights for today:
- U.S. daily deaths decline again for the third day!
For the third day, U.S. COVID-19 deaths have declined. On Sunday, 1,493 deaths were reported, an increase of 7 percent overall. However, that total is a 20 percent decline compared to the previous day. This is good news; we may be nearing peak in U.S. deaths. A similar pattern is seen in cases, where numbers have declined over the past three days. Forty states reported at least 1 death, the lowest number in 7 days. Despite the overall decline in daily deaths, individual states continue to go the other direction. Daily deaths are still rising in Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, West Virginia, Connecticut, Washington DC, Delaware, Massachussetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Compared to Saturday, a number of states had significant declines in new deaths including Illinois (-46%), Indiana (-56%), Ohio (-62%), Florida (-43%), Louisiana (-32%), Texas (-38%), New Jersey (-32%), and Pennsylvania (-82%).
What this means? Three days of declining deaths is a very welcome trend. As I have suggested, peak deaths will occur when a consistent pattern of declining daily deaths is seen, and the rate of recovery exceeds new cases. This is our first sign that peak may be getting close. Having said that, it is possible that reporting of deaths slowed down because of the Easter weekend rather than a dip in true deaths. We need to remain cautious and wait to see if new deaths rebound as a new week begins.
- International arrivals in January and February is associated with higher COVID-19 infection rates
Last week, I presented some evidence that tourism very early in the outbreak may help explain why Europe (and the U.S.) became the epicenter of the pandemic, and why Italy, France and Spain were hit so explosively. Today, I have been thinking about whether international arrivals to this country very early in the epidemic may help account for the hotspots that developed in the U.S.. To address that, I made the graph below, which shows the relationship between international arrivals from January 20-February 20 and COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the county where the top 26 U.S. points of entry reside. Arrivals data come from completed I-94 documents and reported from the National Travel and Tourism Office. COVID-19 rates were taken from the New York Times dashboard. These data are preliminary and subject to change, but they give us a window into the numbers of non-U.S. citizens entering through airports and border crossings during a critical time before travel restrictions and before officials were aware of how rapidly the epidemic was spreading. Through much of January and February, most American’s were not yet aware that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was spreading via those without symptoms. This is not a statistical model, there is no formal causal hypothesis being tested, there are many important variables I am not considering. Given those limitations, the correlation here is pretty impressive, accounting for about one fifth of the variation in COVID-19 rates in these cities. That doesn’t mean that international arrivals caused U.S. hotspots. But when combined with other evidence suggesting that virus was circulating well before we knew, it is certainly plausible that visitors from Europe and other impacted countries in January and February, set the stage for intense outbreaks in cities like Detroit, Newark, New York, and Miami.