Daily COVID-19 Briefing: 4/24/20

Top news, reports and insights for today:

  1. U.S. Deaths trending flat on the log scale. Peak approaches, but has not arrived.
    As I said on Wednesday, it is important that we look at our data the right way at the right time. We are used to seeing daily the solemn record of news deaths and cases. The signal we are waiting for is a switch (or inflection point) between exponential growth and linear growth. That’s the peak that matters. It can be difficult to see that transition point in the usual epidemic curve. Below are two ways to look at the same data (cumulative total deaths by day). The top (purple) graph shows the counts on the linear scale. The bottom (orange) shows the same data on a logarithmic scale. Check the actual numbers to verify it’s the same data. Why? A vital clue about where we are in the epidemic is is easier to see on the log scale, because when the switch occurs and exponential growth yields to linear growth, the curve will look flat or plateaued. It never perfectly flattens, but linear growth looks flat-ish. The orange graph shows that we are not there yet, but we are getting closer.
  1. U.S. Deaths decline Thursday. Hot spots in Minnesota, Alabama, West Virginia and Pennsylvania
    On Thursday, an additional 1,840 Americans lost their lives from lab-confirmed COVID-19. This represents a 4% rise, but is lower than the 2,119 on Wednesday. California (115), Colorado (44), Nevada (23) and Minnesota (21) set or matched the previous high death toll. Despite these trends, Colorado and Nevada plan to reopen soon. Deaths have declined in absolute numbers for 3 days, however, part of yesterday’s decline comes from the removal of 201 deaths in Pennsylvania that were reclassified as “probable” deaths requiring further investigation. This highlights the need to interpret daily totals with caution. A more robust metric is the 7-day moving average, which suggests that deaths have been flat over the last week after surging on Tuesday. The graph below highlights hot spots in Minnesota (+112%), Nebraska (+94%), Alabama (+139%), North Carolina (+93%), West Virginia (+133%), Massachussetts (+90%), and Pennsylvania (+101%). All 7 of these states have approximately doubled their cumulative death tolls this week.
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