Daily COVID-19 Briefing: 5/4/20

Top news, reports and insights for today:

  1. Daily COVID-19 headlines for Monday:
  • Public health authorities are warning of a nationwide uptick in fatal opioid overdoses during social distancing, reminding us that we face parallel pandemics (The Daily Beast)
  • President Trump now says U.S. deaths could be as high as 100,000 (Reuters)
  • New Chinese study shows COVID-19 patients are most contagious in first 7 days (South China Morning Post)
  • UK finds most COVID-19 patients make antibodies, immunity however is far less clear (Reuters)
  1. U.S. deaths and cases trending down overall, masking shifting hot spots: The mid-West is now the epicenter
    We now expect administrative lag in reporting of deaths and cases on Sunday and Monday. The data shows a down-ward trend in both over the weekend. Deaths and new cases both rose by 2% on Sunday to 61,582 and 1.15 million respectively. The chart below shows growth in new cases as a percentage of total over the previous 7 days by state and region. New York, which for the first time has less than 1/3 of the nation’s total burden of cases, saw reported cases rise by only 10%. That’s good news, but because the firestorm in New York was driving overall U.S. cases for weeks, the slow-down in new cases there can give a false sense of confidence. This is shown in the overall flattening of new cases across the country. However, as the graph below shows, the epidemic remains fast-moving in 4 states in the midwest, with Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska all increasing cases by 50% or more last week. In total, 16 states saw cases grow by 30% or more.
    What this means? Despite talk of national plateau, sustained community transmission is occurring in a third of the country. The mid-west continues to be the epicenter of the epidemic in the U.S.. As many states rush to reopen, these data suggest that the only states that should be doing so are Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, and Vermont, with Idaho, Washington, Louisiana, West Virginia and New York close behind.
  1. Cell phone data shows how residents are getting back on the road as lockdowns are eased
    I was fascinated to read a story on May 3 from the Daily Mail about the use of cell phone data to track the rebound in driving across the nation. The data come from anonymized cell phone requests for directions from Apple maps. The two graphs below are examples of what these data show for Georgia, which recently moved to reopen and New York, which has not. There are several conclusions I draw from these graphs. The first is just how cool it is to be able to have real-time transportation data like these to better understand what social distancing is actually doing. Second, in both states, automobile travel declined by over 60% at the height of stay at home orders, starting in mid-March in New York, and mid-April in Georgia. Third, mid-week variation in driving was greater in Georgia (more jagged line) suggesting New Yorkers were more compliant with restrictions. Fourth, the move to reopen Georgia was followed quickly by a reversal of the slow-down in driving, rising 60% as of May 1. In New York, where stay-at-home orders remain in place, driving remains at 30% below the baseline established from January 1 of this year.
    Bottom Line: As New York now appears to be past it’s peak of cases, that state’s continued willingness to restrict driving has paid off. Georgia and other states that are moving quickly to reopen are seeing a rapid return to “business as usual” on the roads. Time will tell whether this leads to subsequent spiking of cases and deaths.


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