Sunday COVID-19 Briefing


Top news, reports and insights for today:

  1. Daily headline summaries for Sunday:
  • Two tropical storms are expected to hit the Gulf Coast in rapid succession this week, compounding public health concerns in states fighting to gain traction against the coronavirus epidemic (Washington Post)
  • Good news: COVID-19 spit test is faster, cheaper will reduce supply shortages and might improve testing dramatically (ARS Technica)
  • Good news: Dr. Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force says the CDC is working on a new “revolutionary” data system that could bring hospital reporting back into the CDC where it belongs (NPR)
  • Good news: New study from a randomized clinical trial comparing treatment with Remdesivir vs. standard care shows that patients with moderate COVID-19 had significantly better clinical status on day 11 (JAMA)
  • South America has now passed North America as the region with the fastest rate of growth in the pandemic (most daily confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people). Asia remains the region where cases are growing most slowly (OurWorldInData.org, See Figure A)
Figure A: From ourworldindata.org, August 23, 2020
  1. New U.S. COVID-19 cases still falling, but more slowly. Next half million cases added, but more slowly
     Here are three pieces of guardedly good news. First, daily cases are still trending down (See Figure B). As of Friday, the (red) 7-day moving average line dipped below 45,000 for the first time since July 2. It is not quite clear which way the data is going in the last 3 days; we will have to wait till Wednesday when the weekend blackout ends. For the first time since June, we added fewer than 300,000 cases last week.
     The second hopeful nugget (Figure C) is that we are seeing fewer states with more than 20 new daily cases per 500,000 population than anytime since June. Out West, only Nevada (+21) is above that benchmark. In the Midwest, Kansas (+20) and North Dakota (+24) remain high. While 11 of 13 Southern states were >20 last week, now only Georgia (+23), Mississippi (+27), Tennessee (+22) and Texas (+22) are in the danger area. No Northeast state is above 11, while 8 states were below the 5 cases per 100K benchmark. Unfortunately, the news is not all good as no state in the South, West or Midwest has achieved a case growth of less than 5.
     The cumulative case total passed 5,500,000 on Friday (Figure D). A final glimmer of hope is that the latest 500,000 cases took 11 days, compared to fewer than 10 days since the 3 million mark (July 8).
     Bottom line: Together, the data are giving us three positive signs. All reflect a modest slow-down in the rate of new cases but we will take all signs of progress where we can find it.
Figure B
Figure C
Figure D
  1. Daily U.S. COVID-19 deaths stay stubbornly above 1,000
     We are glad that we are not seeing the numbers of deaths we were seeing back in April in May despite the heavy rise in cases. Having said that, coronavirus fatalities have not diminished at this moment in light of the fall in new cases (Figure E). No doubt that will take some time. We are seeing about half the total number of deaths we were seeing each day during the peak during the dark days (Mid-April to Mid-May). We scratch our heads as disease detectives because we were only recording 25-30,000 daily cases then, about 20,000 fewer cases. I’ll have a lot more to say about this in coming briefings. The persistence of the death toll is due to rising weekly deaths in Iowa (+21%), Illinois (+56%), Minnesota (+22%), Missouri (+76%), Oklahoma (+26%), Arkansas (+14%), Kentucky (+61%), Tennessee (+68%), and Delaware (+75%).
    What it means: Deaths remain stubbornly stable at over 1,000 a day. This is because while some states are moving in the right direction, we are seeing fairly large jumps in 8 states. The big picture adds to our confidence that the Mid-west will once again find itself in the pandemic’s cross-hairs. The resurgence of deaths in hard-hit Illinois is especially concerning.
Figure E
  1. Quirky Qorner: Just do….nothing! Nike launches ANTI-sneakers designed for quarantine to help us relax at home
     If you are like me, one of the hardest thing about this pandemic is just how shitty it feels to just do so much nothing. When I am in a hopeful frame of mind, I find myself wondering if SARS-CoV-2 is perhaps trying to teach us to rethink our frantic, workaholic lifestyles. How are you doing with this? Well, the Daily Mail has a story about a new shoe from Nike that is here to help.
Figure F: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-8636993/Nike-launches-anti-sneakers-encourage-people-just-nothing.html
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