Wednesday COVID-19 Briefing


Top news, reports and insights for today:

  1. Daily headline summaries for Wednesday:
  • Scientists confirm that at least one person has been ‘reinfected’ months after first getting COVID-19. This is important because it tells us reinfection is possible. Experts also say it is most likely “very rare” (BBC Science Focus)
  • New survey from Franklin Templeton-Gallop finds that American adults are “dramatically misinformed” about the mortality risks of COVID-19. Many overestimate risk of death from coronavirus in young people and underestimate risk in the elderly (USA Today)
  • New poll shows more than half of Republican voters think 170,000-plus coronavirus deaths are ‘acceptable’. Ninety percent of Democrats and 67% of independents say the opposite. We remain a very divided nation (Vice)
  • Towson University (near my home) pivots to remote learning after 55 people test positive for COVID-19, a pattern that is repeating itself at colleges and universities across the nation as Fall approaches (CNN)
  • Obesity increases risk of COVID-19 death by 48%, new study finds. Not enough attention is being paid to obesity as a risk factor (The Guardian, See Figure A)
Figure A: From The Guardian, August 26, 2020.
  1. New U.S. cases continue to decline, weekly numbers dropping in 30 states
     The trend in U.S. daily new cases remains positive, as the 7-day average dips below 45,000 for the first time since July 1 (See Figure B). Having said that, over 268,000 new cases were reported in the past week. That number at the start of this month was 411,000. Yesterday was the lowest Wednesday total since the middle of June. If you have read this blog before, you might guess that the disease detective next asks whether this decline is real or a sign that testing has stalled. I will address that question in original analysis on Friday. Figure C shows what is behind the overall decline at the state level. Again, the news is fairly positive. The trend in recent weeks toward lower transmission intensity in hot spot states continues. The growth factors (ratio of cases in the last 7 days compared to the week before) are less than 1.00 (falling rates) in 30 states, a larger number than we have seen in several months. New cases are falling in hard-hit states like Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. The only region where more states saw cases rise than fall was the Midwest, where cases rose more than 10% week-over-week in Iowa (+16%), North Dakota (+61%), and South Dakota (+45%).
    The bottom line: As we close out August, the data tells us that transmission intensity is declining and doing so robustly in the West, South and Northeast, while the picture is more mixed in the Midwest. But, we must pump the breaks on our enthusiasm. New daily cases are still over 34,000. Every state in the West, Midwest and South remains at more than 5 daily cases per 100,000 population over the last week. The so-called first wave of coronavirus is still rolling in the U.S.
Figure B
Figure C
  1. Deaths dip delicately
     After the traditional data blackout on Sunday and Monday, the U.S. recorded 1,136 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday. On a positive note, the recent numbers show that the 7-day moving average has dropped below 1,000 for the first time since this time last month (Figure C). That overall trend belies considerable churning when we look at how deaths are shifting in states (Figure D). Growth factors for weekly deaths show considerable volatility across states. Compared to two weeks ago, deaths fell significantly in Arizona (-20%), Washington (-28%), Indiana (-24%), Missouri (-58%), Ohio (-22%), Florida (-32%), New Jersey (-24%), New York (-78%), and Pennsylvania (-28%). Drops in the three Northeastern states are especially welcome because I was concerned that deaths might start surging there. On the other hand, deaths rose 20% or more in Idaho (+22%), Utah (+40%), Iowa (+20%), Arkansas (+74%), Kentucky (+36%), Tennessee (+30%), Virginia (+100%), Massachussetts (+27%), and my own state of Maryland (+20%). As a reminder, in Figure D, states with patterned bars reported weekly numbers that are too small to make the ratios trustworthy.
    What it means: Daily U.S. deaths are now falling but more slowly than are cases. At the state level, it’s a period of considerable whack-a-mole. Spikes in weekly deaths in Arkansas, Utah and Virginia are especially concerning.
Figure D
Figure E
  1. Quirky Qorner: French nudists ‘exposed’ to coronavirus during beach holiday
     The Guardian reported on an outbreak of COVID-19 at a naturist holiday resort on France’s Mediterranean coast. Regional health authorities, who said the outbreak was “very worrying”, discovered some 100 beach goers had been ‘exposed’ to the virus and were testing positive. That rate of infection was four times higher among naturists in the resort compared to the nearby village. The outbreak comes as France grapples with a recent surge of new cases, with almost 4,900 new cases reported in 24 hours on Sunday.
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