Daily COVID-19 Briefing: 5/10/20

Top news, reports and insights for today:

  1. Daily headline summaries for Sunday:
  • Question: Where is the epidemic growing fastest? Answer: New cases rising in 20 states, fastest growth is in Nebraska (+57%), Minnesota (+155%) and Puerto Rico (+231%). (Axios – see graphic below)
  • The maker of Clorox wipes has boosted production by 40%. But don’t expect to find them until the summer (The Wall Street Journal)
  • As White House clamps down on coronavirus messaging, Drs. Fauci and Birx have been pushed further to the sidelines at a critical time (Politico)
  • Dangerous trend: Conservative commentators are casting doubt on official death counts, calling them inflated despite all evidence pointing to the reverse. The President’s election strategy may be to create doubt about the work epidemiologists do (Forbes)
  • New deaths and hospitalizations fall to lowest level since mid-March in New York (CBS News)
Screen grab from article by Nicholas Johnston in Axios: https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-caseloads-states-b24899a3-286e-4ea9-bd71-0e88ed645e68.html
  1. New U.S. cases and deaths fall on Saturday
    Yesterday, 25,544 new cases and 1,555 new COVID-19 deaths were reported in the U.S., a small drop in both. The week-long trend shows that cases are falling and deaths are flat (see graphs below). In the last week, cases rose 15% and deaths increased by 20%. Despite the overall trend, sharp increases in new cases were seen in Minnesota (+73%), Nebraska (+55%) and Kansas (+42) suggesting that the mid-West continues to be the region of greatest concern. On a more positive note, new case growth was below 10% in Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Michigan, Louisiana, New York and Vermont.
    What this means: The trend toward declining new cases is encouraging. However, since states will have been open for 2 weeks shortly, most epidemiologists believe that this decline will be short-lived as new infections are likely to start rising again when the impact of reopening starts to surface. The overall trend is masking intense hot spots, especially in the mid-West.
  1. Important antibody study from Geneva suggests infections may be 10-times higher than confirmed cases, herd immunity is not close
    Many of my colleagues were enthusiastic about a new study posted on medrxiv by Stringhini and colleagues from Geneva Switzerland. The study involved a population-based survey of 1335 residents from 663 households. They used an ELISA-based test of antibodies to determine the underlying seroprevalence of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the population over a 3-week period starting April 6. Results showed that the population seroprevalence was 3.1% in week 1, rising to 6.1% in week 2, and 9.7% in week three, a pattern that mirrors what was seen in the rise of confirmed cases. While this study has not yet been peer-reviewed, it adds an important new piece of evidence. There are four major take-home messages that come from this study:
    1. Their results indicate that there are roughly ten infections for every confirmed case of COVID-19 in Geneva. In my opinion, this is the best evidence we have so far about the seroprevalence.
    2. Children had about the same prevalence as those 20-49 years, suggesting there may be more infections in children than previously known.
    3. Only about half as many older people (51+) had been exposed to the virus compared to those 20-49. This is consistent with greater mixing in younger people, and may reflect the effectiveness of social distancing in more vulnerable people.
    4. Taken together, this study tells us that even in a hard-hit part of Europe, herd immunity is still very far away, given that just under 10% of the population is estimated to have produced antibodies.

Top pick of the day

Their States Are in Crisis. They’re Declaring Victory Anyway.

Article in The Atlantic, Politics by Elaine Godfrey, May 8, 2020

Five republican governors have claimed victory over the virus. In four of those states, cases are rising. The growing disconnect between what some officials are claiming and what the data shows.

Today’s bite-sized, handpicked selection of important news, information or science for all who want to know where this epidemic is going and what we should do.

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.