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The latest state by state new case counts show the South and West with exploding rates of COVID-19, especially Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, and South Carolina.

2020-07-01

photo by Jakub Orisek courtesy of pixabay.com

According to worldometer, there were reportedly 46,042 new COVID-19 cases in the US yesterday, with 44,734 the day before.  This represents a new record in reported cases.  Brazil was not far behind, with nearly 38,000 new cases reported.  Worldwide, nearly 10.7 million cases have been reported, of whom 516,000, or 8%, have died.

According to the Washington Post, records for new cases were broken in six states yesterday:  Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Idaho and Alaska.  California has also broken records for new cases in the last few days.  Florida broke records over the weekend.  Beaches in South Florida and Los Angeles were closed for the July 4 weekend.

The pandemic is continuing apace, and the United States has been at the forefront of new cases worldwide for two months (with Brazil, South America as a whole, Russia, and India– plus the UK– making up the top five.)  What is worse, new cases in the US are accelerating.  Dr. Anthony Fauci told a Congressional committee yesterday that a daily new case count of 100,000 is entirely possible if things do not improve.

In New York City, however, daily new cases have dropped from over 700 at the beginning of June (with 754 on May 27) to under 300 after June 23.  There did not appear to be any effect of the widespread public protests over the killing of George Floyd.  In Minnesota, the state where he was killed, only 1.5% of people involved in demonstrations had positive tests at four sites set up for surveillance of protestors in the first three weeks of June.  Overall new cases in Minnesota have significantly decreased since the beginning of June.  It appears that concerns about infection during the protests were negated by the fact that outdoors transmission is much rarer than indoors.

The new cases seemed to be driven by the appearance in the South and West of widespread rejection of mask-wearing and physical distancing in bars, restaurants, and other indoor gathering sites.  A number of rural and small-town areas in the South and West are experiencing massive case counts relative to their populations.

The Johns Hopkins University web site has state by state case counts daily for the last three months graphed out.  The curves show fascinating differences.  A few northeastern states have shown dramatic reductions in case counts– by 90% in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.  Some states in the South have had shocking increases: Arizona, Arkansas, and South Carolina have increased by ten times.  Florida has increased by nine times.  Oklahoma is up six times; Idaho, Texas, and Nevada are up five times, and Oregon and Mississippi are up by four times.  California has steadily increased by double in the last month.

Tennessee, North Carolina, Kansas, Alabama, Utah, Georgia, Kansas (doubled in 2 weeks), and Ohio have doubled their daily rates.  Montana has seen an increase from less than ten cases a day to more than 30, but the numbers are too small to consider significant.  Louisiana is a special case: it dropped from a peak of 1578 cases on April 8 down to 268 on May 29 and has gone back up to 977 new cases on June 29.  We can tentatively trace the early peak to Mardi Gras celebrations, and conversely, the drop to a lockdown on April 1.  This is one of the few states that can trace their rises and falls to single events.

The state by state new case counts show very significant trends related to introductions of infections in (mainly) February and early March in the Northeast followed by intensive societal shutdowns.  In contrast, the trends in the South and Southwest show trends related to gradual introductions followed by weak lockdowns, followed by rapid openings and spreading events especially on Memorial Day.  The introductions on the West Coast, particularly around San Francisco and Seattle, were followed by early shutdowns and gradual increases of new cases on the West Coast.

In Washington State, there was a spike at the beginning of April with a drop starting April 10-11 that relates to a restriction emplaced around April 5; there is a rapid drop in new cases that bottoms out around April 16-20.  This is followed by a slow downward trend that hits its nadir on May 23.  Thereafter, the rates trend upward to where they are now almost at the peak rate in early April.  There is no clear relationship of the upward trends to the reopenings that occurred in a phased fashion through May and June.

Taken together, the state by state data can be said to argue that restrictions on people’s movements and the shutdown of restaurants and bars have had a significant effect on infection rates.  The demonstrations since George Floyd’s murder had no obvious effect on infection rates.  In fact, the state by state results suggest that, in places where there were fewer protests (the South), there were larger increases in the infection rate.  Rejecting infection control measures like masks in the South has probably had a contributory effect on new case counts.

The explosion in new cases has already overwhelmed the testing and tracking facilities that have been set up in states that have reopened their economies.  The local and state health departments have been unable to create and staff tracking centers fast enough to follow the new cases that have been presented to them.  It was estimated that 100,000 case workers would be needed across the US but less than half of these have been hired– and the estimates are already outdated by the numbers that have been posted in the last week.

 

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