Covid Update: 23 August

Last week I mentioned how there was some initial evidence showing the rapid, near-exponential spread of the virus was beginning to slow down. One week later, where are we?

The good news is that those initial signals do appear to be true, i.e. not noise. You can see it if you look at the very end of the charts for all but Virginia.

New case curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

We can see the slowing spread rate most easily in Illinois and New Jersey. The shape of the curve now resembles more like the top of a hill rather than the beginning of a roller coaster. To be clear, this doesn’t mean Covid-19 is no longer spread—that is not the case at all. Rather, just the speed at which people are spreading the virus has slowed from that initial rapid acceleration.

In the last week, however, despite the good news for Illinois, we can also see that this fourth wave, driven by the Delta variant, has now exceeded the third wave we saw earlier this spring. Virginia still remains the only other state joining Illinois in that auspicious category, but Delaware is edging ever closer.

However, Delaware as well as Pennsylvania can both join Illinois and New Jersey in seeing slowing rates, though it’s not nearly as evident as in the other two states. Delaware continues to approach its third wave peak.

Virginia is the one state where we might just now be seeing the beginning of a slowdown. Though it’s probably the hardest state in which to see it. Yesterday, after a weekend of no data updates, the state reported over 7,000 new cases. That’s bad. But jumping from 5,900 new cases last Monday to yesterday’s 7,100 is comparatively good. Compare Monday to Monday, four weeks ago the increase was 91%. Three weeks ago it was 88.8%. Three weeks ago it fell to 30.9%. And then two weeks ago it was 26.8%. Yesterday’s increase was only 20%. Again, not great, but that’s a slowdown.

The hope in all five states is that we can begin to actually peak perhaps in early- to mid-September before the seven-day average begins to decline. The question then will be what do things look like as begin to head into flu season, which is when last winter’s deadly surge began in earnest.

What about deaths though?

Death curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

Last week I discussed how we were seeing death rates hold fairly steady with only small increases to the seven-day averages. Unfortunately this past week we saw more significant increases. Nothing too dramatic, to be clear, but increases all the same.

Take Pennsylvania, for example. Two weeks ago we went from an average of 7 deaths per day due to Covid-19 to just 9 last week. But yesterday that number jumped up to 16. Illinois, which had went from 12 to 13, climbed from 13 to 20 as of yesterday.

This is also not terribly surprising. As we are now several weeks into this wave, we would expect to see hospitalisations increase, which we had been seeing, before, sadly, deaths followed suit. We may now be entering that phase where deaths, again, a lagging indicator, begin to rise.

I do not think, however, that we will see numbers near to the extremes we saw this past winter. Even to reach levels we saw this past spring will be difficult. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Illinois has reached nearly half its third wave peak number of deaths.

We will need to continue observing these death rates over the coming week to see if they continue to increase. I suspect they will before, like new cases, they begin to slow down before then peaking.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 16 August

In last week’s update we looked at how in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois the numbers of new cases of Covid-19 were trending in the wrong direction. This past week they continued to do much the same.

This week I want to begin with New Jersey, because last week I noted how the growth in the number of new cases was holding steady. In other words, the number of new cases, whilst growing, was growing by roughly the same number of cases each day. We contrasted that with the other four states where we witnessed increasing numbers of new cases each day.

New case curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

New Jersey’s continued to see similar growth, fairly flat, though it has increased ever so slightly. And in the other states we continue to see increasing numbers of new cases, but that accelerating growth may be tailing off. That doesn’t mean we are seeing new cases decline—far from it. Instead we are seeing the number of new cases become slightly smaller each day. And if you look ever so closely at the tails of each chart above, you can see how the slope of the line, the seven-day average, is no longer bending upward but is straightening out to a line instead of a curve or, in some cases, maybe even beginning to flatten out as one does as one would approach a peak.

This doesn’t mean we are at the point of seeing this fourth wave peak, but the first indication of such a thing happening would be a slowdown in the numbers of new cases. And so moving forward over the next two weeks or so, we’ll want to see if that continues.

In absolute terms, I mentioned last week that I wouldn’t be surprised if Illinois surpassed its springtime seven-day average peak of 3390 new cases per day. Fortunately, we haven’t yet hit that milestone. We are, however, just under 200 new cases per day away from that. This can speak to that slight slowdown in the numbers of new cases.

We also looked at how in the tri-state area all three states were well below their springtime peaks. That continues to be the case. However, Delaware is nearing that peak.

When we look at deaths, we also see very much the same story as last week.

Death curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

Delaware continues to be the exception where we saw deaths climb by just one. But when we look at the other four states, the concern last week was Illinois where we saw a significant jump in the rate. Fortunately that has slowed down over the past week and deaths climbed from 12 per day to just 13 per day. Similarly, the rate in Pennsylvania and Virginia has also slowed down slightly with 9 and 7 people dying each day in those states, respectively.

The good news is in New Jersey. There the death rate has slowed so much so that the average hasn’t changed. Last week it was 6 per day. As of yesterday’s data update, it’s still sitting on 6.

And we need to mention again that these deaths and the hospitalisations that we don’t track are almost all happening solely in the unvaccinated population. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, you really need to. Because these vaccines have been proven safe; they’ve been proven effective; and they’re free if you’re worried about cost.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Ranking the Red Sox Prospects

My regular readers will know that I am a fan of the Boston Red Sox, an American baseball team located in Boston, Massachusetts. I would consider myself a bit more involved than a casual fan in that I keep tabs on the team’s prospects.

For those unfamiliar with baseball, the sport works by keeping development pipelines of young talent fed through what we call a farm system. In essence a number of teams owned or contractually linked to the Major League team develop young players until they are ready to debut at the sport’s highest level.

Very few of total number of players in the system will ever get called up to “the Show”. In fact, in the history of the sport only 20,000 men have reached that level. Most of the rest will peak somewhere in the Minor Leagues. Most that reach the Majors will have been at some point prospects. And so to keep tabs on your team’s prospects and farm system sets one apart, in my mind, from the casual fan who simply knows a few of the team’s star players and enjoys a hot dog and a pint of beer at the stadium a few times a summer.

Red Sox fans are fortunate to have a website dedicated to coverage of Boston’s farm system, SoxProspects.com. They rank the system’s Top 60 prospects using their own methodology and research and publish the list online for fans like myself to enjoy.

Last week they updated their rankings. Long story short, the pandemic has impacted baseball and the development of young players. Consequently, the rankings changed significantly. What I really wanted to see was a visualisation of all the changes. So I took it upon myself to do just that using their data.

Hopefully we get a good player or two out of this

Now, if you also happen to be a Red Sox fan, I highly recommend their site. It’s fantastic. Normally I would take the train up to Trenton and see the Portland affiliate when it played there, but the Trenton team no longer exists. I’m not sure when I’ll get to see a Red Sox minor league team again. But hopefully sometime soon, because there look to be some good players coming up.

So I’ll be looking forward to, hopefully, a good run of contending teams in the coming years.

Credit for the piece is mine.

The Pandemic of the Unvaccinated

Get your shots.

It’s pretty much that simple. But for just under half the country, it’s not getting through. So I went looking for some data on the breakdown of Covid-19 cases by vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

I found an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a non-profit that focuses on health and healthcare issues. They collected the data made available by 24 states—not all states provide a breakdown of breakthrough cases—and what we see across the country is pretty clear. If you want more details on their methodology, I highly recommend you check out their analysis.

Breakthrough cases

In all but Arizona and Alaska, vaccinated people account for less than 4% of Covid-19 cases. In most of these states, it’s less than 2%. For the states that we regularly cover here—Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois—we have New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia represented in the data set.

Delaware leads the three with vaccinated people accounting for just 1% of Covid-19 cases. Virginia is 0.7% and New Jersey is just 0.2%. In other words, in New Jersey almost nobody vaccinated is catching Covid-19 over the observation period.

And when we look at the vaccinated population, we can see what breakthrough events—cases, hospitalisations, and deaths—they are experiencing.

In almost all states, less than 0.5% of vaccinated people are getting Covid-19. Only in Arkansas do we see a number greater than that: 0.54%. In no state do we have more than 0.6% of vaccinated people requiring hospitalisation. And with that number so low, it won’t surprise you that in no state do we have more than 0.01% of vaccinated people dying.

In other words, the rapidly climbing numbers of new cases and slowly rising deaths that we looked at yesterday, that’s almost all in people who haven’t yet gotten vaccinated.

Get your shots.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 9 August

Late last week I provided a brief update on the Covid-19 situation in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois. Today I wanted to circle back to my statement that I’d update everyone again early this week. Of course, we had to wait until states began reporting their Monday data to get a better sense of where we are at in terms of new cases and deaths.

Spoiler: nowhere good.

Let’s start, as usual, with new cases.

New case curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

We can see just from the tail end of the charts above that new case growth is accelerating in nearly all five states. Nearly because New Jersey’s growth has remained fairly constant, in other words the number of new people getting infected is not becoming larger each day but remaining relatively flat. That said, compared to 28 July, my last more thorough update, the seven-day average for new cases is still up by 66%.

In the other four states we see accelerating growth, i.e. the number of people infected grows daily. Virginia and Illinois are perhaps in the worst positions. Consider that earlier this spring during the Third Wave, Virginia peaked with a seven-day average of 1615 new cases per day. Yesterday the seven-day average reached 1625. This Fourth Wave is making more people sick now than they were in the spring. Illinois is not yet at the peak of its Third Wave, 3390 new cases per day, but yesterday the Land of Lincoln reached 2713. It’s not far from that ugly benchmark. Can Illinois’ seven-day average see an increase of about 600 new cases per day in a week? Consider that one week ago the average was at 1914. That’s an 800-new case increase. I would expect that if my next update is next Tuesday we will find Illinois in a worse position now than it was in this past spring.

What about the last two states of the tri-state area? Fortunately—for now—both Pennsylvania and Delaware remain below, roughly by half or so, their springtime peaks during the Third Wave. In part, that’s because—along with New Jersey—the Northeast has some of the highest rates of vaccination. But none of those states are near the levels we would need for herd immunity, especially given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant.

In Pennsylvania the seven-day average for new cases is now just shy of 1500 new cases per day. Interestingly, if we halve the Monday data that includes both Sunday and Monday the daily numbers of new cases have declined for five consecutive days. I wouldn’t expect that trend to continue given the rampancy with which Delta is spreading throughout the Commonwealth, but that would be the signal in the data we would be looking for when this Fourth Wave breaks.

Delaware reports much the same. Cases are significantly up, but now so much so as to outpace the Third Wave. The First State’s seven-day average now sits at 185 new cases per day, but for the past four days the daily number has exceeded 200. Unlike Pennsylvania, that’s not the signal we would want to see to give us a sense the wave might be breaking.

What about deaths? Last week I mentioned we were seeing those numbers begin to creep back up despite falling during the initial weeks of the Delta wave.

Death curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

The tail ends here, with the exception of Illinois, are far harder to see. In Illinois, on 28 July the seven-day average for deaths bottomed out at 4 deaths per day. Deaths have climbed ever since, tripling to 12 deaths per day. Prior to yesterday, the state had seen double-digit daily deaths for five consecutive days for the first time since early June. These are signs that deaths are heading in the wrong direction. But if we want to try and find a glimmer of hope, those deaths started at 18 on 4 August, but have dropped each day landing at 10 on 8 August and just 6 yesterday. Fingers crossed?

In the remaining states the picture is similar in that deaths are rising, but not nearly as badly as they are in Illinois. In Illinois the death rate tripled, but to be fair it also did so in Delaware. Though that meant climbing from 0.1 to 0.3. In the states where we are seeing deaths from Covid-19, the rates have not even doubled. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are the two closest to hitting that grim number. Their seven-day averages of 3.6 and 3.7, respectively, have reached only 6.6 and 6.4, respectively. Certainly not good, but perhaps we can be cautiously optimistic given the states’ relatively high rate of vaccination.

In Virginia we have seen the death rate climb from an average of 4.4 per day, nearly the same rate as Illinois, which has a lower overall rate of vaccination, to only 5.6 deaths per day as of yesterday.

It is important to note that vaccinations are doing a good job at keeping the vaccinated from needing to go to hospital or even dying. The phrase “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is very accurate. Whilst the vaccinated can become infected, most suffer very mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. The reason for masking is that the Delta variant can infect the vaccinated to such a degree that, whilst not sick, they can infect the unvaccinated.

If you have not been vaccinated yet, it is critical that you do so. They are safe. They are effective. And they are free. There are only a few valid reasons for not receiving the vaccination. And “not wanting it” or “not needing it” or “not trusting the government” or “not sure whence the virus came” are not valid excuses.

Covid Update: 5 August

Note: This was supposed to post Friday morning. But it didn’t for technical reasons. Throwing it up late because I’ll probably wait until Tuesday and the release of Monday data to do another update. And I want people to have the latest charts for the weekend.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to write up my usual analysis of the charts. Maybe I’ll do that for Monday, we’ll see. But I do want to post the latest Covid-19 data on cases and deaths before we head into the weekend.

The overall picture is that things are continuing to get worse. You can see that in all states the fourth wave, driven largely by the Delta variant, is here.

New case curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

When we look at deaths, last week I had mentioned how deaths were still trending down. But as a lagging indicator it was just a matter of time before the new cases led to new hospitalisations led to new deaths. And that moment appears to have just arrived.

Death curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

I should point out that Delaware appears to have folded in their probable deaths in with their confirmed deaths, as many states had done months ago. So that spike of 135 new deaths isn’t “real” as in those deaths happened a long time ago. The pre-probable death number was the same as afterwards.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Get Your Shots

I’ve heard a lot about vaccine hesitancy and resistance lately and I mentioned this on Monday. Subsequently, I thought I would try to make a graphic to try and help people understand where some of these excuses fit on the spectrum of rational to irrational—with claims of people being magnetised off the chart in the land of kooky.

But I also realised there’s a second spectrum, albeit far more limited in range, of selfishness vs altruism. And there is an interesting shift in how those who waited for the most vulnerable to receive their shots first were, initially, altruistic and rational. But now that those populations have received their vaccines, it’s shifted into an irrational selfish behaviour.

Anyway, I made a few sketches and as I was working on it, there was something in the aesthetic quality of the sketches that I couldn’t quite replicate digitally. And so I present the unpolished rough cut of my graphic.

Just get your shots, people.

For the fuller explanations, I refer you to my aforementioned post earlier this week. This was just an attempt to visualise the two spectrums.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 28 July

Another week, more bad news when it comes to Covid-19 in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois. Last week I wrote about how the slight upticks in new cases in the states were not so slight. This week it’s more of the same, though it would be fair to say that the spread of Covid is beginning to accelerate, although in some states more quickly than others.

To start, the most basic of refreshers. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware are all in the Northeast. Virginia is in the South. Illinois is in the Midwest. At a broad level, Covid is beginning to strike places with low vaccination rates and in particular has been hitting the South and Midwest fairly severely. You might say that Virginia has the northern suburbs of Washington and Illinois has Chicago, but in both states simply head south and west and you’ll very quickly find yourself in an entirely different culture, almost a different state in both. And it is in those parts of the states where the increase is most noticeable.

Conversely, the Northeast has had some of the highest rates of vaccination and the new Delta variant is taking longer to take root. Because, that’s the entire point of the vaccination process. We want to starve the virus of potential host bodies. But we needed to reach much higher than the 50-odd percent of the states to be fully vaccinated. So where are we? Let’s take a look.

New cases curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

The recent tails are curving up now and it’s plain to see. Two weeks ago the tails were barely noticeable in most states. You had to really look at the numbers to see the differences. Even last week in Pennsylvania and Delaware the tails were still fairly flat. This week is unmistakable. You may be over the pandemic and done with Covid, but the pandemic isn’t over and it’s not done with us.

In both Virginia and Illinois the seven-day averages for new cases rose by nearly 50% in the last week. Yesterday Illinois reported more than 2,000 new cases, the first single-day report that high since the beginning of May. And in Virginia we had more than 1,000 cases yesterday, again the most in a single day since the end of April.

In the tri-state area we also saw increases over the last week, albeit not as great as in Virginia and Illinois. Though they weren’t off the pace by much. In fact, at this rate, I would not be surprised if next week I write how both Pennsylvania and New Jersey see more than 1,000 cases in a single day. Neither state is there yet, as New Jersey reported 830 yesterday and Pennsylvania only 645—though it reported 986 on Tuesday. Both states’ seven-day averages are also a bit behind Virginia and Illinois, but again, I would not be surprised to see them nearing 1,000 though maybe not surpassing it this time next week.

I cannot overstate this next part, however. The virus is primarily infecting, sickening, and killing the unvaccinated amongst us. If you have not received your vaccine shots yet, please, please do. The vaccines have been proven safe. They have been proven effective. And they are free.

The good news, if we want to find some, is that the death rates largely continued to fall overall.

Death curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

Largely. Keep in mind as I noted above, the deaths are almost all occurring in those who have not been vaccinated. Now in Virginia we are seeing the death rate increase, though not yet dramatically. Last week the seven-day average was three per day. This week we are at four.

But compare that to three of the other four states. (Delaware continued to have almost deaths and its average is zero.) Last week both Pennsylvania and New Jersey had averages of 5 deaths per day and this week they area at 4. And in Illinois the average fell from 7 to 4.

What I will be watching over the next week or two is whether these death rates begin to increase beyond Virginia. I mentioned before how deaths are a lagging indicator and we are beginning to reach the point at which, during earlier waves, where we could begin to see increasing numbers of deaths.

But again, the key is for any and all my readers who are unvaccinated, please make an appointment to get your shots as soon as possible.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Olympic Recap/Retro

Every four years (or so) I have to confess that I think fondly back upon my former job, because I worked with a few wonderful colleagues of mine on some data about the Olympics. And the highlight was that we had a model to try and predict the number of medals won by the host country as we were curious about the idea of a host nation bump. In other words, do host countries witness an increase in their medal count relative to their performance in other Olympiads?

We concluded that host nations do see a slight bump in their total medal count and we then forecast that we expected Team GB (the team for Great Britain and Northern Ireland) to win a total of 65 medals. We reached 64 by the final day and it wasn’t until the women’s pentathlon when, in maybe the last event, Team GB won a silver medal bringing its total to 65, exactly in line with our forecast.

Probably the most Olympics I’ve ever watched.

Of course we also looked at the data for a number of other things, including if GDP per capita correlated to Olympic performance. We also looked at BMI and that did yield some interesting tidbits. But at the end of the day it was the medal forecast that thrilled me in the summer of 2012.

So yeah, today’s a shameless plug for some old work of mine. But I’m still proud of it two olympiads later.

If you’d like to see some of the pieces, I have them in my portfolio.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 22 July

I know that I typically post more light-hearted content on Fridays. But after taking a holiday Monday and my internet being down all day yesterday—fun fact, trying to type up a blog post on my mobile is…well suffice it to say I am glad that it is only an emergency backup plan—we are going to enter the weekend with some updates on the spread of Covid-19 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois.

A little over a week ago I wrote about the emergence of slight upticks in our region of coverage. Nine days hence, those slight upticks are no longer so slight.

New case curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

In all five states we are seeing significant increases in the numbers of new cases. In New Jersey we hit the milestone of 900,000 total cases. Three weeks ago, the Garden State had bottomed out with an average of about 160 new cases per day. Yesterday the moving seven-day average surpassed 500 for the first time since mid-May.

But New Jersey is not alone. In Illinois the seven-day average has doubled since my last post. The state reported just under 2000 new cases yesterday and that brought the seven-day average above 1000 for the first time since late-May. Before the spring surge earlier this year, Illinois had bottomed out with a seven-day average of about 1500 new cases per day. If these numbers continue, I would not be surprised to see the state back at those levels within another week or two.

Nor has Virginia been spared and yesterday Old Dominion’s seven-day average rose to just short of 500 new cases per day. That too is a level we haven’t seen since…wait for it…mid-May. The pattern emerging here is fairly clear. Things are beginning to get worse and get worse in a hurry. The average has nearly doubled since my last post about Covid.

We see the same situation in Delaware though it’s increase is on the smaller side. The seven-day average in the First State hit 50 new cases per day earlier this week, though it’s ebbed back slightly and sat at 48 yesterday. You have to go back to early June to find levels that high.

And finally it’s not as if Covid has spared Pennsylvania. Three weeks ago we were nearing 100 new cases per day. At the time of my last post, the seven-day average was just a little over 200 new cases per day. The average is double that number as of yesterday at 438 new cases per day. The Commonwealth has now reported three consecutive days of over 500 new daily cases for the first time since…early June. Surprised at that timing?

The common thread in these states is that the virus, almost certainly the Delta variant, is racing through the unvaccinated populations. And we are beginning to see rises in the numbers of hospitalisations, something that I don’t chart but on which I keep tabs. But what I do track visually are the deaths from Covid.

Death curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

We need to keep in mind again that deaths are a lagging indicator and that it takes a few weeks from someone’s infection to their death, if that person’s case is severe enough.

The good news is that we are not yet seeing a corresponding increase in the numbers of deaths. Though it might still be too early for that, should it occur. Of course lack of death does not preclude one from suffering from long Covid, a debilitating and persistent illness that lasts for months. As for deaths, instead we see the numbers entering something of a holding pattern.

Starting with Pennsylvania, deaths from Covid-19 have halved since this time last month. But we were largely at that point when I last wrote nine days ago. Deaths haven’t fallen significantly since, dropping from 7.3 per day to 5.3 per day.

And that’s a pattern we see elsewhere. In Illinois deaths are also down nearly half from an average of 12 per day last month to just 7 per day. But they were at 9 when I last wrote. In New Jersey deaths were averaging 6 per day last month and now they sit at an average of 4.7. What was the average nine days ago? 4.7. Virginia is also similar, going from an average of 6 deaths per day to 4 and now just 3.

Delaware is the one state where we have some genuinely good news. Deaths had been averaging about 2 per day last month and we are at 0 today. Since the beginning of July we’ve seen only three additional deaths. That’s great news, but Delaware is also one of the smallest states.

The takeaway from this should be please get vaccinated if you’re still not. They are safe. They are effective. And they are free. Especially as this new Delta variant begins ripping through unvaccinated populations, I really hope my unvaccinated readers will take an opportunity this weekend to get their shots. Because remember, except for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you need two shots and you need to wait between those two doses. And then the vaccine takes about two weeks to kick in after that second dose.

Credit for the piece is mine.