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.

Covid Update: 13 July

So Mondays no longer work for these regular updates, because as we know Illinois no longer reports weekend data. Starting next week, neither will Virginia. Furthermore, keeping track of the vaccinations is tough, because the same. But also, then we have Pennsylvania, which includes Philadelphia, but Philadelphia only updates vaccination data twice per week.

Consequently, I’m not sure what I’m going to continue doing. But at the least, these updates of cases and deaths could continue, because after one cycle the zero numbers for Saturday and Sunday will average out.

The question is where are we today?

Well when it comes to new cases, we are seeing slight upticks across the board.

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

But whereas the upticks were slight last week in Pennsylvania and Delaware, they were a little bit greater this week. Still, we are far from drastic upswings, but they are noticeable. Look at the very tail end of Delaware and you will see a slight change in the curve’s slope. Pennsylvania’s is, for now, less noticeable.

In New Jersey, where cases had still been declining last week, the numbers are now heading back up. You can see this as well in the chart with a sudden little jump in the last day or so.

Meanwhile in Virginia and Illinois, the upward swings have clearly begun and they are plainly visible. But the numbers are increasing, because in Virginia today’s seven-day average is now the highest it’s been since the end of May. In Illinois, yesterday’s average was higher than today’s, but both are about the same as the average was in the beginning of June.

State departments of health indicate these increases are mostly all in unvaccinated people. And that’s not terribly surprising given that the new Delta variant beginning to take root in the United States is far more effective at viral spread than its predecessors. The worry is that the variant may be more lethal.

And to that point we are also seeing the seven-day average for deaths rebound in most states.

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

First, the exception. Delaware has now gone over a week without any Covid-19 death and its average now sits at 0.0.

In all other states, the trend is pretty clear if not visible in the charts. Illinois is the most obvious where the recent rise in deaths from Covid-19 can be seen in the sharp jump of the orange line at the tail end of the chart. The state is now flirting with double-digit death rates after hitting 11 and 13 deaths per day Sunday and Monday.

Elsewhere, we have numbers creeping up, but still below the levels we saw two weeks ago. On 28 June, Pennsylvania averaged 12 deaths per day. That had fallen to 5 for last week’s write-up, but today it sits at 7. New Jersey went from 8 to 4 but is back up to 5. And Virginia went from 6 to 3 and is now at 4.

Again, these are not catastrophic increases, to be clear. However, after several weeks of declining numbers of deaths the death rates are climbing once more. As with new cases, state departments of health point to the deaths being in the unvaccinated populations.

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, I encourage you to do so. They have been proven both safe and effective. And if cost is your concern, they’re free. This new Delta variant can make you sick even if you’re only partially vaccinated—only one of the two required shots for Pfizer and Moderna. Factor in the month+ you need from your first of the Pfizer and Moderna doses through the second and the two-week waiting period, it’s critical you schedule your shots as soon as possible.

I’ll try to look at writing up the numbers again next Tuesday or Wednesday, and over the course of the week I’ll be following these numbers. Though I’m not entirely certain I’ll continue posting them daily to my social media feeds. (In fairness, I’ve been busy enough to preclude me from doing that the last two weeks.)

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 6 July

In trying to limit my Covid-19 updates to Monday, bank holidays definitely affect the schedule. For my international audience, that meant Monday was a day of no posting. It also meant that some states—Illinois—were not reporting data. Add to that Illinois had already stopped reporting data on Saturday and Sunday, I wanted to wait until we had Tuesday’s data before putting it all together. And so here we are.

Last week I discussed “divergent patterns at the margins”. We saw some states continue their progress in decreasing the numbers of new cases with falls in their seven-day averages. You could group the tri-state area in this category. Then in the other group we had Virginia and Illinois where the seven-day average had begun to rise.

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

In the week since, this pattern largely held the same. Both Virginia and Illinois continued to see rising numbers of new cases. Compared to 20 June, before this pattern emerged, Virginia’s seven-day average sat at 129 new cases per day and Illinois was just slightly worse at 156. Yesterday those numbers were 180 and 328, respectively. A far cry from an emergency, yes, but also not ideal.

What about the tri-state area? Well we can now lump Pennsylvania and Delaware in with Virginia and Illinois since both states saw a rise in their seven-day averages. Back on 28 June Pennsylvania sat on an average of 177 new cases per day and Delaware was at 19. Yesterday those numbers were 181 and 27, respectively.

The difference here is that in both Pennsylvania and Delaware this recent rise is still below the numbers from 20 June. On that date Pennsylvania’s seven-day average was 261 new cases per day and Delaware’s was 28. So it’s not great, but it’s still not bad either.

How about New Jersey? The Garden State continues to see declining numbers of new cases. From the 20th to the 28th to yesterday the average has fallen from 179 to 176 to 162. Certainly not dramatic, but it’s progress nonetheless.

With deaths we saw broad and general progress, however, so that’s good.

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

Last week I mentioned how I had hoped we would see Pennsylvania’s seven-day average of deaths slip into the single digits. Instead it had climbed higher. Well, Pennsylvania finally fell into the single digits and rests at 5 deaths per day.

When we look at the remaining states we see good news across the board. In Illinois the seven-day average fell from 9 to 7 deaths per day. In two states the numbers fell by half. New Jersey fell from 8 to 4 and Virginia went from 6 to 3. Finally, Delaware now averages just 0.1 deaths per day.

I don’t have the data on vaccination, because there are some holes and I want to see if I can fill that data out. But in the three states we track, we are talking about less than a percentage point increase in fully vaccinated people over the course of over a week. That continues to be not ideal.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 28 June

Technical difficulties prevented me from posting yesterday morning. But we’re back today and even though it’s a Tuesday, I wanted to begin the week with a post about the current status of Covid-19 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois.

Broadly speaking, things continue to improve. I don’t have all the vaccination data plugged in yet as I have to admit that as life begins returning to normal the time considerations of keeping track of Covid is not always insignificant. But I do at least have the new cases and deaths to look at and compare to last week.

When we look at new cases, we can see some divergent patterns at the margins.

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

In the tri-state area, new cases continue to fall. Pennsylvania reported just 104 new cases yesterday and its seven-day average fell to 177. That’s great news. And in New Jersey, the daily new cases fell to 104 and the average to 176. And in Delaware the daily number was just 18 and the average 19.

On the other hand we have Virginia and Illinois. First, I should note that for the second straight weekend, Illinois did not report data. I think we can begin to assume this will be the new reporting schedule moving forward. Last week that impacted the seven-day average, but now that it is a periodic event we can see it accounted for in the average of 248 new cases per day.

The issue is that 248 is greater than last week’s average of 233 of the averages. In other words, there is some indications the virus is spreading once again. Though, the week-to-week numbers offer a slight hope. Last Monday we had 755 new cases—keeping in mind that no new cases were reported Saturday and Sunday—and yesterday 747. That is down, though not a lot. We will need to keep an eye on Illinois’ data and how it progresses through Friday.

In Virginia we see a similar pattern as that of Illinois. Week-to-week, yesterday’s number was just 88 new cases and last week’s 116. That’s good. However, a look at the seven-day average shows some reasons for concern. Last week we were discussing Virginia’s fall to 129 new cases per day. But as of yesterday the average has climbed back up to 165. And that’s not a one-day jump. Instead since that nadir of 129, the seven-day average steadily climbed each day last week. That suggests new cases may be spreading in Old Dominion once more. But let’s wait one more week before we begin to become overly concerned as 165 is still lower than the month’s current average of 169.

Deaths present us with the opposite pattern, however.

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

Last week we looked at new lows for the tri-state area whilst Virginia and Illinois saw slight increases. I even suggested that we could see death rates in Pennsylvania slip into the single digits.

Well instead we saw slight increases in the death rate in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Again, nothing massive. But on 20 June we had an average of 11.6 deaths per day in Pennsylvania and yesterday the average sat at 12.4. Not huge, and within a rounding of being the same number, but still an increase. Delaware had been at 0.6 deaths per day, so an increase to 1.6 is an increase, but there’s very little room left to improve when your average falls below 1 per day.

In New Jersey we saw perhaps the most concerning rise, though again still slight by comparison to the entirety of the pandemic. The average last week sat at 5.6 deaths per day and we enter Tuesday at 7.6. That is still lower than the numbers three weeks ago, but it’s a rise nonetheless. Like with the new cases, we will want to watch this week to see how the numbers progress.

I don’t have any graphics or tables to present for vaccinations, but the numbers we do have show little to no progress in full vaccinations over the last week. Week-to-week, Pennsylvania, for example, saw an increase of 0.77 percentage points, or only 0.11 percentage points per day.

Now Pennsylvania’s fully vaccinated population rate sits at just a tick under 48%. Not bad. But Virginia is at 50.5%. And when last reported Illinois was 47.3%. We know that herd immunity, which we need to really starve out the virus, is probably above 75%—though likely higher with more transmissible variants of the virus—and we have currently failed to achieve that number.

That’s sad.

To bring my genealogical interest into this conversation, you only need to look to about 100 years ago when our ancestors did not, generally speaking, have access to vaccines. There was a reason people feared becoming ill, you were far more likely to die. But vaccinations eliminated the worst of the worst diseases and at the time people flocked to become vaccinated, recognising that they did not want to live in a world of mumps, measles, smallpox, or polio. If many of our ancestors were alive today, I believe they would be shocked at our society’s broad refusal to be vaccinated.

Hot and Not So Hot Graphics

Thankfully today’s forecast calls for cooler temperatures. Your author is not a fan of hot weather, which means being outside in summer is…less than ideal. It also means that the air conditioner runs frequently and on high for a few months. (Conversely, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I turned on the heat this winter.)

The problem is, the two biggest contributors to US carbon emissions? Heating/cooling and transport. In other words, heating your home in the winter, cooling it in the summer, and then driving your non-electric vehicle.

After the recent heatwave in New England, the Boston Globe examined the impact of the heatwave on the environment. The article led with the claim it used four charts to do so. I quibble with that distinction because this is a screenshot of the second graphic.

Illustrating is hard

I mean, it’s not prose text. Rather, we have three factettes paired with illustrations. At the top of this post, I mentioned the impact of transport for a reason. In an ideal world, in order to get carbon emissions under control one of the changes we would need to see is getting people out of their personal automobiles and into mass transit. Subways and light rail are far cleaner and can actually be cheaper for households than car ownership. And so we should be encouraging their use and building more of them.

Look above and you’ll see an icon of a subway car. Except it’s not. The graphic/factette is actually talking about rail cars full of coal that transport fuel from mine to generating station. Those look more like this, from James St. James via Wikimedia Commons.

Small, subtle details matter. And so I’d propose a new icon that tries to capture the industrial coal train, ideally something that I spent more than five minutes on.

Illustrating is still hard

But it breaks the linkage between passenger train and coal train, which is not ideal for the purposes of an article highlighting the environmental impacts of US households.

That all said, the article did a really good job with the other graphics it used. My favourite was this chart, decidedly not a combination chart.

Making charts can also be hard, though

It looks at the correlation between high temperatures and energy usage. But, instead of lazily throwing the temperatures atop the bars, the designers more carefully placed them below the energy usage chart. The top chart should look familiar to those who have been following my Covid-19 charts, a daily number that then has the rolling seven-day average plotted above it to smooth out any one-day quirks. The designer then chose to highlight the heatwave in red.

For temperatures, I like the overall approach. But I wonder if a more nuanced approach could have taken the graph a step farther to excellent. Presently we have a single red line representing daily average high temperature. But in the plot above we use red to indicate the heat wave of early June, five consecutive days of temperatures in excess of 90ºF. What if that line were black or grey or some neutral colour, and then only the heatwave was coloured in red? It would more clearly link the two together. And it avoids the trap of red implying heat, when you need to only go back to late May when the East Coast had early spring like temperatures near 50ºF, decidedly not red on a temperature scale.

Overall, though, it’s refreshing to see a thoughtful approach taken here instead of the usual slapdash throw one chart atop the other.

And the rest of the article uses restrained, smart graphics as well. Bar charts and small multiples to capture air pollution and EMS calls. You should read the full article for the insights and the feedback loops we have.

After all, it’s not that the heating/cooling is itself the problem, especially since the removal of CFCs since the Montreal Protocol in 1987 that banned those pesky chemicals that harm the ozone layer—remember when that was the big environmental issue in the 1990s? The issue is how we generate the electricity that powers the heating/cooling systems—and if you want to use electric cars, whence comes their electric charge—as if we’re using coal plants, that just exacerbates the problem. But if we use carbon-less plants, e.g. nuclear, solar, or wind, we’re not generating carbon emissions.

Credit for the piece goes to John Hancock.

Covid Update: 20 June

So today’s post will be a little bit shorter than usual. The big reason is probably good, but also worth addressing. States are increasingly less reliable about their data. For several weeks I have mentioned that Philadelphia had not been updating their vaccination data. Last week or two weeks ago I noticed a small line of text had been inserted saying they were ramping down reporting to just two days per week. That’s unfortunate, because Philadelphia County represents 1/9 of Pennsylvania and that can make a significant impact on the Commonwealth’s total numbers.

But this week we have Illinois. There’s been no update since Friday and it’s not clear if this is due to a glitch, or given the coincidence, a change in reporting schedule that omits weekend data updates. Not reporting for a weekend is not a big deal, as states often have to perform back-end server maintenance or clean up data and the best time for that is the weekend. But heretofore, Illinois had been the most reliable state in terms of reporting data.

There was one thing I wanted to address this week, but the lack of Illinois data makes that tricky. So I may have to wait and maybe do it next week or later this week.

Anyway, the data below is not quite as up-to-date for Illinois, but we’ll see how the Land of Lincoln addresses the issue probably today.

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

Otherwise, the numbers are good. Yes, the downward slopes are shallowing out and that is increasingly obvious, but there’s increasingly less room to drop. Pennsylvania, for example, last week was just over 400 new cases per day, but the seven-day average now sits at 261. Illinois last week sat at 336, but as of its last update, that was down to 237. Virginia’s decrease was smaller, from 143 to 129, while Delaware fell from 33 to 27.

Only in New Jersey have we seen the seven-day average rise, from 168 to 179. This was not a one-off spike, however. As the delta variant takes hold in the United States, the variant brings increased ease of transmission and more severe effects for younger populations, the population group last to vaccinate and increasingly seen as not willing to vaccinate. Is this driving the slight uptick in New Jersey we saw last week? It’s too early to say.

But it serves as a reminder to everyone, please, if you haven’t already, get vaccinated.

Deaths now appear to be dropping once again across the board.

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

Last we discussed Pennsylvania bottoming out around that 18 deaths per day level. After a week of declines, that average is now down to just under 12 deaths per day. If we see continued progress, perhaps this time next week I can be writing about the Commonwealth’s seven-day average dropping into the single digits for the first time since April 2020.

Illinois also looked like it was slowing, but again, the lack of data is making it hard to say one way or another. But at last report, the average was down to 14 deaths per day.

Last week we also discussed a slowing rate in New Jersey, and that continued to slow, but still continued to fall and deaths are now at 5.6 per day. And after a rise I noted last week, Virginia is back below double digits and at 6.3 deaths per day.

Delaware actually managed to hit 0.0 deaths per day for a stretch of two days last week as it went a week-plus without a single Covid-19 death. It has had a few reported over the weekend and so that number is up, but still below 1 as we head into the week.

Vaccinations remain the slowing curve that we saw last week.

Total vaccinations for PA & VA.

Thankfully we can see Virginia is now approaching and, hopefully, can cross the 50% fully vaccinated rate by the end of the week. Pennsylvania, again, is hard to gauge. The numbers sit at 46.7%, but the Philadelphia numbers have not updated in four days, so that could add a half percentage point or, earlier in the vaccination push, more. Optimistically, however, we are looking at numbers nearing 50%.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Biden’s English Ancestry

We all know Joe Biden as the Irish American president. And that’s no malarkey. But, go back far enough in your family tree and you may find some interesting ancestry and ethnic origins and that’s no different with Joe Biden. Keep in mind that our number of ancestors doubles every generation. You have four grandparents, and many of us met most of them. But you had eight great-grandparents. How many of those did you know? And you had 16 great-great-grandparents, you likely didn’t know any of them personally. It becomes pretty easy for an ethnic line to sneak into your ancestry.

And in Biden’s case it may well be English. Although sneaking in is probably a stretch, as this BBC article points out, because his patrilineal line, i.e. his father’s father’s father’s, &c., is likely English. Of course back in the day the Irish and the English mixing would have been unconscionable, at least as my grandmother would have described it. And so it’s easy to see how the exact origins of family lines are quietly forgotten. But that’s why we have genealogists.

The article eschews the traditional family tree graphic and instead uses only two charts. The first is a simple timeline of Biden’s direct ancestors.

Biden’s patrilineal timeline

No, it’s no family tree, but timelines are a critical tool used by genealogists because at its core, genealogy is all about time and place. And a timeline has got one of those two facets covered.

Timelines help visualise stories in chronological order. I cannot tell you the number of family trees I have seen where people who create trees casually simply copy and paste data without scrutiny. Children born well after the deaths of parents are common. Or children born to parents in their 50s or 60s—perhaps not strictly impossible, but certainly highly irregular. And so to see Biden’s ancestors plotted out chronologically is a common graphic for those who do any work in genealogy, which my regular readers know is my hobby.

That alone would make the article worth sharing. Because, I enjoyed that graphic. I probably would have created a separate line for the birthplace of each individual, but I quibble.

However, we have another graphic that’s not so great. And once again with the BBC I’m talking about axis lines.

American ethnic origins

Here we have a chart looking at US ancestry as claimed in the US censuses of 1980 and 2000. But we do not have any vertical lines making it easy for readers to accurately compare the lengths of the various bars. Twice lately I’ve posted about axis lines and the BBC. Third time’s the charm?

We can also look at using these not as bars, but as line charts as I did in this re-imagining to the right.

First, we no longer need two distinct colours, though you could argue the English line should be a highlight or call out colour given its role in the article. Instead each line receives a label at the right and only the English line crosses any other, but given their point-to-point slope, it’s not confusing like a line chart with all years between 1980 and 2000 could be.

Secondly, the slope here of the line reinforces the idea of falling population numbers. The bar chart also shows this, but through a leftward movement in bars. The bar option certainly works and there’s nothing wrong with it, but these lines offer a more intuitive concept of falling numbers.

I also added some clarification to the data definition. These lines represent the number of people who reported at least one ethnic ancestry—at the time US census respondents could enter upwards of two. For myself, as an example, I could have entered Irish and Carpatho-Rusyn. But my own small sliver of English ancestry would have been left off the list.

Ultimately, the declining numbers of responses along with some reporting on self-identification points to the disappearing concepts of “Irish American” or “English American” as many increasingly see themselves as simply White Americans. But that’s a story for another day.

In the meantime, we have Joe Biden, the Irish American president, with a small bit of English ancestry. Those interested in the genealogy, the article also includes some nice photos of baptismal records and marriage records. It’s an interesting read, though I’m hungry for more as it’s a very light duty pass.

Credit for the BBC pieces goes to the BBC graphics department.

Credit for my reimagination is mine.

Covid Update: 13 June

Last week I mentioned how the rate of decline in new cases had begun to fall significantly, largely due to two factors. The first is good, that we are reaching low levels of new cases overall, but the second is bad, that we see a large proportion of the population hesitant to receive their vaccines. (The vaccines have been proven safe, effective, and they’re free. If you haven’t received your shots yet, I highly encourage you to do so.)

This past week that trend for new cases largely continued. But another issue I was concerned about was a slight uptick, given that last Sunday’s daily new case data was higher than the previous Sunday’s. So as we look at the chart of new case curves, how are we doing?

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

Good news. Those numbers are back on the decline and, in fact, the daily numbers from this Sunday are lower than those of even two weeks ago. We would have had a more muddled picture if the numbers were lower than last week, but still higher than two weeks ago. This leaves me more assured that the numbers are in fact still headed down and the few upticks are outliers and not a trend.

I also wanted to point out another data point this week. This coming week will mark the one-year anniversaries of the summer lows we saw in 2020. These were the points at which Covid-19 was at its lowest ebb after the initial spring wave and then the rise in cases beginning in late summer and early autumn. This most recent spring, despite the initial burst of reopening, our new case levels never fell to anywhere near the summer lows.

I will chart more of this likely next week as we hit all but one of those milestones. But as a teaser, today, 14 June was the lowest point for Delaware, which on that day had a seven-day average of 46 new cases per day. The average heading into today’s data release? 33. Or in other words, Delaware is averaging almost 25% fewer new cases now than it was at last year’s summer nadir.

But as we head into the week, you can see from the charts above that the numbers for all five states are quite low. Pennsylvania and Illinois lead, but are also some of the most populated states in the country. They sit at 403 and 336, respectively. New Jersey and Virginia, more middle-tier states in terms of population, are also fairly close with their new cases as their averages begin the week at 168 and 143, respectively. Delaware, as we noted above is sitting on 33.

So what about deaths? Last week I discussed a pattern of bottoming out, especially for Pennsylvania and Illinois. Unfortunately, I also noted how Pennsylvania had an aberrant large, one-day spike of deaths that influenced the seven-day average.

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

This week you can clearly see that spike in Pennsylvania phasing out of the data set. That’s good, because it allows us to begin to evaluate the true state of Pennsylvania’s average. That average? 18, which is squarely in line with the average before the spike. In other words, Pennsylvania may have indeed bottomed out.

Illinois, however, has resumed a slight push downward, as the seven-day average yesterday just hit 16, down three from Saturday’s 19. I’ll want to see that trend persist throughout the week before saying that Illinois has resumed declining death rates, but it’s a good start to the week.

In New Jersey and Delaware we continue to see falling numbers of deaths. This time last week we saw a small cluster of deaths that brought Delaware up from 0.3 deaths per day to 2.3. But Delaware is now back down to 0.3, perhaps the lowest it reasonably expected to be. New Jersey had just managed to fall below 10 deaths per day, and it’s nearly halved that at it enters the week at 6.3.

Virginia, unfortunately, is the outlier. Deaths had slipped below 10 for over a week. And last week they fell as low as 7.7. But as of yesterday they have climbed back over 10. We need to watch this week to see if there is truly a rising number of deaths or if we are seeing the emergence of more of a bottom or floor in terms of deaths.

Finally we have vaccinations.

Full vaccination totals

Unfortunately, the City of Philadelphia’s website has been broken for over a week and they’re now only reporting updates twice a week anyway. In other words, the data for Pennsylvania isn’t great. Because while we can report the rest of the Commonwealth, the City of Philadelphia—excluding the suburban counties—on its own represents nearly 13% of Pennsylvania. That’s a huge chunk to be missing.

That leaves us with Illinois and Virginia.

The good news is that they are going up and that Illinois just hit 45% fully vaccinated. Virginia is now at 47%. The bad news is that it took a week for both states to climb up one percentage point. More evidence that vaccinations are slowing dramatically with millions left unvaccinated.

And we’re going to need them to get vaccinated. Consider the United Kingdom, another Western country doing well in its vaccination programme and that had decided to increasingly open up large swathes of its economy.

That is now on hold for another four weeks. The UK had planned to end its lockdown on 21 June, but that will now be extended into the end of July. And it’s all due to the Delta, formerly Indian, variant that has taken root in the UK. It’s more transmissible than the earlier UK variant, which the UK called the Kent variant.

The Delta variant has emerged in small numbers here in the US. But in order to prevent another surge that could threaten our healthcare systems, we need to get people vaccinated. It’s not inconceivable that the US may need to reinstate restrictions or full lockdowns if the Delta variant were to take root and swamp the US healthcare system.

And so I will end this post as I began it. If you haven’t started your vaccination process, I encourage you to do so. The vaccines have been proven safe and effective. And if you’re worried about cost, they’re free.

Credit for the piece is mine.