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.

Covid Update: 7 Jun

Technical difficulties yesterday. But I wanted to run the latest Covid numbers to start this week of posting, so we’re just going to use the Monday data, which is the lowest of the week since it captures the data reported by authorities on Sunday. That said, where are we?

Last week we began to see a slowdown in the rate of declining cases, though, crucially, cases were still in decline. The good news is that cases continue to decline. The seven-day averages for all five states are now well below 1,000 new cases per day, with Illinois dipping below 500. Only Pennsylvania remains above that level at 544 new cases per day.

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

We are no longer seeing the numbers fall by hundreds per day, most notably in New Jersey, but we remain in a race to the bottom. Unfortunately, with significant numbers of the population refusing vaccination and the near certainty of this coronavirus becoming endemic, i.e. a persistent, circulating virus, we will never reach zero. The numbers at some point will bottom out and a slowing rate of decline could indicate nearing that point.

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

Deaths have continued their even slower decline over the last week. New Jersey’s seven-day average fell into the high single digits for the first time since November. Virginia, which had flirted with single-digit days, has now reported a week-long run of about nine deaths per day. Delaware, due to its low population only reached double digits for most of February, but has seen a slight uptick to over two deaths per day.

The two most interesting states with regards to deaths are Illinois and Pennsylvania, for different reasons. Starting with Illinois, we are beginning to see a pattern of bottoming out. For most of the last week the seven-day average has hovered about 20 with day-to-day changes of one or two additional/fewer deaths per day. We will have to watch over the coming week whether the numbers can resume pushing downwards or if we continue to see this bottoming out.

Then we have Pennsylvania. Through the beginning of the weekend, we saw progress as the Commonwealth’s seven-day average dropped below 20 deaths per day for the first time since October. Two days ago the Department of Health reported an additional 185 deaths, but then yesterday the total number of deaths dropped by 174. I haven’t yet been able to piece together what happened, but it does make the sudden spike in the seven-day average—to 46 deaths per day—a wee bit suspect.

Finally we have vaccinations. And the news is there is no news. Over the last week we have seen almost zero growth in the number of fully vaccinated individuals in Pennsylvania (1.8 percentage points), Virginia (1.53 pts), and Illinois (2.41 pts).

Total full vaccinations in PA, VA, & IL.

If we look at where the cumulative rates remain stuck, however, we see numbers in the mid-40s, short of 2/3 the estimated herd immunity range. The flattening of the curve, indicating slowing rates of vaccination, have become increasingly pronounced. This is not the curve we want to see flattened. Ideally this slowdown would have occurred nearer the 70% range and we could have eased into the estimated herd immunity range.

That said, we are approaching 50% in these three states and numerous communities, though not all, within these states are now over 50% fully vaccinated. But the longer we have largely unvaccinated reservoirs available, the more likely it is we will see new variants emerge that could potentially evolve to be more transmissible or even more deadly.

And so for any of my readers who haven’t received their shots yet, I encourage you to please do so. They’re free, they’re effective, and they’re necessary for us to get back to some sense of normal.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 31 May

Last week I wrote about how new cases had maybe flattened a wee bit in their rapid drop from peaks earlier this year. But the good news is that even in where new cases declines may have slowed down, they continue to decline.

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

We can see the tails at the right ends are all back to declining shapes. Delaware is perhaps the most deceptive, because remember that there was the anomalous spike from late processing of earlier new cases.

I had noted that deaths had finally seen some data showing them dropping. That has held true to some degree.

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

Indeed, the tails at the end of each state have shown slow declines. Delaware is even near 0 deaths per day. Illinois, however, is an exception with a small increase lately.

Finally, a brief look at vaccinations.

Full vaccination curves for PA, VA, & IL.

You can see that the rate of full vaccinations has begun to slow. All three states we cover are over 40%, though all are below 45%. Pennsylvania is difficult to evaluate, however, because for the last four days Philadelphia has not updated its numbers. And as the largest county by far in the state, it’s shifts can swing the overall state numbers.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 23 May

Last week I wrote about how we were seeing new cases continuing to rapidly decline. This week we can say cases are still declining, but perhaps a bit less rapidly than earlier.

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

The charts above show that slowdown in the tail at the right of the chart. First some points to note, Delaware reported that several hundred cases had not been entered into their database, and so we saw a one-time spike midweek. But note that after the spike, the numbers continue to trend down. In other words, the rapid decline was probably a bit less rapid than we saw, but it was still a decline.

Pennsylvania’s chart has a problem of your author’s own design. Now that I’m fully vaccinated I was able to leave the flat this weekend and the Pennsylvania data wasn’t ready by the time I left on Saturday. But by the Sunday data, it was and so the 2500 new cases is probably split somehow between those days—accounted for by the seven-day average. This points to a broader question for which I do not yet have an answer: as life increasingly returns to normal, how much longer will I continue to update these charts?

I started these graphics as a way for myself to track the spread of the virus in my home state and the state where I still have a large number of friends. At the time, there were few if any visualisations out there doing this. Now most media outlets have them and my work at home led to a similar project at work. The reason I continued to make these was you, my readers here and in other places where I post this work. Your comments, messages, texts, and emails made it clear you valued the work. First, I know there are still many people left to be fully vaccinated, nearly half the population, and due to bias, some of the people most likely to follow these posts are those most likely to get vaccinated as early as possible. But please let me know, readers, if you’re still getting value out of these graphics.

But back to the data, in two of the remaining three states, Virginia and Illinois, we saw numbers continue to decline. New Jersey, however, shows a tail with a slight uptick in the seven-day average of new cases. This will be something I follow closely this coming week.

Deaths finally appear to be dropping.

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

Not by large numbers, no, but in Virginia and Illinois we saw declines of 5 deaths per day. Pennsylvania was even greater with a decline of 7. We are still above rates we saw last summer, but it does appear that finally we have hit the inflection point we have been waiting for the last several weeks.

Finally we have vaccinations. These charts look at the cumulative number of people fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated curves for PA, VA, & IL.

And in that the number keeps going up, and that’s good. But they can also only keep going up. But if you look closely at the right tail of the curve, you begin to see it flattening out as the rate of daily vaccinations begins to drop. Unfortunately we’re well below levels we think we’d need for herd immunity. But, to try and look at the positive, we’re almost halfway there and that is certainly playing a role as we can see with the rapid decline in numbers of new cases. But we need to keep trying to get more people vaccinated.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 16 May

Last week I wrote about how new cases in the five states we cover (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois) were falling and falling rapidly. And this week that pattern continues to hold.

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

If we look at the Sunday-to-Sunday numbers, daily new cases were down in all five states. If we look at the seven-day averages, cases are down in all states. Pennsylvania and Illinois are now down below 2000 new cases per day, Virginia is just over 500 per day, New Jersey is below 400, and Delaware is over 100. These are all levels we last saw last autumn. In other words, we’re not quite back to summer levels of low transmission, but this time next month, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were.

Deaths remain stubbornly resistant to falling.

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

In fact, if we compare the Sunday-to-Sunday numbers we see that the numbers yesterday were largely the same as last Sunday, except in Pennsylvania where they were up significantly. The seven-day average?

Here’s where it gets interesting, because deaths are up slightly. Not by much, for example, Illinois was at 29.1 deaths per day last Sunday, this Sunday? 30.9. Illinois isn’t alone. Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia all have reported slight upticks in their death rates.

But the biggest concern is the continuing slowdown in vaccinations. We’re perhaps halfway to the point of herd immunity in the three states we track. All three are between 37% and 38%. The thing to track this coming week will be if the rate continues to slow.

Total full vaccination curves for PA, VA, & IL.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Baseball’s Injury Problem

Last week, Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic wrote an article examining the recent spate of injuries in Major League Baseball. For those interested in the sport, the article is well worth the read. For the unfamiliar, baseball played only about 1/3 of the number of games as usual last year due to Covid-19. This year, pitcher after pitcher seems to be falling prey to arm troubles. Position players are straining hamstrings, quads, and other muscles I’ve never heard of let alone used over the last year. And joking aside, therein is thought to be the problem.

And the evidence, in part, shows that we are seeing an increase in the numbers of injuries. But 2020 may not be as much of a problem as youngsters throwing baseballs near 100 mph. But I digress. The article contained a table detailing the numbers of injuries for certain body parts in the first month (April) of the season in both 2021 and 2019, the last comparable season due to Covid-19.

To be fair, the table was nice, but in the exhaustion of post-second dose shot last weekend, I sketched out some things and decided to turn it into a proper post.

Ouch.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 9 May

Last week I wrote about how, for new cases, we had seen a few consecutive days of increasing cases. Were we witnessing an aberration, a one-off “well, that was weird”? Or was this the beginning of a trend towards increasing new cases?

A week later and we have our answer. Just a one-off.

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

If we focus on just the seven-day average, in just one week the numbers in New Jersey have fallen by half. In Pennsylvania, Virginia, it’s by one quarter. Illinois is a little less than that, as is Delaware. Across the board, numbers are falling and falling quickly.

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

When we move to deaths, we’re beginning to see an improvement. As the lagging indicator, we would expect these to begin to drop a few weeks after new cases begin to drop. We have begun to see what might be the peaks of deaths in a few states.

Full vaccination curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

Over this coming week, I’ll be closely watching these numbers to see if we can finally begin to say authoritatively that deaths are in decline.

Vaccinations drive all of this. And we continue to see the total number of fully vaccinated people climbing in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Illinois. But, that rate is slowing down. Most likely we are entering a phase where those eager for their shots have largely received them. Now begins the challenge of vaccinating those who might lack easy access or have reservations.

But to be clear, we need those people to become fully vaccinated before we can truly begin to return to normal. Whatever normal is. It’s hard to remember anymore.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Covid Update: 2 May

I didn’t write a post last Monday, but this Monday I am. A few things may have changed in the Covid situation. The most important is that we may have finally seen the peak of this current wave’s surge of new cases.

For the last few weeks we’ve seen cases rising in the five states. Only New Jersey of late had shown a return to declining cases. About the middle of the week before last, we began to see those numbers decline. And so in this past week we did begin to see cases decline in all five states.

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

The thing to watch this week will be that at the very end of last week, new cases ticked up slightly for two or three days in a number of states. It could be an aberrant one-off, but with full vaccinations still well below herd immunity and cases still at high levels, it isn’t difficult to imagine a scenario where the virus begins to surge once again.

Deaths on the other hand, they continue to climb. We aren’t seeing massive increases, instead these are largely marginal. But they are increasing all the same.

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

Encouragingly, if cases can continue to decline, deaths will begin to fall. As a lagging indicator, they will be the last metric we see decline. Consequently, it’s a question of when, not if, deaths begin to decline. On Saturday, we did see a small decline in deaths, but one day before the weekend is insufficient to determine whether or not we’ve seen the inflection point, after which deaths would fall.

Vaccinations remain a broad set of positive news. All three states are now reporting just over 30% of their populations as fully vaccinated. However, the rate of vaccination has begun to slow.

Total vaccination curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

And that worries me and the professionals, because we are still far from herd immunity. Until we reach that level, the virus can easily spread among unvaccinated populations. The charts above don’t show the decline, as they look only at the total, cumulative effect. But the charts that I see make it quite clear the decline over the last week or two.

Moral of that story is, if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please register to do so or visit a location that allows walk-up vaccinations.

Covid Update: 18 April

Last week I wrote about how we may have been beginning to see divergent patterns in new cases, i.e. how New Jersey in particular had seen its new cases numbers falling whilst other states continued with increasing case counts.

One week later, that may still broadly hold true.

Emphasis on may.

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

If we look at the new charts, we can see that broadly, New Jersey did continue its downward trend as Pennsylvania and Delaware experienced significant rises in new cases. Virginia remained fairly stable, but with a slight trend towards increasing numbers of new cases.

But New Jersey and now Illinois present some interesting trends to watch this coming week. Illinois reminds me of New Jersey in that despite rising numbers most of last week, the last few days (and of course the weekend) saw numbers lower than preceding days. You can see from the slightest of dips at the tail of the line the trend has flipped direction. Will the direction hold, however, once we start receiving weekday reporting figures starting Tuesday?

Back to New Jersey, though. The downward trend continued most of the week. But, the last several days could portend a reversal of sorts. For most of the last week, the state saw daily new case numbers increasing day after day. But the trend line, as it should, remained heading downwards. Until just a few days ago. If you look at the tail of the line there, you will see a slight uptick. This too will be something to watch in the coming week.

Deaths also need careful attention this week.

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

Last I asked the question, will deaths follow rising cases? After a week of data, the answer is unmistakably yes. However, unlike new cases, the increases are largely of a marginal number. Look closely at the ends of the lines for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois and you will see last week’s shallow rise continued.

Virginia bucked the trend with decreasing numbers of deaths. And of course marginal increases could easily give way to marginal decreases. Now I try not to mention too many daily numbers in these posts because I take the weekly view, but I will be closely following Pennsylvania this week. For the last several weeks, the Commonwealth regularly reported deaths on Sunday and Monday in the single digits. Yesterday Harrisburg reported 40. Is this a one-day surge of reports? Is the state resuming reporting more deaths at the weekend? Or does it portend something worse, a mores significant rise in the number of deaths?

Vaccinations continue apace. Although, I would expect to see some slowdown as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause ripples out across the vaccination programme.

Fully vaccinated curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

For now though we continue to see increasing numbers. Indeed, the three states I track have now all reached or should reach today 25% of their population as fully vaccinated.

One, that is good news.

But, two, this is just the beginning.

Last week in some tense questioning about when we can expect resumption of “normal”, Dr. Fauci provided a figure of 10,000 new cases per day across the US. (Currently we are about at 60,000 or so.) Vaccines will impede the transmission as they become ever more widely administered and fully implemented—remember that a first dose of a two-dose regimen does not mean you should be heading out and socialising.

At present, we have Pennsylvania averaging 5,000 new cases per day. In other words, Pennsylvania alone represents half of Dr. Fauci’s target. We are clearly far from that reopening level.

What I will be curious about in the coming weeks though is that interplay between new cases and vaccinations. If Illinois does begin to see a downward trend in new cases this week, how much of it is due to the state being 25% fully vaccinated?

That’s a complex question to answer, but at some point, increasing vaccinations will force new cases to reach an inflection point. First they will begin to bend downward, increasing more slowly instead of exponentially. Then with even more vaccinations a second point will be reached at which this new surge begins to finally turn and new cases drop.

The question is when.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Party Time Post-Vaccine

If all goes according to plan, your author today will receive his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the Pfizer variety for the curious. As such, it feels appropriate to share this recent piece from xkcd.

Also looks like some funky bar chord notation.

All joking aside, it should be said that, and as this graphic illustrates, just because you receive your first dose, doesn’t mean you should be out socialising and seeing people later that night.

You are not fully vaccinated until two weeks after your second dose, or the first if you received Johnson & Johnson. And so while I may be receiving my first dose this afternoon, it is going to be close to a month and a half before I’m able to leave my household unit and socialise with others. Probably three weeks for my second dose and then another two weeks for the vaccine to fully take effect.

Doesn’t mean I won’t be counting the days, though.

Credit for the piece goes to Randall Munroe.