Every State's COVID Numbers in Context, December Edition
The middle of the wave
If you’re new to this newsletter, every month since July, I’ve grouped each state into a region and looked at how COVID positives and deaths have been running within that region. It’s particularly interesting to go back and look at the summer months when we thought that the COVID surge in the south was a particularly bad surge. Last month I had to re-align my y axis because the scale that I had used couldn’t capture how high the surges were getting in some states.
Every chart has some guide lines on it. The positives charts have a “caution” line where, when a state goes above that line they are in a danger zone for accelerated growth. Nearly every state is above that point right now. The other line is to show where the summer surge peaked to give us some more context for “things are pretty high”. At the moment, it looks like most states will go above the summer surge line.
The only other thing I did differently this week was that I used a 14-day rolling average for the numbers instead of a 7-day one. The reason for this is that all reporting for positives and deaths took a dive during the Thanksgiving week which then makes it look like there is a resurgence once reporting goes back to its normal schedule. By expanding the rolling average, we take into account both that dip and the subsequent surge.
Feel free to skim through previous months and we can jump right in.
Here is what is going on with COVID this month:
Midwest (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin)
Mountain States (Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming)
Northeast States (Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania)
Southern Border (Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas)
Mid-South (Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia)
Plain States (Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota)
West Coast (Washington, Oregon, California)
Upper Northeast + Alaska & Hawaii (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Alaska, Hawaii)
Disney Shorts: Donald’s Lucky Day
It’s a bit of a relief to see that the midwest has mostly crested their curve, though cases remain frightfully high. Last month, I mentioned I was surprised that Wisconsin has remained below the “very bad” on deaths. given their enormous surge in cases and I’m happy to report that they haven’t really seen the crush I have been expecting. In fact, it is exceptionally strange that Michigan and Illinois have worst death numbers even though they didn’t have nearly as high positives as Wisconsin.
This is why I don’t make predictions any more.
We’d like to see the positive cases trending down more sharply and we should expect a distressingly high plateau of deaths roll in for at least another 2-3 weeks. There isn’t much to do except hope and pray for those affected.
Utah continues to confound. At no point in the last three months has Utah has fewer cases per 100K than Colorado and yet their deaths remain low. It seems like most of the mountain states are on the other side of the peak, but Nevada and Idaho may still have a difficult time of things.
It is frustrating to see that things aren’t diving down like we would hope to see in a clean curve. But I do wonder if cases holding at a high plateau is the result of people interrupting their behaviors in order to arrest the spread. Perhaps the best sign of individual action making a difference is when cases plateau instead of the tradition spike-and-dive.
At some point a few months ago, I was hopeful that the northeast case acceleration was slow enough that it could be arrested, but that does not seem to have happened yet. At this point, I’m crossing my fingers instead that they peak soon or at least plateau instead of hitting a midwest-like spike. What this most looks like, however, is the prelude to a big spike in cases. We can hope that isn’t the case, but that is a possibility.
As I type, vaccines are being distributed in large cities like New York City and that should help, though (if I understand the vaccine distribution plan and scale correctly) we probably won’t see that in the numbers for 2-3 more months.
I had been hoping the southern border states would get a reprieve from the virus given that they went through a wave of infections over the summer but they are seeing a slow climb in cases that seems to mirror what we’re seeing in the northeast. The best we can hope for is that they will not spike in December, that it will plateau and recede slowly.
Deaths are not in an encouraging spot and I think we need to be prepared for them to increase in this region in the next month. Like the northeast, I’m holding out hope that we don’t see these increases turn into out-of-control case acceleration when we are so close to getting vaccines into arms.
Similar to the northeast and southern border states, I had hoped that the southern states would get a bit of a break with COVID, but it seems that was not in the cards. The best news here is that we’re not seeing a classic curve (yet) in any of these states. The spike in Tennessee looks like it might be a Thanksgiving-related falloff and post-holiday rush in reporting.
The situation in this region is difficult and could easily tip into the explosive growth we’ve seen elsewhere. The AR/TN/WV I’m glad they aren’t seeing the kinds of infection patterns we see in the plains states or the midwest and I mostly blame that on the weather. Even so, cases are between “uncomfortably high” and “distressingly high” in this region. We should expect deaths to rise in the coming month.
The situation in the Plains states has absolutely broken my heart. They are over the crest, thank God, but we are still seeing the effects come in through hospitalizations and deaths.
This region has seen the worst from the virus since the initial outbreak. I suspect cases and deaths will decline in the next month, but the the toll has been brutal.
I have no idea what is going on at the west coast, which is particularly embarrassing since I live here.
Why is California accelerating while Oregon and Washington have shifted into a plateau? I don’t know.
Why has Oregon seen an increase in deaths while Washington has not? I don’t know.
This is a region where I have the most questions. Living in Washington, I know what the limits are and I know who is and is not following the limits. I know what the limits are in California and I’m not sure why they have diverged from the other western states in this case.
Upper Northeast + Hawaii, Alaska
Alaska is ranked as the “most open” state, which doesn’t mean a whole lot because just because a state has open policies doesn’t tell us very much about how the residents of the state are behaving. Alaska’s wave is pretty serious right now and we should certainly expect it to show up more in the death rate in the next month or so but what is really odd is how close Alaska, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont are in death toll given how distinct they are in case count.
This could be a factor of age. Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are the three oldest states in the country (median age is around 43) and Alaska is one of the youngest states (median age of 34). We see a similar thing in Utah where, despite really high positives, the death rate remains low.
Summary: The Need For Peace
There is very little to be done about any of this right now. The states that have implemented restrictions are not doing much better than the states that are mostly open. The pro-lockdown regions are about as locked down as they are likely to be and the states that are open are unlikely to shift back to lockdown. Vaccines are starting to be administered but we are unlikely to see that impact the data in the next 2 months. There is little we can do but wait.
This isn’t very satisfying, but I’m not sure what else can be said about it. For myself, I’m taking the opportunity of the upcoming holiday to try to take a deep breath and practice finding peace. I like to go back to this tweet from Vicki Boykis, a data scientist who writes wonderfully at Normcore Tech
I think we are getting close. This won’t last forever.
Disney Shorts: Donald’s Lucky Day
We open in a shadowy room as two criminals devised to send a bomb to a competing criminal, set to go off at midnight. And, to deliver this instrument of death on Friday the 13th, the unluckiest of all days, they’ve hired Donald.
Being the superstitious type, Donald manages to go through every manner of luck-influencing trick, the mirrors, going under ladders, but his main adventure is his uneven interactions with a black cat that take up the latter half of the film.
This one is just ok. There isn’t a lot of tension with the bomb situation, it’s mostly just funny how clueless Donald is. Some of the gags go on too long, like the animators were trying to burn out some time to get us to the end. But the cat is adorable and it’s a good narrative so I’ll give it a pass.