Every State's COVID Numbers in Context, March 2021
I’m honestly kind of excited about this. I just realized that, if all goes well, this will be my third-to-last monthly COVID data dive.
We are well on our way with vaccine administration. We blew past the end-of-April goal of 100 million vaccines this month, putting us 7 weeks ahead of schedule. We’re going to hit 100 million vaccinated individuals in early April. My (hopeful) last monthly COVID post will be in May and I honestly do not expect to see much movement in the numbers between now and then
(He said, tempting fate.)
In case you want to compare this issue with the previous months:
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)
Looney Tunes: Deduce, You Say
We get to start out with the region holding single most worrying state in the country. The upward curve in positives for Michigan is… not ideal. We don’t want to see that curve heading back up in what looks a lot like the start of the now-familiar exponential epidemic curve.
This may actually be our first test in a post-vaccine world. The vaccine numbers for Michigan are not bad. They have about a third of all adults vaccinated and nearly 70% of all 65+ individuals vaccinated. Even if COVID is increasing, we cross our fingers and hope that the surge will peak at a shallow point and it will not be followed next month with an increasing death rate.
The reset of the midwest looks fairly good with cases and deaths continuing their encouraging downward slope. Vaccine administration accelerated slightly this last month, but the principles of compound interest mean that a little bit of acceleration over a long enough time means we are far above the target we set forth in January.
There’s not much to report from the Mountain states. Cases are down, deaths are down, and vaccine administration continues apace. I am somewhat surprised to see that Utah is the lowest on per-capita vaccine administration, though it could very well be a factor of their younger population.
The Northeast states COVID rates are flattening out at a much higher rate than I would have expected. Look at most other regions and see that COVID rates are flattening out at the 10-20 positives per 100K residents range. For the Northeast, they seem to be stalling out at 20-40 positives per 100K. I look at New Jersey’s positive curve and just crumple into an exhausted heap.
I don’t know why but I suspect that seasonality is *the* great influencer on COVID rates and simply cannot be overcome without overwhelming vaccination rates. In that regard, it’s good to see that the Northeast states are doing fairly well with vaccines.
Frank Bednarz recently described the situation in the United States in regard to the threatening variants as “an ‘Indy grabs his hat’-style close call” due to our rapid vaccination rates. If the situation in the northeast is indeed seasonal and we’re about to see the same seasonal effects we say this time last year, I’m hoping that the vaccines cut this surge off at the pass.
First of all, bravo to New Mexico as the #1 vaccinated state in the country! They have 43% of their adult population vaccinated. That is amazing!
Positive rates are dropping, deaths are declining, things are generally looking pretty good along the southern border. Texas had a bit of a setback on vaccinations when they had that cold-snap and power outage, but things are moving forward. If seasonality is indeed the main driver of infections, the goal should be to vaccinate as fast as possible in anticipation of a potential summer surge.
This region made me mad because it messed up my charts. I know, that’s petty and stupid, but I’m still annoyed. You can see the death spikes in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Those are all due to the fact that these states have audited their death certificates and hospital records and added hundreds or even thousands of COVID deaths to the official tally.
I want to make it clear that I don’t think these audits are bad or unnecessary. I don’t think this means we’re overcounting COVID deaths. COVID deaths are logged using a complex medical coding system where people who test positive for COVID are usually listed as COVID fatalities if their cause of death was related to COVID symptoms. So if someone tests positive for COVID and dies of pneumonia, that is probably going to be a COVID death. But if someone is injured in a motorcycle accident, comes to the hospital, tests positive for COVID, and then dies of his injuries, that isn’t a COVID death. These audits help states sort out these cases, sometimes adjusting the number up, sometimes adjusting it down.
This region just happened to have three states that ran their audits and suddenly increased their state death toll. Whenever you see a thin spike like this, that is what has happened. Kentucky is not suddenly crushed with COVID patients, they just did an audit and found a bunch of previously unreported COVID deaths.
Other than those statistical abnormalities, this region looks like it is doing well. Low cases, low deaths, vaccine numbers steadily rising. That’s all good news.
The Plains states had an incredibly rough winters but it has calmed down into spring and things seem to be going well. Positives and deaths are down, vaccines are going extremely well.
I don’t know what else to say except that I think the plains states are in the best position of any region in the United States. If seasonality indeed drives COVID rates, it looks like they can likely get to herd immunity before the early fall when the seasonality surge is likely to hit them.
California has come down from their winter surge and things are looking good for the west coast. Why have Oregon and Washington mostly escaped the COVID nightmare? I don’t know. I have my suspicious, but they are mostly around tech companies, people who are able to effectively do their jobs remotely, and a refusal to use public transit.
I have some theories on this region, but for now we should simply celebrate that most of the west coast did fairly well in the raw numbers in this pandemic.
Upper Northeast + Alaska & Hawaii
Alaska continues to rock it on vaccines. Across the upper Northeast, cases and deaths remain low. Hawaii continues to do a good job screening travelers for COVID and keeping their islands in very low COVID incidence.
Things are good in this region and there is little reason to expect any differently in the next month.
I believe we’re just on the edge of seeing the positive effects of the vaccines in the larger COVID numbers. I can feel exhaustion in my bones when I see cases trending upwards in a few states again, but I’m a firm believer that we are slowly shifting into a position where vaccines are actively saving lives. I think we’ll be able to see that by April, but we will certainly know by May. If the evidence is unambiguous that COVID is no longer killing people by May, that will be my last monthly summary.
The news here is generally good with some specific points where we are putting a pin in things to check on them later. I’m optimistic. I think we’re nearing the end of this.
I’m going to take such a vacation when this is over.
Looney Tunes: Deduce, You Say
I loved this as a kid, though I struggle to articulate why exactly I loved it. Nearly all the jokes are so dry that they certainly went right over my 10-year-old head.
Start with the very first joke, in which Porky (playing the role of Watson) tells us that Holmes was engaged in his favorite past-time: Deducting. Note that this is “deducting” and not “deducing”. This leads us to an extended sequence in which Daffy energetically thinks through a series of private eye expenses that he can deduct from his taxes.
This sets the stage for Daffy as an over-eager goofball investigator bringing a very aggressive and American sensibility to what should be a very British story.
As an adult, the jokes are thick on the ground (like when Daffy orders a “hot buttered gin”). I honestly can’t imagine what on earth I saw in this short as a child. Not that it isn’t funny, it’s hilarious. But the jokes just don’t seem accessible to a young child. I laughed a lot more as an adult.