First Glance At Europe's Surges
I have so far avoided writing about international COVID numbers. A big reason for this is that I’m deeply familiar with the US data and even with all the time I’ve spent with it I continue to be surprised at how many details I miss. Moving from the US to international feels like I would end up abandoning the area in which I’m familiar and open myself up to a space where I may make assumptions, miss details, or generally come to the data unprepared.
I still feel that way, but I also think there is probably some value in touching on international COVID numbers. So I’m going to dip my little toe in and start poking around the data.
I recently updated my COVID data scraping and parsing project to include the data from the Our World In Data repository, which gives a little more visibility into the international situation. I did this so that I could talk a little more intelligently about the Europe COVID resurgence.
The Europe COVID Resurgence
There have recently been COVID surges in Europe, particularly in France and Spain. A common observation is that the number of cases in those countries has exceeded the March-April surge in Europe, but the death rate is not nearly so bad.
If you’ve been following along with this newsletter since June, you may recognize this pattern. A surge that is visible at an early stage this because we have testing where we previous did not have enough testing and didn’t realize we were in a pandemic until people started requiring hospitalization. This reminds us very much of June in the US in our sunbelt.
In fact, many of the patterns that we saw in late June in the southern border (sunbelt) states seem to be replicating themselves here in France and Spain. We’re seeing a surge in cases that is not yet manifesting in a surge in deaths.
This pair of graphs is from June 30th (the stark blue line was a time-shifted view of New York so we could compare and contrast the initial NY surge against the southern summer surge). It took about 4-6 weeks from the initial case surges in the southern states before we got to the high point in reported deaths. We saw deaths rise in July, peak at the beginning of August, and they have been falling since then. When all was said and done death rate wasn’t nearly as bad in these states as it was in the states that were first hit.
We might expect similar dynamics in Europe, but there is reason to hope for better. For one thing, the surges in Europe are (so far) only about half as severe as those in the hard-hit southern states.
We’ve seen a few states (like Utah) hit 20 cases per 100K and never experience a real surge in deaths. Maybe the surge in Europe will stay low enough that we don’t see much movement in the death rate. That is something we can watch and hope for.
However, this could be a reflection of what I’m calling “the California problem”.
The California Problem
If we look at California, it looks like they did particularly well compared to the other states on the southern border.
What we don’t see in this is that California is huge. There was a pretty severe outbreak in southern California that pretty closely followed the outbreaks along the other states in that region. But central and northern California did much better, with substantially lower case counts during the summer.
Because California is so large and the outbreaks were regional, the state-by-state numbers look better compared to states that had fewer regions and urban centers and saw their outbreaks concentrated within those areas.
This relates to Europe inasmuch as Spain and France are also very large places. We may be seeing extremely concerning outbreaks in these countries, but it might be concentrated within a smaller population that makes the overall country numbers seem lower. This would make it inappropriate to compare these countries to state-by-state outbreaks in the US.
I’ve heard that the outbreaks in Spain are largely in regions that weren’t hit as bad the first time around. So the outbreaks may be bad, but they may be in smaller regions. This is a thing I’ve heard this, but cannot say for certain. The data I’m looking at does not break out the infections by region, I only see the nationwide data.
If this is true, it would be a mixture of good and bad news. The bad news would be that it may be overwhelmingly difficult to contain this virus if it is going to come back to hit regions that were heretofore only mildly infected. The good news would be that it’s not hitting the same regions in a way that implies reinfection.
Remember, this is a bit of speculation… I’m uncertain about the regional nature of these outbreaks. Fortunately the best way to find correct information on the internet is not to ask “what is the correct information” but to say “I think this is correct” and have people interrupt you with better information.
Let’s hope that happens so I can return in the next issue with better information.
Disney Shorts: Woodland Cafe
This is a Silly Symphony that is just brimming with delight. We open on a cafe for insects and assorts creepy-crawlies. The character animation is spectacular, from the old grouchy bee to the 8 handed caterpillar Maître d' to the grasshopping band to the spider-and-fly players.
There isn’t really a plot to the short itself and if there were it would be “bugs go to cafe, watch a show” but we get to spend about half our time on the show, which is a lovely little melodrama in which a lady fly lands on a tough-guy spider’s web and he intimidates & chases her until she turns the tables on him.
The music is just great. It’s hopping, exciting, and fun when the patrons are on the dance floor and the melodrama is well scored. This cartoon doesn’t drags for even a single moment.