Daily COVID-19 Briefing: Sunday

A special message and appeal to any who may read this or who has followed my blog:

I began this blog on March 9. Since then, I have made 130 posts, received 20,898 views, 75 likes and 21 comments. I am now very much uncertain about whether to continue this effort. I have tried to bring all my knowledge, experience and skill to bear to make sense of what is happening. I have sought to gather information thoughtfully and critically, to analyze that information responsibly and report the truth as accurately and clearly as I could. I have been proud of this effort. Now, as the the nation seems to be sinking further into confusion, apathy and denial, I worry that my voice is contributing to the collective malaise that seems to be deepening. I am concerned that I have become part of the drone of “experts” counting cases and deaths, expressing alarm and forecasting continued suffering. Is it helping? I am still fascinated by what is transpiring, but I no longer feel that what I am doing is making a difference in a positive way. I get very little feedback and I have no idea whether anyone is still interested.

For these reasons, I am asking you for your input and feedback. Any and all comments would be welcome. Send me a comment through the site or at my personal email (taglass904@gmail.com). Please be safe and well.

  1. Do you have questions I could try to answer?
  2. Has my blog been useful?
  3. What has been useful about this site?
  4. What have you not liked?
  5. What could be done better?
  6. Should I continue to publish this blog?

And most of all, to those who have taken the time to read my blog, I thank you sincerely.

Yours truly,
Thomas A. Glass, Ph.D.


Top pick of the day: Saturday

Why more young people are getting sick in the latest Covid-19 outbreaks

Article by Katherine Harmon Courage, posted online at VOX, July 18, 2020.

The heat of the summer has brought a surge of new cases. In states with the biggest increases, the average age of those infected is dropping. In Florida, the median age of those testing positive was 65 in March. As of mid-July, the median age of those testing positive over the past 14 days plummeted to 39.5. This article untangles the many factors leading to this shift and what it means going forward.

Today’s bite-sized, handpicked selection of important news, information or science for all who want to know where this epidemic is going and what we should do.

Daily COVID-19 Briefing: Saturday

Top news, reports and insights for today:

  1. Daily headline summaries for Saturday:
  • Nineteen states this week set new highs for coronavirus infections recorded in a single day (Axios)
  • White House has blocked CDC Director Redfield and other officials from testifying on school reopenings (USA Today)
  • FDA approves pooled testing for coronavirus, promising to increase testing efficiency and reduce backlogs (Axios)
  • 85 children under age 2 tested positive for coronavirus in 1 Texas county (NBC News)
  • Studies in both the U.S. and U.K. show evidence that several candidate vaccines show early signs in Phase II studies showing they produce an immune response. Still, the highest hurdle remains as drug makers move to initiate Phase 3 trials in coming weeks (BBC News)
  1. New daily high case records set Thursday and Friday. Deaths rising. Increasing transmission seen in all but 5 states
    New record high daily case totals were established on Thursday and Friday, with more than 145,000 cases reported in two days (Figure A). This brings total U.S. cases to over 3.5 million. A half million cases were added in just 8 days, faster than any previous period (Figure B). At the state level, while the nation has been watching a Arizona and Florida, community transmission this week is increasing across the board. Figure C shows one week growth factors (ratio of cases in last 7 days to the previous week) by state. All but 5 (46 of 51) states are increasing. Unlike last week, cases are rising again in the Northeast, where new cases rose by 20% or more in Washington DC (+21%), Maryland (+51%), New Hampshire (+30%), and Rhode Island (+50%). All states in the South saw cases rise by 10% or more, lead by Alabama (+43%) and Virginia (+46%). Transmission increased in all Midwest states except South Dakota. The largest 1-week rise was in the West, lead by Colorado (+96%), Alaska (+58%), Montana (+66%) and Nevada (+42%). Thankfully, new cases finally went down in Arizona by 2%. The trend toward rising deaths continued as 936 deaths were reported Friday (Figure D). Still, the number of deaths remains far lower than the peak period in April and May despite twice the number of cases.
    What does it mean: Instead of summer suppression, we see summer surge. Deaths, thankfully remain lower than cases would suggest. This tells us that we are capturing a larger percentage of the true cases in our testing. Instead of isolated state hot spots, transmission is intensifying more broadly across all states and regions than at any time in the past.
Figure A
Figure B
Figure C
Figure D
  1. The summer story: The rest of the nation catches up with New York and New Jersey
    Over the last few months, I have been repeatedly checking the overall rates of confirmed COVID-19 infections per 100,000 population by state to see how the epidemic’s distribution has shifted. Disease detectives look most closely at rates (rather than raw numbers) when comparing different places. The graphs below show state rates at 4 different time points. Three short months ago (Graph A), New York and New Jersey were “off the charts” at 1,143 and 848 cases per 100K. No other state was above 500, the national average was 202 and it seemed that New York would never be exceeded. By memorial day (Graph 2), New Jersey doubled and New York neared 2,000, while the national average rose to 541. Rates were still 4 times higher in the Northeast compared to the West. One month ago, it was clear other states were catching up (Graph C). New York and New Jersey saw new cases finally subside, just as the surge erupted in the Midwest and South. The Northeast was still 3-fold higher than the West, but there were now 8 other states over 1,000 and two were outside the Northeast (Illinois and Louisiana). With this context in mind, the picture has changed dramatically over the last month (Graph D). Infection rates in the Northeast are now only 2/3 higher than the west. Arizona had just 58 confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 on April 16. Yesterday, they had all but matched New Jersey at 1,903. The average infection rates in the South were 1/10th of those in the Northeast in April and will soon be about the same (1,165 vs. 1,513).
    What does it mean? Three months ago, many were convinced the epidemic was a crisis of the greater New York region. We waited for the summer to deflate the epidemic so we could get back to normal. That has not been the story. Instead, the success of the Northeast in curtailing the epidemic and flattening the curve has been more than matched by the inability and unwillingness of other states to halt transmission. While it was unthinkable 3 months ago, the rest of the nation has rapidly caught up. There is no evidence that the new hot spot states have learned from the successes of New York and New Jersey.