Category Archives: Demographics

Flight from New York

Source: New York Times. Click for larger image.

“New York is a great place to live, but I wouldn’t want to ride out a deadly viral epidemic there.” That pretty much sums up the attitude of tens of thousands of Gothamites — mostly of the wealthier sort — who have fled the city during the onset of the COVID-19 tribulations. In March, the U.S. Post Office received 56,000 mail-forwarding requests from New York City, more than double the monthly average. In April the number of requests reached 81,000, reports the New York Times

More than 60% of the forwarding requests were for destinations outside the city. Many people fled to nearby areas in Long Island, New Jersey and upstate New York. Otherwise, the Washington metropolitan area was the third most popular out-of-region destination, following the Miami and Philadelphia metros.

No speculation from the NYT regarding how many might have carried the coronavirus with them — although it may not be total coincidence that the Washington metro has the highest incidence per capita of COVID-19 infection in Virginia.


Uh, Oh…

by Dean Wortmier

Because the panacea bonfire of the “New Abbott Labs Test” is being stoked, I have been forced to revive some brain cells that have been comfortably soaking up rum for the past 8 years.

How much help is testing for CoV2 going to be in deciding to ‘Open Up’ Virginia?

Let’s use Abbott’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) application[1] for our Gold Standard.

From the tests that Abbott submitted to get the EUA, the 95% confidence interval for the Probability of Detection, Pd, of the virus is (94.0, 100), greater than 94 but less than 100.  Moreover, the document tells us that the 95% confidence interval for the Probability of a False Alarm, Pfa, is (0, 11).

Pretty impressive, well, impressive enough to secure a EUA to soak up $Billions of taxpayer money, but is really going to help with decisions to end the quarantine measures for Virginia? (Did you see how I kept it relevant to Bacon’s Rebllion’s blog?) Remember, we’re making an executive decision that could cost granny her life. Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: Time to Re-Evaluate Usefulness of “Confirmed Cases” Statistic

by James A. Bacon

The latest Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data continues to look alarming: 562 new reported cases yesterday, 75 new hospitalizations, and 27 new deaths. However, I’m sticking by my argument that the epidemic in Virginia is close to peaking. Here’s the nub of my argument, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is bifurcating from other data sets measuring the spread of the disease. I am questioning whether it is even a meaningful figure anymore.

Steve Haner has pointed me to an ABC News article which makes the point that COVID-19 infection is far more prevalent than indicated by officially recorded tests. Recent community testing in Santa Clara County suggest that the actual number of infections is 50 to 80 times higher than the original numbers. A Wall Street Journal op-ed today makes the same point.

If those same ratios apply to Virginia, the number of actual COVID-19 infections, as opposed to officially confirmed infections, could stand around 400,000 to 500,000. Of those, fewer than 1,300 have been hospitalized and only 258 have died. Those are tiny percentages, not much different from a typical influenza season. The bifurcation in trend lines can be seen in this graph showing new confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths reported by the VDH: Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: Yup, the Virus Has Plateaued

One hundred and ninety-nine COVID-19 patients were discharged from Virginia hospitals yesterday, exceeding the 66 patients admitted, according to the latest data from the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA). The excess of discharges over admissions represents a major milestone in the fight against the deadly disease.

Perhaps it is time for Governor Ralph Northam to declare victory and move on. His draconian social-distancing policies are working. The spread of the COVID-19 virus has plateaued. He has “flattened the curve.” The number of confirmed cases in Virginia is still increasing, but at a steady rate, not an exponential rate. Hospitals are not at any near-time risk of running out of beds, ICUs or ventilators. Indeed, even the shortage of personal protective equipment may be easing. By the latest VHHA count, only six hospitals reported that they expected difficulty in replenishing their supplies over the next 72 hours.

But rather than take the opportunity to trim the rules that have tanked Virginia’s economy, delayed elective procedures, and restricted the liberties of its citizens, the Governor announced yesterday that he would extend them another two weeks to May 9. I’ll say more about that in an upcoming column. In the meantime, let’s look at the latest numbers.

COVID-19 spread

Total tests: 46,444, up 2,275
Total confirmed cases: 6.889, up 389 from the previous day
% tests positive: 17.1% yesterday
Total hospitalizations: 1,114, up 66 from the previous day
Total deaths: 208, up 13
Total hospital discharges: 951, up 199

Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: The Curve Has Flattened

Sure looks to me like the curve is bending in Virginia, just as it appears to be around the world. The latest data from the Virginia Department of Health indicates 329 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 yesterday, less than the number eleven days ago. That’s consistent with what the Johns Hopkins University data is showing for the U.S. as a whole and for many other countries around the world.

The chart above, contributed by John Butcher, suggests that the spread of the virus in Virginia is peaking — assuming, of course, that current social-distancing controls stay in place. If we relax the measures, we can expect the epidemic to regain momentum. But the news is encouraging enough that Virginia public health authorities need to begin thinking about how to dial back social-distancing mandates on the margin in order to ease the devastating toll on the economy and restrictions on individual freedoms.

Here is our daily data summary:

COVID-19 spread

Total tests: 44,168, up 1,406
Total confirmed cases: 6.500, up 329 from the previous day
% tests positive: 23.4% yesterday
Total hospitalizations: 1,048, up 70 from the previous day
Total deaths: 195, up 41
Total hospital discharges: 752, up 31

Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: Are We Leveling Off?

The latest data from the Virginia Department of Health, reported this morning, is consistent with the notion that the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Virginia is nearing a peak. The graph above, produced by John Butcher, does a much better job of showing the trend than any of the graphics I’ve been creating. So, as much as I love rendering infographics with kittens, puppies and babies in them, I will henceforward publish John’s graph atop this daily update.

It’s too early to say that the number of COVID-19 infections is leveling out, but it seems pretty clear that the rate of increase is no longer exponential. My main reservation is the quality of data. Results for only 1,362 tests were reported from yesterday. Why so few? That’s down from more than 2,000 tests daily last week. Is Virginia’s health system running fewer tests as time goes by? Or does this puny number reflect delays in the collection and reporting of the numbers?

Whatever the case, here is today’s roundup of the disease spread and hospital capacity from the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association COVID-19 dashboards.

COVID-19 spread

Total tests: 42,763, up 1,362
Total confirmed cases: 6,171, up 424 from the previous day
% tests positive: 31.1% yesterday
Total hospitalizations: 978, up 75 from the previous day
Total deaths: 154, up six
Total hospital discharges: 721, up 264

Continue reading

Right Wing Uses Virus To Stifle Needed Reforms

Statue of Gov. Harry F. Byrd on the state capitol grounds.

By Peter Galuszka

Right-wingers in Virginia have been apoplectic for months that Democrats finally captured the General Assembly after years of Republican control.

They also were enraged that the legislature this winter passed a number of reforms that would draw Virginia into the 21st Century such raising the minimum wage, boosting collective bargaining, tightening rules on carbon pollution and raising taxes for cigarettes, a deadly product.

Now such conservatives are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to throttle or delay such needed reforms. They have banded into groups such as the Coalition fort a Strong Virginia Economy. They have used the Virginia Municipal League’s complaints against the reforms, claiming they cost too much, as a way to derail new measures.

According to the left-leaning blog site Blue Virginia, one of the more extreme advocates for scrambling changes is Dave LaRock, a far-right Republican delegate from Loudoun County. A pronounced gay-basher, LaRock wants to squelch all of the reforms made by the more progressive General Assembly. Continue reading

Thank God for Medicaid Expansion

By Peter Galuszka

For years after the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare,” made millions of federal dollars available for states to expand Medicaid health coverage, Virginia Republicans steadfastly blocked Virginia from using the money.

Led by former House Speaker Bill Howell and Sen. Tommy Norment, the GOP claimed that expanding Medicaid to nearly 400,000 people would be too expensive and would blow out state funding.

This skinflint approach was finally put to rest after Democrat Ralph Northam became governor in 2018, foreshadowing a Democratic sweep of the General Assembly in elections last year.

Thank God the Democrats prevailed.

Virginia’s formerly robust economy has been shattered by the COVID 19 pandemic. Last week, some 110,000 Virginians filed for unemployment support. It was 46,277 the week before.

Who covers them is an open question but many would qualify for Medicaid. Expansion has boosted lower-income Virginians so that they may be able to better ride out the pandemic. Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: Mounting Toll

Here’s the latest COVID-19 data from the Virginia Department of Health based on yesterday’s developments.

Total cases: 1,706, up 222 yesterday.
Total hospitalizations: 246, up 38 yesterday.
Total deaths: 41, up 7 yesterday.
Total tests: 17,589, up 2,245 yesterday.

And here, straight from Cranky’s Excel spreadsheet to you, the updated “doubling” time for key metrics:

Case count: 3.3 days
Hospitalizations: 3.7 days
Deaths: 2.9 days

Finally, we have a social justice alert! I can’t believe the racial bean counters haven’t seized on this yet. Here is the VDH breakdown of COVID-19 cases by race: Continue reading

A Look at Richmond and COVID-19

By Peter Galuszka

Here is a roundup story I wrote for Style Weekly that was published today that explains the effects of COVID-19 on the Richmond area. Hopefully, BR readers will find it of interest.

It was a tough piece to report. The impacts of the deadly virus are very complicated and multi-faceted. An especially hard part was trying to keep with the fast-changing news, notably the number of new cases and deaths. We were updating right up until the story closed Monday afternoon. It was hard to talk to people with social-distancing and closings.

The experience shows the delicate balancing act between taking tough measures to stem the contagion and keeping the economy going. My view is that tough measures are needed because without them, it will all be much worse, particularly more illness and death as the experience in Italy has shown.

Incredibly, our utterly incompetent president, Donald Trump, now wants to focus on the economy more than taking necessary containment steps. It’s far too soon for that. Regrettably, a number of Bacon’s Rebellion commenters are sounding the same irresponsible tune in keeping with their big business and anti-regulation laud of free market capitalism. Continue reading

Which Will Kill More People: COVID-19 or a Sharp Recession?

by James A. Bacon

Having done everything I can to raise the alarm about COVID-19 in Virginia, I’m having second thoughts. Clearly, forceful government action is needed to cope with the most dire public health challenge of recent years. But it’s possible to do too much. We need to think about the trade-offs.

At least two critical perspectives have gone missing here in Virginia. One is the fiscal impact of a sharp recession on state/local government finances. I will address that in a separate post. The other is the impact of an economic downturn on public health. Shutting down society to limit the spread of the disease and save lives also shuts down economic activity. Shutting down economic activity leads to massive wealth destruction and the loss of jobs. And the loss of wealth and jobs potentially could result in… the loss of lives.

As of yesterday, two COVID-19 patients had died. But thousands of Virginians have lost their jobs already as government-imposed social-distancing measures have prompted the shutdown of restaurants, hotels, tourist destinations, hair cutteries, gymnasiums, yoga studios, and more. Lacking financial reserves, many small businesses will never reopen. The Richmond Times-Dispatch suggests today that between 115,000 to 170,000 of the state’s 290,000 restaurant workers could become unemployed. That’s just the first wave. Continue reading

A Critical Coronavirus Graph

By DJ Rippert

OK, Boomer. A study conducted last month from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides statistics about the lethality of COVID-19.  Those statistics were analyzed by Business Insider.  You can see those statistics in the graph on the left. Younger people have a one in 10,000 (0.01%) chance of dying from the flu and a one in 500 (0.2%) chance of dying from COVID-19. So, COVID-19 is 20 times more lethal for a 15 year old than the flu. That mortality rate rises quickly as the victims get older. Between one and two 55 year olds out of 100 who contract COVID-19 will die of the disease. That’s 22 times the mortality rate of the flu. However, the real jump occurs in those who are 60 and above. Almost 15% of those aged 80+ will die if they contract the coronavirus.

Old Dominion. The average age of a Virginia resident is 38.1 years. There are 142,300 Virginians over the age of 80, 518,900 between 70 and 79 and 934,400 between 60 and 69. That’s 1,595,600 Virginians (19% of the population) with more than a 3.5% chance of dying if they develop COVID-19.

Hysteria? There is no vaccine against COVID-19. There is no cure. The only way for a 60+ year old Virginian to avoid a 3.6% – 14.8% chance of dying is to avoid the disease. The real odds of dying are the infection rate multiplied by the mortality rate. But once you contract the disease you are far more likely to die than if you contracted the flu. Is there any activity on Earth that a rational person would undertake with a 3.6% – 14.8% chance of dying? For comparison purposes an American sent to fight in Vietnam had about a 0.5% chance of dying. Given those odds, is it really “hysteria” to cancel fan participation at sporting events or to insist that people in contact with the public wear gloves? Our only defense is containment and containment comes with a fair amount of inconvenience. What is the alternative? Hope, as they say, is not a strategy.

Proud to Be a Virginian

Graphic source: Texas Public Policy Foundation

Virginia does not just employ more than its proportional share of military employees compared to other states, it ranks among the top 5 in the country for enlistments — specifically, the ratio of first-time enlistments to the number of civilian employees. Virginia does not stand alone. It is part of a regional cluster of states extending to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, where young men and women contribute disproportionately to the Armed Services.

As Chuck Devore points out in Forbes, military recruits come disproportionately from the middle class. Local culture and tradition play an important role in the decision to join the military, as does familiarity with uniformed service. For whatever reason, the South Atlantic states have an especially strong tradition of military service.


The Mixed Implications of Slowing Population Growth

Source: StatChat blog

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s annual population growth has slowed to the lowest rate since the 1920s, according to the University of Virginia’s Demographics Research Group. In the past decade, the 2010s, the population growth fell by almost half — from a 1.3% rate to a 0.7% rate in the 2000s. There is no evidence, as the population ages, as Millennials struggle to gain their economic footing, and as fertility rates decline, that this trend is likely to reverse itself.

Nor is there any evidence that state lawmakers comprehend the economic and fiscal implications of this seismic change. 

On the positive side, a stagnant population should ease the inevitable strains associated with new growth and development. There will be fewer children to educate, fewer kids to send to college, less traffic, less energy consumption, less waste to recycle, and the less water consumed than would have been the case if population had continued growing at the previous pace. In other words, the demand for new infrastructure will ease considerably, providing relief to Virginia’s fast-growth localities. Continue reading

Virginia: Still More People Leaving than Coming

Source: StatChat blog

by James A. Bacon

The net out-migration of Virginian taxpayers continued in 2018, extending a six-year trend and contributing to the slowest rate of population growth in Virginia since the 1920s when African-Americans were fleeing the state’s oppressive Jim Crow laws. If there’s a silver lining to the data published by the University of Virginia Demographics Research Group in its StatChat blog, it’s that the rate of emigration seems to be slowing.

Annual population growth in the Old Dominion peaked at 2.4% in the 1940s, driven by the Baby Boom, and has slowed since. By the 2000s, population growth had fallen to 1.3% annually. In the decade of the 2010s, it plunged to 0.7% — a slower rate of growth than in the Great Depression (1.1%). One has to go back to the 1920s (0.5%) to find a lower rate of growth.

Hamilton Lombard offers this analysis:

The recent shift in Virginia to out-migration has been driven, just as during the 1920s, by changes within Virginia’s economy, principally Northern Virginia’s economy. Decades of above average economic growth in the Washington DC area, in large part due to the expansion of the federal government, attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the region, fueling the majority of Virginia’s population growth by the 1980s. … But for much of the 2010s, economic growth in the DC area has lagged the rest of the U.S., in part due to the Federal Budget Sequestration.

Continue reading