COVID-19 Update: From Exponential Increase to Arithmetical?

Yesterday I speculated, based on the Sunday numbers (reported yesterday) from the Virginia Department of Health, that maybe, just maybe, the acceleration in the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Virginia was slowing down — the number of cases was still increasing, but the rate of increase was slowing. It other words, it was not going exponential. Now comes today’s data, based on Monday numbers, and it looks like the same story.

Let’s look at the number of new cases reported each day.

There was a period between March 18 and March 22 when it looked like the virus was going… well, going viral. Then the new cases unexpectedly dropped. Maybe the last two days’ numbers are an aberration. But maybe they’re not. Maybe the spread of the virus in Virginia — for whatever reason — is slowing.

The numbers reflect more testing than ever — 773 tests yesterday, double the number of the day before, so the scarcity of testing kits is not a factor. Indeed, fear of the virus appears to be outpacing the reality of it. Up through March 22, 6.9% of all those tested were found to have had the virus. Yesterday, March 23, only 4.9% tested positive.

It’s easy to second-guess the decisions of the guy in charge. I don’t want to do to Northam what CNN and MSNBC are doing to President Trump. But it is important to be acutely sensitive to the economic consequences of the emergency measures, and if there is any indication that we have room to lighten up, we should. The numbers from the past two days do not appear to support Governor Ralph Northam’s decision yesterday to clamp down tighter on schools and businesses. We’ll see.. I’ll continue my daily updates and inexpert commentary, counting on readers to set me straight.


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21 responses to “COVID-19 Update: From Exponential Increase to Arithmetical?

  1. With due respect … none of them statistics make any sense until the issue of tests availability and tests administered and processed, as well as those waiting for tests are processed. It may look like ‘slowing’, or that tests are now caught up, BUT ??? The numbers can mean a variety of things.

    Let’s not do what Trump is doing and jump on something to proclaim the worst is over until we are sure of what is happening.

    • I totally agree — let’s not jump to conclusions. The data comes with all sorts of caveats. The curve could change radically tomorrow.

      All I’m saying at this point is that the latest numbers are not consistent with a runaway, exponential increase in the spread of the virus.

    • Jane,

      I’m not sure what you just said. What are your suggestions for what them statistics mean?

      • I mean that the statistics can’t be trusted to tell us much until the normal processes of test, diagnosis and report are fully returned to the ‘normal’ sequence … That we know everyone has tests available and that everyone who should have a test gets one, and that the tests are processed in a timely manner.
        As Jim says …”the data has caveats”.


    Since your last math lesson, I ran across that story above exploring how the case fatality rate in Italy can be 9 percent, while just across the Alps in Germany it is 0.3 percent. The numbers at this point are all crap. Apples, oranges, grapes and pomegranate.

    • Apples, oranges, planets, melancholy. We’re not even all playing with fruit here.

    • “Italy can be 9 percent, while just across the Alps in Germany it is 0.3 percent.”

      Yea, but those could be accurate numbers by reason of vast behavior differences between Germans and Italians. Witness WW11, for example.

  3. Jim, thank you for your calming approach here. I grow more optimistic disease wise by the day.

    For me our biggest threats now are ourselves, our unjustified fears now more and more abetted by changing nature of the threat as it becomes ever more political.

    Witness the circus clown show going on right now in Congress, how it exploded when certain irresponsible leaders returned to town late Sunday. This circus in tandem with our irresponsible press and politicians are now driving much of the public’s growing hysteria over the virus. The politicians are now pumping those flames and fears for their own private advantage. Expect that circus to grow into another Trump impeachment campaign fueled to by a money / power grab campaign driven by political demagogues trying to grab the federal rescue funds. Our politics is despicable.

    As to the rest of the virus hysteria, it is mostly illusions in our head, fears of unknown too often now increasingly whipped up by adrenaline junkies, ideologues, mainstream media /press.

    • I don’t know Reed. I just watched Gov Cuomo’s mid-day news conference. As big a fiasco as the coronavirus is in New York right now he claims the apex is still 14 – 21 days away. Even with expanded hospitals he’s saying New York will be 40,000 beds short. I don’t get the sense that he’s over-dramatizing in order to get more federal money. The only thing he asked the Feds for was more ventilators from the Federal stockpile.

      Maybe this is something that will be highly localized and Virginia will pass through while New York gets clobbered. That doesn’t sound right to me but who knows?

      • Don –

        You saw what I saw part of, the ventilator part, a part I thought could be have been more effectively handled over the phone man to man with Trump, especially given that ventilators are plainly a state obligation, not a federal one, thought feds are understandably stepping in to help, and have done so, including with ventilators, and making it a public show, was that really to best way to go? Too much blame shifting for me.

        Plus I thought Cuomo’s claim that he would pay any price, no matter how high, to save just one life was way over the top, grandstanding big time, because we all know that is not the way the real world works, not even in Cuomo’s New York, New York.

        I been his big supporter till then.

  4. Does our state government provide any details or commentary beyond the number of cases and fatalities?

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    Jim – were did you get the horror chart, I now gotta hide from my grand-kids, and grandma.

  6. Joint statement from Northam, Hogan and Bowser:

    “The COVID-19 virus knows neither borders nor boundaries—it does not recognize state or city lines. We are working closely together to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Together, we are promoting social distancing and encouraging all of our residents to stay at home and avoid crowds and gatherings. In each of our jurisdictions, we will be enforcing crowd control measures and social distancing standards.

    “We will continue to work together to keep our residents and the federal workforce as healthy and safe as possible in the coming weeks and months.”

    See full statement here:

  7. That’s a power grab? Humpf…. I say ‘go for it, Ralph’!

  8. Of those tested in Virginia, 6.4% had COVID-19. The others had symptoms but not COVID-19. Of the 6.4%, 2.4% died. What I would like to know is how many of the 6.4% have recovered.

  9. I-95 goes right through NYC.

    • Speaking of I-95, on Sunday the 15th the spousal unit and I drove up from Florida after having spent 4 days in Key West and 4 at Universal Studios before that, and for the entire State of Georgia and half of South Carolina, it was a crawl. The highway was PACKED with RVs and trailers with motorcycles and various small vehicles in tow. A huge number sported license plates from Canada — Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia… etc.

      Funny how the mind works. At the time I remarked to the spousal unit that the Canada Geese were headed north really early. It just now dawned on me that those people were trying to get the Hell out of a 3rd world country with a crappy healthcare system where, if they got sick, they’d die.

  10. John Butcher has updated his logarithmic graphs. According to this way of looking at the data — the number of total confirmed cases and the number of new cases — the COVID-19 virus is still on an exponential growth curve in Virginia.

  11. As long as the majority of people with symptoms are sent home to self quarantine and are not tested, we have no idea how pervasive this is. 🙁

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