Is a COVID Surge Coming in October?

by Carol J. Bova

Statewide, the R0 (R-naught) value for COVID-19 moved up to 1.004 because of surges in the Near Southwest and Northwest for the week ending August 22, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s latest COVID-19 Model Weekly Update. If the RO is above 1, it indicates the potential for exponential increases in the spread of a disease.

The red areas on the map show surging hot spots in the New River and Richmond City Health Districts. Seven slow-growth areas are in deep yellow and declining numbers are the deeper blue. VDH offers no explanation for why the Eastern Region districts are all declining or for the plateau for the remaining districts.

The model projects about 78,000 new cases by Thanksgiving, with a peak of 8,300 cases during the week ending October 18th. The report says that seasonal changes like schools reopening, flu season and changing weather patterns could increase the weekly case numbers, too. Adding in a possible 10% to 20% increase in cases after Labor Day, the model forecast jumps to 11,000 to 14,000 for the week ending October 25th.

NBC12 reported 90 active cases of at least 150 total at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the Richmond City Health District on September 1. Virginia Tech in the New River Health District has a COVID Dashboard shows 238 cases for last week and a total of 416 employee and student cases since August 16.

On September 5, Richmond.com reported 650 active cases at James Madison University. Harrisonburg is in the Central Shenandoah Health District and was showing increasing cases in August.

The University of Virginia (UVA) in the Thomas Jefferson Health District, Northwest region, has a COVID tracker that lists 103 students and 111 staff cases since August 31. UVA shows 413 total cases since August 17  that would not be indicated yet on the UVA Model map above.

Oddly though, with more than 1,600 cases in just four universities since mid-August, the VDH Outbreaks tab on the Daily Dashboard shows only 409 cases reported as of September 8 in educational facilities (a category that includes day care, K-12, and colleges).

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10 responses to “Is a COVID Surge Coming in October?

  1. It’s not a question. That’s a statement.

    With BR’s favorite anti-masker in Sturgis Beach ranting over the possibility of masks in the great outdoors….

    • All models are wrong. Some models are useful. Nobody has a real handle on the number of “cases” given the prevalence of people with no symptoms, or very minor symptoms, who are never tested. They just went into another regional jail and bingo, 70% positive, but nobody sick enough for the hospital and many not sick at all.

      Carol’s right that the VDH website does not seem to be counting the many cases at the universities in its “educational setting” outbreak tracker. If they suddenly add all that data, there alone is your surge.

      • Define “wrong”. All depends on what’s important to you.

        It does appear that VDH has a discrepency in the college areas. Either the universities didn’t report the cases, or perhaps VDH may have eliminated the out-of-state students who have since returned to home. They’re transients and not likely to contribute to future cases in Virginia. If you are predicting the spread in a population, one helpful thing is to have a fixed population, unless you can/have modeled transients.

        BTW, when I looked at most of the model documents for which I could find documentation, they all assumed a starting population and transitioned the members to sickened and then to either recovered or dead. None considered transients or even a return of the recovered back to the susceptible population.

        These assumptions make perfect sense for a country where relative to the population size the number of transients are negligible. For a place like Va Beach? Maybe not so good.

        “The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers.” — Richard Hamming

      • BTW, a better word to use than “wrong” to describe models would be “fidelity”. It gives a better sliding scale.

        The flight model in the F-16 guidence and control unit is not “wrong”. Using it to predict covid that would be wrong.

  2. Baconator with extra cheese

    With the current level of knowledge related to the health impact risks, I would rather get the ‘Rona if I knew that likely I would be at little risk of death or major complications. But only if I knew it would give me any imunity. Until then I’ll avoid public places when possible and when not possible I’ll take precautions.
    It’s going to be a long winter with people couped up again. I expect abouse and addictions to seriously take their tole.
    Love the one you’re with kids….

  3. “Is a COVID Surge Coming in October?”

    Ask me again in 52 days.

  4. What are the odds that Trump knows the answer but wants to “play it down”? No need to start a panic!!?

  5. Officials are still trying to get a handle on how to track cases to stop the active cases from moving about socially. Apparently DC, MD, WV, and VA are working together on a survey approach, recognizing college students and others may reside in one location, but sleep in another jurisdiction.

    The news story reminded me of the NoVA car taxes on out-of-staters: we don’t care where you live, we want to know where your car sleeps.

  6. Isn’t the better question – why wouldn’t it surge in the Fall and Winter? Outside dining is safer than inside dining because it is outside, I assume. Isn’t outside anything safer than the inside equivalent? And, as it gets colder – more will be done inside than outside. Second point, flus and colds always seem to spike during the Fall and Winter. Thinking probabilistically, wouldn’t you have to guess the same is likely for COVID-19?

    My bigger question is a possible mutation to a more severe version of COVID-19. This happened with the “Second wave” of the so-called Spanish Flu of 1918. While there’s no guarantee or even likelihood of this happening with COVID-19 there is a possibility of that occurrence.

    Does anybody believe that Wise King Ralph and the assorted superheroes at the Virginia Department of Health are preparing contingency plans for either a spike through the colder months or a mutation to a more dangerous form? I know that virtue signaling is great fun but sometimes the sitting government has to actually plan for possible problems. Let’s take a very simple question – can Virginia ramp up testing during a surge or mutation to a more virulent form? Remember that we pretty much sucked out loud when it came to testing during the early Spring. Has the problem been solved?

    • “Does anybody believe that Wise King Ralph and the assorted superheroes at the Virginia Department of Health are preparing contingency plans for either a spike through the colder months or a mutation to a more dangerous form?”

      I do. I’ve also been in touch with a real estate agent about investing in some oceanfront property in Arizona.

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