Uh, Oh, COVID-19 Metrics No Longer Improving

Source: Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard

The bad news from recent COVID-19 statistics is that the numbers aren’t getting better. Virginia has hit a plateau in the number of confirmed cases, as seen in the chart above, which shows the seven-day moving average in the number of confirmed cases. To some degree, the tick upwards in COVID-19 cases may reflect increased testing. But it’s clear that the virus, which had been receding for a month, no longer is.

I’ve never worried overly much about the number of cases. The vast majority of cases cause no lasting harm. What matters is the number of hospitalizations and deaths. As it happens, the number of hospitalizations, which had undergone a month-long decline, also has hit a plateau, and the number of deaths has nudged noticeably higher than early June, as can be seen in the chart below.

None of this is reason to reverse course on reopening the economy. Because we can measure the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, we focus on those metrics to the exclusion of what we cannot readily measure, such as indicators of mental health, substance abuse, suicide, stress-induced illnesses — the diseases of loneliness and despair. We need to learn to live with the disease until a vaccination comes (assuming one does).

But we also have to be attentive to the numbers we do have. The virus is not going to magically go away. As a free people, we must behave responsibly and exercise proper caution, which means wearing masks in public places and observing the protocols of social distancing. If we fail to act responsibly and the COVID-19 metrics take a turn for the worse, we invite Governor Ralph Northam to delay the reopening or, worse, to reverse course.

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27 responses to “Uh, Oh, COVID-19 Metrics No Longer Improving

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    What will Mr. Northam’s next step look like? Return to phase one or two? Proceed to phase 3? Will the public comply with a retreat to earlier phases?

  2. A plateau doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me. What we’ve seen recently is probably as good as it gets. The virus is with us and will pop up now and again.
    8 deaths and 16 hospitalizations per VDH yesterday,
    and per VHHA ONE! new hospitalization!How much better can you get?
    342 discharges this week. (827 for two weeks).
    818 in the hospital.. we’d have to go back to mid-April to see a number like that.

  3. Then, as John Butcher points out, there’s this chart based on VHHA data, not VDH data:

    This makes it look like hospitalizations are still declining, though at a decelerating rate, rather than ticking back up.

    • I trust this more than anything VDH says. Two things to remember about VDH numbers: they may be anywhere from a day to 10 days or more after a case is identified and then reported to them, and outbreak cases, at least initially, show up together, with no assurance they started at the same time.

  4. Would expect hospitalizations to lag significantly behind new cases. This bug has an initial phase of several days when many people can and do stay home even after diagnosis, then need to seek help.

  5. Steve Haner has written often here about keeping the numbers in perspective. That is, look at how many die of flu, or many other diseases or conditions, some of which are concurrent in covid-infected individuals; what is the increment above that we can blame on covid — here’s his comment on 6/26:
    “According to the CDC, from Feb 1 through June 20 it has recorded 1.23 million death certificates, about 110,000 of them mentioning COVID among the causes. CDC says that is 106% of the expected number of deaths for the period, based on previous years. There have been weeks, in April, where that hit 140%, but it was only a couple of weeks at that level. It has been going down. The numbers are still accumulating, even for those weeks, but the reality is everybody dies of something, and we have not seen the kind of decimation of the population some warned about. Excess deaths of 6% over that period is not even as many as the 110,000 blamed on COVID, so clearly some of those people would have died in that period anyway! Granted for a few weeks there the excess deaths were grim. But if the infection is now hitting dumb young people, they will get sick but few will die. Why all the attention to 110,000 COVID-involved deaths and not 1.1 million unrelated?”

    I’m impressed with this argument, not because any of these deaths are trivial but because we have selected this epidemic to shut down the economy over. Why are we so upset in this instance? Is it because it hits the elderly so selectively, so hard, and because the deaths of our matriarchs and patriarchs, our past cultural leaders, affect us so and strike us as particularly unfair? Is it because the President’s handling of this has been so evidently lacking, even callous, yet another demonstration of the utter failure of his administration to govern in the public interest at all, let alone effectively? Or is it because the damage really is so fierce and disporportionate, if hidden or unreported due to statistical bungling, that we all should have taken it seriously long ago as public health leaders urged and even now are playing political and economic catch-up with reality?

    I’m still in the latter camp but open to persuasion — have at it, all!

    • We shut down because of this epidemic because there were so many unknowns. It is more contagious than the flu and seemed more lethal, partly because, unlike the flu, there were no known drugs to treat it and, of course, no vaccine. Also, it is not like the flu in many ways, some of which we are just beginning to understand.

  6. “The vast majority of cases cause no lasting harm.” Aye, there’s the rub. That is completely unknown. Who knows how many will have lasting reduced lung capacity, asthma, COPD, etc., sometime in the future? It will be interesting to watch for increases in these conditions, 5 or 10 years hence.
    Alas, more science to deny someday.

  7. I have to agree with Nancy on this one. It is reckless to say now that asymptomatic people will experience no lasting harm. After all, the virus has been around for only about six months. Even in that short time frame, there have been some indications that people infected with the disease, who experienced no symptoms, may have incurred lung damage. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/40-45-who-contract-new-coronavirus-are-asymptomatic

    As for those who get sick, even those not sick enough to be in hospital, yes, they survived, but there is a lot of emerging evidence that their systems have sustained damage that will affect them for a long time, perhaps all the rest of their lives. https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2020/06/02/covid-health-effects

    This is not the flu.

    • Agreed, but neither is it Ebola or bubonic plague or small pox. We remain with the basic choices that faced us three months ago. This infection is going to spread and lots of people will get it, perhaps most. You want to spread it fast or slow? (I do vote for slow.) There may never be an effective vaccine, and vaccines can have unexpected side effects down the road.

      • I, too, vote for slow. And, to as limited an extent as possible, with reasonable social restrictions. I am talking about large gatherings, particularly those indoors, where social distancing is not practiced or largely enforced.

        It would help immensely, it seems, to have an organized testing program with contact tracing. Other countries and societies seemed to be able to do this. Why can’t Virginia or the U.S. do it?

  8. It has been a little over three weeks since I have reported on the status of COVID-19 in prisons. DOC seems to have the epidemic under control. Although the incidence of positive cases has spread to two additional facilities since that last report, many of the facilities which had positive cases before are now reporting none.

    Overall, the number of total positive cases has increased by about 260 cases over the last three weeks, but the number of currently active cases is down to 182 in prison facilities, compared to 480 three weeks ago. There are 7 offenders in hospitals. Unfortunately, the number of deaths increased from 9 to 11. Finally, the number of staff testing positive is down significantly, from 135 to 70.

    Here is the summary table:

    Summary of COVID-19 Cases in Va. Dept. of Corrections
    As of 9:00 a.m., June 27

    Cumulative testing positive 1,504
    Total Deaths 11
    Active positive cases in facilities 182
    Number in hospital 7
    Recovered 1,304
    Staff currently tested positive 70

  9. And now for something completely different…

    https://bgr.com/2020/06/27/florida-anti-maskers-viral-coronavirus-video/#

    Trump may not have drained the swamp, but giving voice to these people is sure as Hell going to leave us high and dry.

    Time for a rum and coke, or two. Or six.

  10. re: what’s the big deal? .. most who get it who are not old, will recover… yeah some might not get back 100% but like Steve said, it’s not exactly the bubonic plaque … so …. if this is true -and we know the Dem govs have all overreacted and screwed the economy 15 ways from Sunday – what with the GOP govs who are reversing course now?

    ‘Have they gone wobbly or what?

  11. More importantly, is it really “Uh, oh,” or “Uh oh,” with no comma?

  12. Why is VDH reporting 9 deaths in correctional facilities while DOC reports 11?

    • I don’t know. It may be a function of where the offender died and who did the reporting. An offender may have died while in a hospital and, in reporting the death, the hospital neglected to note it was a DOC offender. Or it could be that the latest two deaths were fairly recent and VDH has not picked them up on its reports.

  13. SLOW…. why???? If you’re gonna get you’re gonna get it…. if it does damage then it does damage…..
    Time to move along… ,, how long do you guys want to drag this out hoping for a better outcome,,,, 1 yr, 2yr, hell, how about 5yrs…
    What kind of economy are we going to have left in 5 years…
    It’s amusing that you data driven statisticians can’t figure this out.. we gotta move along with our lives,,, children need a good education, if a few old folk, smokers, and obese folk that don’t take care of their health die, well, nothings guaranteed in this life…
    and PS,,, as I’ve mentioned several times, if we really cared about saving lives we’d make smoking illegal and force the morbidly obese to go on a diet….

    • so the REALITY is that the median age of the workforce is about 42 and about 1/2 of the work force have health issues and yes I know this is hard to believe but some of them are not due to bad lifestyles – per se unless you want to count drinking in bars when you’re youthful.

      It’s not just the US. People around the world in developed countries get high blood pressure or cancer or other co-morbidities.

      These folks make up a major part of the workforce that feed into the GDP for the economy.

      The basic thinking of some seems to be that the old and unhealthy are going to die anyhow and the younger and healthy will only get sick from COVID19, recover – and keep on “ticking”.

      correct? It’s been said in BR in many variations but I think it’s the same basic message, right?

  14. “The virus is not going to magically go away.”

    Bingo.

    Somewhere along the way flattening the curve and managing health care facilities became a quixotic quest for the magical disappearance of the virus. Not going to happen.

    Meanwhile, the Ministry of Truth is on high broil. Trump won’t wear a mask while the MSM allows Cuomo to blatantly lie about his “success” in fighting COVID19 in New York. By any reasonable measure New York was the worst state to date in fighting COVID19. One might claim that there was nothing that could have been done to stem the tide in New York. However, allowing Cuomo to claim success in New York is beyond the pale. We have no effective news media in America any more and that should scare the hell out of everybody.

    Are we at the tipping point of a new outbreak crisis or just watching a virus mark its inevitable progress across the country? Who knows? The media has become so politicized that you can’t believe a thing being reported … from the left or the right.

    • That about sums it up, save for this:

      “Are we at the tipping point of a new outbreak crisis or just watching a virus mark its inevitable progress across the country? Who knows?”

      Sunetra Gupta and the several other highly informed scientists whose interviews I posted on this website weeks ago know that almost surely “we are just watching a virus mark its inevitable progress across the country?”

      Why do we know now? Because the virus now is, and has been for months, acting and behaving as these scientists suspected and predicted months ago.

      As to Professor Gupta, see for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKh6kJ-RSMI

      The problem is the great incompetency, dishonestly and politicization of our Main Stream Media, and its constant barrage of misinformation and hysterics.

      • See also Nobel Prize winner Professor Michael Levitt found here:

        • Norway has been the most successful nation in the world in tamping down the Covid-19 virus.

          Why? Here are some answers.

          Note, in particular Norway’s aversion to the use to masks on scientific grounds, saying that masks are largely ineffective, and instead Norway’s belief that social distancing is far more effective, first at 2 meters and now at 1 meter.

          Note too, Norway’s opening of schools, how it reversed earlier policy, especially for those schools whose students range up to 16 years old, finding the harm done to kids by closed schools far outweigh the benefits.

          For more on these subjects, see:

    • re: ” Are we at the tipping point of a new outbreak crisis or just watching a virus mark its inevitable progress across the country? Who knows? The media has become so politicized that you can’t believe a thing being reported … from the left or the right”

      yep – but what explains the GOP governors actions right now if this thing is inevitable and overblown? Have the GOP governors also been brainwashed by the media or what? Why are they not holding the line on not ending up doing what the Dem governors are doing?

      • Your Dem governor is moving to Phase 3 reopening the day after tomorrow with mask rules that have loopholes big enough to drive trucks through.

        You would think there would be one “news” outlet that could manage a reasonable discussion of the issue based on the merits. Not there. CNN’s coverage is apocalyptic while Fox News sees a slight rise in pollen levels.

        • Oh I’m not worried about the Dems – I understand them but the GOP – go figure… they side with the folks who say we’re making more more of COVID19 than we should and especially so if it kills businesses and jobs… but look at what the GOP govs are doing now… they’re backing up and putting restrictions that hurt businesses back on again.

          If they really believe that COVID19 is overblown and most young folks will survive it – then why all these restrictions now?

  15. Slow seems to be good as we can see what is happening to the states that reopened quickly. Thirteen are now pausing or reversing some of their reopening actions. This is causing even more problems for the affected businesses. The evidence seems to be that not wearing a face covering results in at least 5 times the spread as wearing one does. Further, the spread appears to be about 15 times greater indoors than outside. Clearly, people should wear face coverings when indoors and around strangers. This simple act will do more to bring back the economy than anything else.

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