9 August 2020 Blog Post: COVID-19 Muddled Reporting and Data Snags

There is a fair amount of relief being expressed among epidemiologists about the drop in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Florida and Arizona. Trevor Bedford, a well-respected data scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Center in Seattle has commented “I believe the substantial epidemics in Arizona, Florida and Texas will leave enough immunity to assist in keeping COVID-19 controlled.” He continues, “that said, the costs for this immunity have been substantial and are continuing to accrue.”
Regular readers of my posts will know that I have been following the COVID-19 outbreak in Riverside County, which began to experience a significant uptick in cases beginning in early June (Figure 1 below). The County’s baseline rate of 3-5 new daily cases per 100,000 population in April and May skyrocketed to a maximum of 31.5 new cases per day per 100,000 population by mid-July.
But, since that time, cases have dropped steadily and now are nearly 50% off their mid-July peak at 18.1 new daily cases per 100,000 population. The epidemic curve in Riverside County essentially mirrors that of Florida which also experienced a peak on July 17th but now has dropped significantly. The link below to the New York Times site shows these data (although I think The Times should present data adjusted by population rather than as raw numbers).
The cost to Riverside County to achieve this decrease in new cases has also been substantial, and seems to be a debt that the population continues to pay.
The mortality rate in Riverside during June had flattened to about 0.17 daily deaths per 100,000 population. Since that time it has increased substantially to 0.45 daily deaths per 100,000 population for the week ending 8/7/2020 (Figure 2). Unlike the curve of new cases which is clearly downtrending, the mortality rate curve continues to increase.
The horrific experience in Riverside County is a microcosm of that occurring in the US as a whole. As the Washington Post has pointed out – “the number of new coronavirus cases recorded nationwide each day is dropping after peaking at more than 75,000 — but the declines are muddied by issues with testing and data-gathering in big states.”
So this story will continue to develop, but is is certainly clear that a tremendous toll has been exacted in those communities ravaged by this most recent flare up in COVID-19 cases.

𝗦𝗶𝗴𝗻 𝗨𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗢𝘂𝗿 𝗡𝗲𝘄𝘀𝗹𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿

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