COVID Archives

COVID analytical update – Wednesday, May 27

My first study on the effectiveness of lockdowns

COVID continues to recede at a good pace. Everything is looking good, other than California and Virginia, which continue to be problematic.

Over the past 2 days I’ve completed my first (of several, I hope) investigations into the effectiveness of lockdowns. Before I get into the mechanics and empirical results, here are my conclusions so far:

  • Does social distancing (being cautious) slow the progress of COVID? Probably.
  • Do lockdowns slow the progress of COVID? I don’t think so.

Now, on to why I come to these early conclusions. With the patchwork of states in various phases of social and business restriction, it is quite difficult to isolate experiments on which to base conclusions. The closest I can come to this is comparing Virginia to North Carolina. Both states have similar populations, climate, geography, nearly the same population density, and have had similar COVID growth rates. More importantly, both states imposed stay at home orders on the same day, March 30th. This makes for a reasonable set of observations on which to do some analysis.

From there, the paths differ. Although Virginia entered a modified Phase 1 on May 15th, it only applied to rural areas, and didn’t affect the majority of the population, which as of today is still under the stay at home order.

NC, on the other hand, moved into Phase 1 on May 8th, and on to Phase 2 on May 22nd.

To make a reasonable comparison, I looked at COVID daily growth rates in reported cases from March 30 to May 26. Since both states have erratic daily data, I calculated the five-day moving average of daily growth rates for each state, and then normalized those growth rates on March 30th to a radix of 100. From this, I can show a graphical representation of the disease progression by state. It looks like this. Do you see any meaningful differences? I don’t either. Of course, it’s too early to notice any effect of NC Phase 2, but I’ll run this analysis again in a week to see what we see…

So why don’t we see the continued stay at home order in VA having an effect? From this point, I can only theorize. I believe it’s because societal behavior is not dependent on stay at home orders. People will be cautious as they see fit, regardless of executive orders. It is possible to estimate social mobility from credit card and mobile phone activity. This next picture is from the IHME site, showing social distancing as of yesterday.

Notice anything interesting? Virginia and North Carolina are in the same band of social mobility, even though NC is well into Phase 2 and the majority of Virginia is still subject to stay at home orders. I’m going to continue to study this, but my early conclusion is that stay at home orders don’t result in people staying at home any more than if there were no stay at home order. More to come…

As always, feel free to send me your questions about my assumptions, methodology, or modeling in general.

  • Likely date of active case peak (Chalke modeling): April 10
  • Likely date of peak deaths (IHME): April 15 (last revision on May 26)
  • Short term projection for active cases tomorrow: 145,000
  • Total Test Results reported today: 285,440 (high)
  • Total Pending tests reported today: 3,132 (low)
  • National reported case Growth Rate today: 1.1% (very low)

Shane Chalke Interviews


Groom Ventures has agreed to host a website that will archive my daily reports, and supplement with other commentary. John Groom worked at one of my companies back in the day, and is an excellent writer. The website is: For those of you that post my daily report on Facebook, let me suggest you link to this site, as the direct Facebook posts don’t seem to copy the graphs.

Daily Analysis

Here is the national picture of active cases – another decline today down to 147,000. We’re down 32% from the peak. I projected a few weeks ago that we’d be down 50% by the end of May. With the issues in CA and VA we might not make it, but we’re heading there. I now model known active cases at a tiny sliver of the U.S. population – about 0.043%.

Here are the new reported cases nationally. All still tracking in the right direction.

Here are the daily reported tests. Lower test reporting today, about where we were a week and half ago. It could be that a clump of tests reported two days ago when we saw a new record, and we’ll see another cluster soon, or that with such a low positive rate, we’re running out of people to test under the current protocol.

On to the states. VA and NC are diverging recently, even though NC is in Phase 2 and VA hasn’t substantially entered Phase 1 yet.

No surprises with Washington – long slow decline – total remaining cases are small – less than 1400.

Florida seems to be leveling off from their 2nd half of May bump. The hot spot in Florida continues to be Miami. Other than in SE Florida, COVID presence is small.

Here are NJ and NY. Both continue to decline. NJ is now down 76% from the peak, and is now tracking well with NY. NY is now down 84% from the peak, which is remarkable. Both states are recovering well.

California has problems in Los Angeles, which is skewing the entire state’s numbers upwards. This could be a function of California’s dramatic increase in testing – I don’t correct for this (I may at some point).

Another healthy drop in Massachusetts, now down 74% from the peak on April 27th. This is a remarkably rapid recovery. MA is expected to do 2 days of reporting tomorrow, so this will pop up a little then.

Georgia shows another decline today, now down 20% below the peak.

Another drop in Michigan today. Michigan is down 67% from the peak on April 6th.

An increase in Pennsylvania, but I expect the trend to continue. PA is a long way down from the top.

Here is Texas, flat today. I believe Texas peaked on May 19th, and is now down 34% from the top. Texas has a small COVID presence per capita.

And finally, here is Colorado. Colorado is one of the states that has aberrations in their data. In any event, it looks like Colorado is about 52% below the peak on April 29th.

So that’s it for today. The numbers are very small as a percentage of the population. Unless you’re in a high density area, your chances of contracting COVID are very small. However, even though the probability is very small, that doesn’t help if you’re the one catching it. Everyone please continue to be as cautious as circumstances dictate.

–Shane Chalke, FSA

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