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Something very different going on…

The past two days we’ve reported about 53,000 new cases per day. That’s about 250% of what we were experiencing about 3 weeks ago. Of course, about 2/3 of new cases are coming from my 6 watch list states (AZ, CA, FL, GA, SC, TX). So far, we’re not experiencing a rise in fatalities. Now that we’re 3 weeks into the surge, I would have expected the needle to move, but no.

My theory has been that the increase in cases is not causing a commensurate increase in fatalities because:

  • We’re testing people who are less ill as the testing protocol widens, so the survival rate is higher
  • The scope of testing is still expanding generally, so the increase in cases is not representative of a like increase in prevalence
  • Younger people are a larger percentage of those newly infected, and their mortality rate is close to nil, so very few show up in the fatality stats
  • Double counting of cases is increasing, including antigen and antibody tests, as well as PCR tests – we know that AZ, CA, TX, and SC double count cases

I do believe that all of the above is true, but what is not explained with these factors is why we seem to reach a ceiling in cases as a percentage of the population that is really quite low. Below is a chart of the highest known active cases I’ve modeled as a percentage of the population so far. Some of these states are way past the peak (NY, NJ, MA, VA, PA, MI, CO), and some are either still growing or have not definitively peaked (AZ, FL, SC, GA, TX, CA, NC, WA). The striking thing is that the record high so far is NY, but it’s less than 0.35% of the population. Why? Intuitively, I would have expected a much higher percentage, and so did most of the models. I’ve been puzzled over this for some time. I remain unconvinced that the ceiling is a result of human behavior (i.e. restrictions), as I noticed way back in March that the disease was already moving off exponential, and mathematically slowing down. You’ll find this theme familiar if you’ve been reading my analysis from the beginning.

Here is the first clue that really resonates with what I’ve been seeing in the data. There are two new studies, which, if they bear up under scrutiny, could explain this. There have been several articles about this – here is one: https://reason.com/2020/07/01/covid-19-herd-immunity-is-much-closer-than-antibody-tests-suggest-say-2-new-studies/ Both studies (one from Sweden and one from Germany) suggest that population immunity to COVID-19 is much higher than previously thought. If true, this would explain why the disease began to slow at such a low prevalence.

I do expect a mild increase in daily deaths but small in proportion to the increased case count. This hasn’t happened yet, and may not. In fact, the latest update to the IHME model (June 29th) doesn’t project ANY increase in the daily death count.

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): N/A (no peak yet)
  • Likely date of peak deaths (IHME): April 16 (last revision on June 29)
  • Total Test Results reported today: 634,822 (extremely high)
  • Total Pending tests reported today: 2,208 (extremely low)
  • National reported case Growth Rate today: 1.97% (low)

Shane Chalke Interviews

https://www.fredericksburg.com/opinion/editorial-unlock-demographically-not-geographically/article_a62e6e70-dccd-51cf-b7b2-16d77a90fd9c.html

Website

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: www.howmuchrisk.com 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 – I’m modeling about 317,000 known active cases. 62% of the active cases I’m modeling come from the 6 states on my watch list. Again, this number is high (I don’t know by how much), as many states count positive tests instead of people (I sound like a broken record, but this is important).

Here is the rest of the country without the 6 watch list states – a much better picture, but still increasing (except for today).

Here are the new reported cases nationally. We’re reaching new highs in daily new case reports.

Here is the amazing thing. Way back on April 10th, when we last saw a peak in active cases at about 217,000, we were seeing well over 2,000 deaths per day. Now we’re nearly 50% higher in known active cases, but seeing daily deaths below 1,000 per day. I continue to believe that this is primarily explained by demographics. I’ve long been a proponent of protecting those potentially most affected by the disease, and letting others make their own decisions about daily life, as the mortality rate among pre-retirees is so very low. I believe this is exactly what is happening in society right now. Seniors and those with health problems are exhibiting social distancing, quarantine, and other precautionary measures, while the disease spreads among a younger demographic, with a much lower mortality rate.

On to the states. I’m going to switch up the order and put my “watch list” states first.

Arizona has slowed a bit this week, but not by much. Even with this rapid increase in cases, hospitalizations seem to have peaked on June 8th, and daily deaths on June 15th (there is often a lag on death reporting, however).

Here is SC, still growing, although their small numbers don’t skew any national counts. South Carolina also double counts cases, as they treat each positive test as a new case. They are at about 0.21% of the population, quite high in relation to most other states, but less than NY and NJ at their peaks.

Florida’s growth rate has been slowing for the past 4 days, but still quite alarming in the 4% range.

California is growing slower than it was a week ago. I wish the California Department of Health website was more useful – very difficult to find time series data. As always, I need to report that California is one of the states that counts tests rather than people.

Georgia is growing fast. I haven’t had time yet to look at the fatality trends here, but will soon. Here again, the case numbers are exaggerated. Georgia counts each positive test as a case. To make matters more distorted, until May 27th GA reported positive antibody tests as new cases.

Texas is still growing fast. We’ve seen a shallow growth trend in daily deaths since June 15th. I’ll continue to watch this. Texas also reports positive tests as cases, so is doing some level of double counting, but not enough to explain this growth.

We’re seeing some recent growth in NC, and relatively flat data in VA. Both NC and VA are at comparable percentages of the population.

Here is the daily death report for NC. No sign of upward trend at this time. Hospitalizations peaked 9 days ago, and are flat over the past nine days.

Washington continues to increase, but at a slower rate than the watch list states. Active cases are the smallest per capital of all the states I track.

Nothing to say about NY and NJ – the picture says it all.

Massachusetts looks great. I’m modeling about 1,500 remaining known active cases in the state.

…And here is Michigan. Looking beautiful until June 10th, then beginning a slow drift upwards. Michigan peaked at a low percentage of population (0.089%), so could peak again if my theory is right.

PA looks just like Michigan. PA also peaked at a low percentage of population, so my comments about MI apply here.

And finally, here is Colorado. Colorado is one of the states that has had aberrations in their data. I still report it, but I’ve shied away from any conclusions in this state due to the data irregularities. Very small numbers here.

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 you feel necessary.

–Shane Chalke, FSA

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