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New Study from Stanford

Happy 4th of July to everyone. This will be my last report for a week, as we’re headed to the Smokies for a week of hiking.

New cases have been flat for 4 days. That’s a good sign that this wave might be cresting. Nonetheless, despite growing cases (we’re now running about 52,000 new cases per day) the daily death rate has not increased at all, and maintains a slight downward trend. Testing continues to increase – we set a new record yesterday at over 750,000 tests reported.

I thing two things are going on now:

  • The propagation of the disease is skewing younger, so the fatalities are not increasing with the case count
  • There seems to be a natural ceiling as a percent of the population for this disease, and several new studies could point to why

The latest study that’s congruent with my theory is from Stanford. You can read about it here: https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200629/Stanfords-Nobel-Laureate-develops-a-prediction-model-for-SARS-CoV-2.aspx

Here is the relevant quote: The researchers from Stanford School of Medicine and ShangaiTech University show that the growth of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak does not behave in accordance with an exponential growth law, but instead slows down exponentially with time from the very first days.

I noticed this in March, when the growth pattern very early on deviated from exponential, and was already slowing down. They surmise that the high rates of asymptomatic (or “invisible”) carriers means that the infectious have less new people to infect (something like the herd immunity that you’ve heard about, but in the early stages). This, coupled with new theories that a segment of the population may simply be resistant to the disease (perhaps from having a previous Corona Virus caused common cold), could very well explain why the biggest numbers we’ve seen are in fact so low https://reason.com/2020/07/01/covid-19-herd-immunity-is-much-closer-than-antibody-tests-suggest-say-2-new-studies/ . The record so far is NY, which peaked (according to my modeling) at about 0.35% of the population. That seems very low to me in comparison, for example, to how many contract the seasonal flu each year.

As far as the divergence of daily deaths and active cases, my theory continues to be that this is caused by a four factors:

  • 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 (per the COVID Tracking Project)

Here is an update of the peak population graph. No state has reached NY levels yet, but AZ is close. It’s interesting that AZ is approaching NY at its highest prevalence, but at a tiny fraction of the deaths. NY has had over 32,000 fatalities, and AZ is currently less than 2,000. Arizona is a dramatically different story than NY, but with similar prevalence. Several of the “problem” states are still below the average peak (GA, TX, CA).

I still expect a mild increase in daily deaths but small in proportion to the increased case count. This still 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: 644,930 (extremely high)
  • Total Pending tests reported today: 2,083 (extremely low)
  • National reported case Growth Rate today: 1.88% (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 340,000 known active cases. 61% 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.

Here are the new reported cases nationally. Flat for 4 days now, but 4 days doesn’t make a pattern yet.

Despite the increase in active known cases, daily deaths continue a slow decline. 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.

Arizona continues to slow a bit. Even with this rapid increase in cases, hospital admissions seem to have peaked on June 8th, and daily deaths on June 19th (there is often a lag on death reporting, however).

Here is SC, still growing. South Carolina also double counts cases, as they treat each positive test as a new case. They are at about 0.22% 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 running slower than last week, and you can see the small slowdown in the curve below. The growth rate is still over double the national average, though.

California is growing slower than it was a week ago, and is showing early signs of further slowing. 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 (according to The COVID Tracking Project). 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, but still no higher than they averaged in May. 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 (a decline today) 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, continuing a slow downward trend, despite near constant growth in active cases for 3 months. This is quite significant. The last two days have seen the lowest daily death counts for 2 months. Hospitalizations are relatively flat for the past week and a half.

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, so if my theory is correct, they could double from where they are now.

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

Massachusetts looks great. I’m modeling about 1,400 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. Time to go watch fireworks. I’ll report again around July 13th. If we don’t see a significant rise in daily deaths by then, we’ll know we’re on to something.

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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