COVID Archives

Is this the 3rd wave?

Well, the 3rd Wave is all the news. Nationally, active cases are definitively increasing. I model that we’ve added 52,000 known active cases since my last report one week ago. Here are new daily cases. Steady increases for about 3 weeks. We’re not at July peak levels yet, but we’re not far off.

Here is the graph of known active cases. We’re sitting at just a hair over 400,000 cases nationally. We peaked in July at 468,000. You can see the first wave which peaked in April, the second wave which peaked in July, and the steady line up defining the third wave.

So the big question is: Will this be a repeat of July, not as bad, or something worse. Remember that the 1st wave was the deadliest, albeit with less than ½ the active cases of wave 2. So far, this 3rd wave looks a bit different. Look at the slope of the curve in wave 2 verses wave 3 below:

Cumulative case growth rates were in the 2% range during Wave 2, and about 0.75% during the current wave. Wave 3 is happening slower than Wave 2 (at least so far).

I’ve talked at length about the “population ceiling”, where active cases reach a hard ceiling in the range of 0.25% to 0.4% of the population, then begin a decided decline. I mention this again, because the three Waves have been in different geographical areas. The first Wave was predominantly in the Northeast, the second Wave was in the Sun Belt, and the third Wave is dominated by the Midwest. Of the 15 states that I track, here is the high water mark as a percentage of the population for each one as of yesterday (the horizonal bar is the average of the 15 states). Note that we have quite a few states that never reached the population ceiling.

Of the 15 states, the ones that I would refer to as “spiking” (you can see all the individual state graphs below and form your own opinion) are Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Look where they lie on this chart:

I’ve repeatedly pointed out the various states that peaked at a low percentage of the population, and speculated that there would be more to come. I do think that this is, at least in part, what is happening now. I believe that the Wave 3 states will grow until they, as well, hit the population ceiling.

Of course, part of the rise is the ubiquitous campus testing, and a bit of it is always historical cases reported as new. Here is what daily testing looks like. We’re yet again in a new band of testing. We averaged about 800,000 reported tests per day from the middle of July to the middle of September. Now million test days are common, and we’ve seen 2 days of over 1.2 million. That rise of about 25% would explain daily cases increasing from 40,000 to 50,000, but doesn’t explain it all. In the past 12 days we’ve averaged 55,000 cases per day, verses 42,800 in the preceding 12 days. So we’re definitely seeing an increase in the underlying disease, although it’s not uniform as you’ll see from the individual state results below.

The next question is what will happen to mortality… So far, we’re still seeing a gradual decline in daily deaths since about mid-August. You can see the very deadly Wave 1, the less deadly Wave 2, and no effect yet from Wave 3. The decline is slow and subtle, but we haven’t seen a 1,000 death day since September.

If we start the graph on September 1st, the pattern is a bit more obvious:

I maintain that a more effective measure of death rates is the daily deaths per 1,000 cases. Here is what that looks like – high mortality during the first Wave, and much lower during the second Wave. We are still trending downward since the middle of September, but where will it go from here? To the extent that the increase in case volume is predominately among the young, I would think we’ll continue to see a decline, as COVID below age 60 has little impact on daily deaths. However, we do see an upward trend in hospitalizations, and that disturbs me. Hospitalization is a reasonable predictor of mortality, so I’m thinking we’ll see a swell in daily deaths over the next 3 weeks. We observed in Wave 2 that the increase in deaths from about 500 per day to over 1,000 per day happened 1 to 3 weeks after active case peak.

More on the individual states below – here are the daily stats.

  • Modeled known active cases in U.S. 401,030
  • Likely date of active case peak (Chalke modeling): July 23
  • Likely date of peak deaths (IHME): January 17 (last revision on October 15)
  • Total Test Results reported today: 1,200,056 (very high)
  • National reported case Growth Rate today: 0.70% (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.

Individual States

Here is Arizona. They changed their reporting protocol on September 17 to add the results of antigen testing. I believe the upward drift since then is a result of this definitional change. Arizona continues with a fraction of the COVID they had in July.

SC has been relatively flat for nearly 2 months. Note that South Carolina double counts cases, as they treat each positive test as a new case (per The Covid Tracking Project).

Here is Florida – down dramatically from the top, and fairly flat for 6 weeks. Note that Miami is no longer the key driver of the state’s results.

California has not materially changed in over a month. As always, I need to report that California is one of the states that counts tests rather than people, so there is some overcounting here.

Georgia is still doing pretty well. Relatively stable for the past 3 weeks. Georgia hit a high of 0.25% of the population, so I’d be surprised to see any real increases here. GA is now down 64% from the peak. Note here again, the case numbers are exaggerated. Georgia counts each positive test as a case (according to The COVID Tracking Project).

Texas reported nearly 22,000 historical cases around September 23rd, and this skews the data. Note that Texas also reports positive tests as cases, so is doing some level of double counting (per The COVID Tracking Project).

NC and VA have tended to track each other, but NC reported an additional 4,563 “probable” cases on September 25th, and subsequent to that is growing faster than Virginia. North Carolina hit a new high water mark yesterday, but is still at only 0.137% of the population.

Here is the daily new case count for NC – you can see the anomaly. I should point out that this is not the fault of NC. They simply report the total each day, and the new totals are picked up by the reporting sites and catalogued as new. Nonetheless we’re seeing daily cases at July levels.

Here is the daily death report for NC, flat for 3 months now.

Washington has had so many reporting protocol changes it’s difficult to interpret this graph, but even through all the data fog I’d say it’s spiking. Washington peaked at only 0.073% of the population, so I think there is more to come.

Here are NY and NJ – Significant percentage increases in both NY and NJ, albeit from small numbers. New York has leveled off over the past 2 weeks.

Here is Massachusetts. Like NY, they have a significant percentage increase in active cases, but again, on top of a small base. Growth is slow here.

…And here is Michigan, clearly growing fast. They sit now at 0.127% of the population, still nowhere near the ceiling.

PA is also growing, as expected. The peak was very low (0.091% of the population), so I believe there is more to come.

And finally, here is Colorado, at a new peak. It’s still only 0.117% of the population, so more to come I’m afraid.

So that’s it for today. I’ll report again in a week or so (longer if absolutely nothing changes).

–Shane Chalke, FSA

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