Saturday, May 23, 2020

Looking At The Numbers

 Coronavirus In Wisconsin: COVID-19 Cases Rise To 27; All K-12 Schools Closed – WCCO | CBS Minnesota

If you want to get a good understanding for how well your state is doing in controlling Covid-19, check out the "How We Reopen Safely" website,  a collaboration that provides an easy to understand dashboard of performance criteria and data.  The site updates daily and uses the gating criteria provided by the White House, to track each state's progress towards its reduction in symptoms and cases, health system readiness, and increased testing.

With politicians and protesters screaming about liberty and haircuts, this site offers real time information about evaluating the risk of exposure as we try to figure out what activities we are willing to resume in our new normal.

Since I began following this site about a week ago, Washington State has moved from "trending poorly" to "making progress".  Our biggest deficiency is in the level of testing--we're pretty low at 19 percent.  On the other hand, the spread of the virus measured in the number of days for caseloads to double has increased from 60 to 244 days.  Continued progress is not guaranteed.  Data are updated daily and ratings may change.  When I first encountered the site two states were rated as "trending better" but by the next day had slipped back to "making progress".  I would not recommend making decisions based on a single day's numbers.

Also interesting is a study conducted by the Imperial College in London showing that Americans sharply reduced their movements after stay-at-home orders were broadly imposed in March. With restrictions now easing and mobility increasing with the approach of summer, the researchers developed an estimate of viral spread as of May 17.  The study shows that 26 states have kept the virus spread to a minimum and 24 have not.  The researchers  that "...the U.S. is not under control, as an entire country."  The Washington Post has a good summary article that's easier to follow than the research report, although you will need to dig into the report if you want to find data for a particular state.

Keeping in mind that the report is a one-time snapshot and is not peer-reviewed, I did dig into the report to see how Washington State looks.  I found that information In Figure 4 on page 8.  Washington's R number (the average   number of infections generated by each infected person in a vulnerable population) is below 1 which suggests that the epidemic is waning in the Evergreen State.  That result seems consistent with the "How We Reopen Safely" data.

Finally, I went to the Thurston County Health Department to look at local trend data.  Our caseload peaked in the least week of March/first week of April.  The highest weekly case count--36--occurred then and has declined since.  The lowest number for a complete week is 4 (last week) and the current week has no reported cases yet.  Again, the available data reflects a state that is slowly containing the virus.

Not that I plan to change my virus avoidance behaviors any time soon.  And I expect that some will be part of my new normal but the numbers give me confidence that what we''re doing here in Washington is on the right track

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