With all the press about outbreaks in several southern states it has been hard to focus on the exact status of COVID-19 in these places. Several sources are suggesting that the outbreaks are beginning to wane.
For the third day in a row COVID-19 infections and deaths have decreased in the United States. In a number of southern states where there have been sustained increases in infections over the past month, for the first-time deaths and new infections have stabilized and begun to decrease. Arizona clearly is decreasing while Florida is flattening (deaths are still rising). The exception to this is Texas where the infection numbers continue to rise.
Along with this, the Rt has fallen in most of these states, including Texas. For the first time in a month the Rt is at or below 1.0, suggesting human spread of the virus is starting to contract. The Rt value is essentially the number of people each COVID-19 individual infects. If they infect more than one, the outbreak is increasing. If each person infects less than one, COVID-19 infection is contracting. In contrast to Florida, Texas, and Arizona, Kentucky’s Rt has begun to rise, suggesting a new outbreak in that state.
The reasons that these stabilizations have occurred likely relates to new restrictions on activity, particularly in restaurants and bars. Aggressive efforts to enhance the use of face masks may also be helping. Importantly, the numbers of COVID-19 active and recent infections and individuals with immunity may be so high in some places that there are fewer people to infect. If this follows the pattern seen in the original outbreak areas in April and May, the drop will continue slowly over weeks before control of the outbreak is secured.
It will be interesting to see what happens in Texas, whether they are just earlier in the outbreak and are contracting, or if it is expanding and other factors are involved. It also will be important to see if infections in all these states can be brought totally under control without complete “stay at home orders”. This will help to clarify what approaches would be necessary for handling the inevitable COVID-19 outbreaks we will see in the near future.