Why oh why oh why oh. Why did they pick upon Ohio?

I paraphrase the lyrics from the musical “Wonderful Town” to focus on why in the past few days, there has been a number of news stories predicting coronavirus clusters will occur in the Midwest.

While there have been upward trends in a number of COVID-19 infection parameters in Kentucky and Tennessee, there has been no similar trends in Ohio. Therefore, I was most interested in trying to understand why people are anticipating a series of outbreaks in Ohio.

Reuters reports that Dr. Deborah Birx suggested the COVID-19 outbreak was moving into Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska “because of vacations and other reasons of travel,” in an interview on Fox News. Further support for an outbreak in Ohio supposedly came when the health department reported the state had seen its “highest single day increase in infections” since the pandemic started in January. Governor Mike DeWine told a news conference this was “certainly not good news.”

But what is the basis for the concern? This is an important question since many of the metrics used to predict outbreaks in cities like New Orleans, Miami, Phoenix and Houston are not present in Ohio, Kansas and Nebraska.

When one looks at new infections and deaths in Ohio, especially over the past 21 days, there really is no disturbing trend. Cases, deaths and hospitalizations have not been increasing, and the “highest single day increase in infections” was a one-day event. Ohio did have 1, 533 new diagnosed cases yesterday, but that was less than 200 cases above the 21-day average for the state. Hospitalizations were within the 21-day trendline and only deaths appeared to increase beyond trend.

COVID-19 Parameters in Ohio (Ohio Department of Health).
Daily deaths from COVID-19 by state, July 31, 2020. Johns Hopkins Public Health School.

Compare these numbers to Tennessee and Missouri, where there were 3,088 and 1,484 new cases new cases and clearly a problem. In contrast, look at the other states Dr. Birx raised concerns about; Kansas (942 new cases) and Nebraska (only 344 new cases). There are just not trends to the data in these states.  While Illinois was not mentioned it continues uncontrolled (1,941 new cases). Rounding out the “Easterner’s view of the Midwest”, Michigan and Wisconsin, where the infection is stable and controlled, saw only approximately 800 new cases each.

New COVID-19 cases by day in Michigan (Department of Health)

In summary, there is no consistent pattern of outbreaks in the midwestern states. I do think it is important to monitor infection numbers to potentially identify the formation of new COVID-19 clusters. However, naming states as areas of concern should come with hardened statistics justifying the designation. Without that, government officials quickly lose their credibility. Invoking vacation travel as an excuse for issuing state “warnings” at a time when people are holed up worrying about their jobs just does not cut it.

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

6 thoughts on “Why oh why oh why oh. Why did they pick upon Ohio?

  1. All the Drs Birx and Faucci won’t say anything against the President. They drank his kool aid. . I don’t know who to believe any more

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have no problem with governors taking precautions. That makes sense. But these pronouncements that wind up all over social media need to have a basis in fact or people stop believing what they hear. Your comment reflects that exactly.


  2. I live in Ohio,in Cuyahoga County. The County health board has announced it recommends schools do not re-open for nine weeks; remote learning only. Superintendents are currently meeting with the board and many are coming away from the meetings announcing their School Districts will follow the County Board recommendation. There is so much information overload, complicated by misinformation and daily changes to what was “fact” the day before, we are all left feeling unsettled. Ohio did very well at the onset of the virus. Different factors have led to the uptick in cases. I am convinced when Dr. Amy Acton stepped down the Ohio numbers began to change. The bottom line – we are all living in a Twilight Zone. Pronouncements from the “powers to be” that are not based in fact do nothing but enhance the underlining feeling we are on a journey with no leaders. Thank you for being a voice of reason!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Because no one in the Washington/New York axis knows or cares about the “Rustbelt” or “Flyover” country.. Notice the conspicuous absence of California from any discussion of an outbreak even though if you look at their new caseload rate it is higher on a percapita basis than Ohio, Michigan, Indiana or Wisconsin. Tom

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    Liked by 1 person

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