I shouldn’t watch the nightly news. It makes me crazy. Tonight on ABC they reported (although not as breaking news!) that numbers were “way up” and “31 states had increases in infections.” Since I hadn’t looked at the numbers for several days, I found this alarming. I immediately went to the Hopkin’s COVID-19 dashboard to see what was happening.
There actually was a fall in new infections, as the post-labor day bump seems to be receding. Also, deaths remain low despite the mid September raise in infections. Testing continues to increase so these numbers are not the result of decreased diagnoses.
State by state data also did not seem to correlate with the national news. Only half of the states saw any increases in infections over the past seven days. Many of these were like Montana, where the number of cases remains low (13,000 total) so that small increases in numbers make for large percent increases.
If there is any cause for concern, it is in the R0 values. While they have not changed in the past two weeks, they are still above the levels of six weeks ago, and 12 states remain above a value of 1.1. This suggests widening infection in these states, especially in some of the northeastern states that previously had lower numbers. Thirty states did have a value above 1.0, so maybe that generated the ABC headline. This value, however, has not changed in a month.
So no, there is no dramatic overall increase in COVID-19 infections today as reported by ABC. The actual numbers suggest ongoing COVID-19 infections at a consistent rate in the United States without an increase in mortality. Because of this, the case fatality rate for COVID-19 continues to drop, meaning the infection is better treated or less severe than it was in the spring.
Overall, while this is not something to celebrate it is important to note as we move into the fall and winter. The data also begs the question whether there will be an anticipated increase in infections this winter. This possibility is total conjecture at this point.