Why We Flattened the Curve

Flattening the curve worked; it bought us time to understand COVID-19 and to better understand how to treat it. Don’t let the higher numbers panic you.

In mid-March, my doctor’s office called and rescheduled my March 24 physical, pushing it back 90 days.  That appointment is scheduled for this afternoon and they are allowing it to proceed even though our county and state have a far higher rate of COVID-19 infections today then they did in March.

On March 24, when I was supposed to have the appointment, there were only 20,875 reported cases of COVID-19 in the entire country.  We now have more than that in our state, and the country report that many or more every day.  Three months ago, only 2,844 were new cases had been reported in a single day.  Now there are individual states that report that more than that daily.

This raises a big question: Why am I allowed to go to the doctor today, but not three months ago. 

The answer is: Because we flattened the curve.

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The COVID-19 Curve Heads Downward

As cases and deaths continue to drop despite some states reopening, the questions remains: When will the rest of the country reopen?

Rather than just flattening or sloping gradually downwards, the latest numbers show that the curve has taken a decidedly downward turn.  It will be interesting to see if we reach a new, lower plateau or if the numbers continue to decline over the remainder of the week.

Reported COVID-19 deaths increased by just 1,132, a 1.4 percent increase, in the past 24 hours.  There were just 17,600 new cases reported, an increase of just 1.3 percent and the smallest we’ve seen since March.

We’ve heard repeatedly that there are two sets of numbers in the U.S., New York’s and the rest of the country.  Because New York was so high a percentage of cases and deaths, many claimed that a drop in their caseload was tilting the country’s data and not accurately reflecting the coronavirus situation nationwide.  If that was ever the case, it is not now.  While New York’s reported cases dropped by about 600 in the past 24 hours, that represents only a small part of the 2,700 fewer cases reported nationally.  That means 80 percent of the decline came from outside New York.

The New York Times is now reporting cases increasing in only eight states with a decreasing trend in 18.  Among those states that are showing decreases are Georgia and Tennessee, which were among the first states to re-open.

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The Economics of COVID-19 vs Reopening

There’s an economic cost to keeping the country shutdown and a cost in lives if we reopen. We need to strike a balance where we can move forward without endangering vulnerable groups.

Reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. grew overnight to 1,235,200, an increase of 23,600 or 1.9 percent.  2,415 deaths were attributed to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours as the total number of deaths climbed to 73,549.  As the increase in the number of coronavirus cases stabilizes, calls for reopening the country grow as do frustration, violence and protests.

While protests continued in California, North Carolina – where the governor says phase one of reopening will start Friday night – and other states, pressure to reopen the country  continues to grow.  With every jobs that is lost, resentment grows among hard-working Americans who simply want to go back to work so they can pay their bills.  But while many simply want a return to normal, others are protesting what they see as a government overreach and a violation of their constitutional rights to free assembly and the free exercise of their religion.

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COVID-19 Growth Rate Drops Across Most States

Reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. continued to hold steady with 30,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.  This is an increase of only 2.7 percent to 1,140,100.  Deaths were well below the 2,000 mark again, rising 1,593 to 66,490.

The increase in global cases has also stayed level, with 85,000 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing to global total to 3.449 million cases.  Only about 5,000 deaths were recorded around the world, raising the total to 244,239.

Reopening Dominates News

A few weeks ago, the rapid increase in cases was the leading news story.  Today, new clusters and outbreaks are getting almost no national attention because the media is focused on reopening and protests.  For example, Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, in Hartsville, Tenn., has more than 1,300 cases, but there’s been no national news coverage.  But stories about over crowded beaches and protesters are getting plenty of air time.

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COVID-19 and Freedom of Choice

The battle against the coronavirus has come a long way since April 1. But has it come far enough to reopen American?

Reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. rose 30,300 in the past 24 hours to 1,075,600, an increase of 2.9 percent.   Deaths increase 2,164 to 63,109, an increase of 3.6 percent and yet another day in which the death toll tops 2000. 

Globally, cases were up only 56,000, meaning that there is a data lag or the U.S. now represents more than half the new cases cropping up daily.  Since the Johns Hopkins page is having trouble loading, I’m willing to attribute this to a data error and wait 24 hours to see how the number look.  But for the record, what we’re seeing on the Johns Hopkins page is 3.278 million cases and 234,020 deaths.

April Was a Critical Month

But the real news is how the last 30 days saw the coronavirus explode onto the scene.  Our headline a month ago read “The Dark Days of COVID 19 are Just Beginning.” 

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COVID-19 Growth Slows

Reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have now exceeded three quarters of a million and there have been more than 36,000 deaths.

In the past 24 hours, there have only been 25,223 new coronavirus cases reported in the United States, an increase of less than 4 percent.  The total now stands at 753,317.  This is the slowest rate of growth in two weeks. 

Reported deaths in the U.S. climbed to 36,109, an increase of 1,383 or 4 percent.  This represents a drop of 50 percent from the prior day.

Unless we are dealing with some data lag due to the weekend, these are both very positive numbers that seem to confirm that the curve has flattened and the U.S. is starting down the other side.  If that is indeed the case, then represents the success of social distancing.

Many recent cases are being reported in institutions where social distancing guidelines are difficult to enforce, such as prisons, nursing homes, and meat packing plants. Like cruise ships before they were shut down, the concentration of people in these small spaces provides an ideal environment for viral spread.

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Decrease in COVID-19 Cases Continues

The coronavirus data appears to be improving across the board as cases slow and the curve begins to slope downhill.

Reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. rose by 28,241 to 728,094 in the past 24 hours, an increase of 4 percent.  This is the slowest case growth yet.  Unfortunately, deaths grew 2,818 to 34,726, an increase of 9 percent.

Despite the bump in reported deaths, data confirms that the country is finally on a downward slope as you can see in this chart from the New York Times, which shows new cases and the 7-day moving average. 

The Curve Turns Down
COVID-19 cases in the U.S. show signs of slowing in this graphic from the New York Times.

Globally, cases grew 82,000 to 2.355 million, a decrease from yesterday’s increase of 90,000.  Global growth has now slowed to 4 percent.  The global death toll climber to 161,402, its smallest increase in weeks.

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COVID-19 is in Retreat

While cases appear to be on the decline, it’s important to recognize that winning the battle is not equivalent to winning the war. The coronavirus remains a deadly enemy and if we let our guard down, it could claw its way back.

New cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S. held steady in the past 24 hours, climbing 25,507 to 580,878, an increase of less than five percent.  This marks the second day of only five percent growth and seems our best evidence yet that social distancing is working.

The death toll in the U.S. remains well under its peak of 2,000, with 1,551 deaths attributed to the coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours.  Deaths in New York are also tailing off, with 671 reported.  New York also experienced a significant drop in COVID-19 cases, with 6,337 reported, a drop of 40 percent from its worst days.  Both ICU admissions and intubations were down as well.

We also saw flat growth on a global basis, with 71,000 new cases, bringing the total to 1.935 million and deaths to 120,000. The global total of reported cases should exceed 2 million within the next 24 hours.

Now that we have two consecutive days of decreases, we can conclude that the peak is behind us in most states.  Field hospitals are being dismantled and politicians are bickering about how and when we relax the stay home orders, but it’s important to remember that we are still seeing tens of thousands of new cases per day. 

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Is the Peak Behind Us?

A drop in the number of new cases and deaths over the past 24 hours raises hope that the COVID-19 peak may be behind us.

New cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. reported over the past 24 hours has dropped to 25,345, an increase of only 5 percent.  This is very good news, even though it represents a total of 555,371 cases.  Reported deaths also decreased, reaching 22,056, an increase of only 1,442 or 7 percent.  If these numbers hold true perhaps the peak is behind us.

Support putting the peak behind us is supported by New York’s numbers, which should a significant drop in new cases (down to 8,236 after several days in excess of 10,000) while deaths shrank slightly to 958. 

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Some Hopeful as COVID-19 Curve may be Flattening

As the coronavirus nears what many hope is a peak, New York cases, hospital admissions and ICU admissions continue to fall while deaths remain steady at close to 600 in the past 24 hours.

Across the U.S. as a whole, deaths attributed to the coronavirus increase to 10,959, a jump of 1,304 or 14 percent.  This is a significant number of dead with just under half from New York.

Cases of COVID-19 jumped 29,462 to 366,238, a rise of 9 percent in the past 24 hours.  That’s two consecutive days of single-digit increases, which represents a flattening of the curve. 

Globally, there are now 1.362 million reported cases with more than 76,000 deaths. These numbers represent an 24-hour increase of 6 percent and 9 percent, respectively, which could portray a flattening of the curve in Europe, as well as the U.S.

“Flattening the curve” is important because it represents a slowing in the rate of COVID-19 cases and the effectiveness of social distancing, lock downs and other mitigation efforts.  Infection rates must slow before they can stop. 

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