Post #970: Tempus fugit and the long right tail of the virus.

Posted on January 22, 2021

Above:  Nine days ago versus one day ago (data through 1/21/2021).  Calculated from data via NY Times Github COVID data repository.

The trend is down, for the U.S. as a whole, and for almost every state.  That’s not news if you’ve been following along.

The national rate at the top of this post is moving sharply downward mainly due to behavior in a few large states, particularly California (left, below). Helped by New York (right, below).

But in the median (typical) state, there’s  a downward trend, but it’s anything but sharp.  And what I have noticed lately is that North Dakota seems to be “asymptoting”, for want of a better verb.  It’s not plunging toward zero cases.  Instead, the rate is slowly drifting down.  Just today, their seven-day moving average finally crossed below 20 cases / 100,000 / day.

In fact, for the Midwest as a whole, if you compare the pace at which the rates went up (left side of graph) to the rate at which they are doing down (right side of graph), the pace of reduction appears slower almost everywhere.

If the Midwest is the harbinger of the third wave, then what we look forward to is a prolonged period of elevated but slowly-declining rates of COVID.  Not crisis levels.  But not disappearance of the disease either.  If this were a statistical distribution, we’d call that a “long right tail”.  And it looks like we’re moseying toward that with COVID.

That’s unfortunate, given that we’re kind of in a race with the more contagious UK COVID variant.  But it is what it is.

My already-stated belief is that this is the start of the end of the U.S. third wave of COVID  That said, it looks to me like we’re heading for a long right tail.  With the UK variant still in the background.