Post #992: Serial data catchups.

Posted on February 4, 2021

Source:  Calculated from NY Times Github COVID data repository, data reported through 2/3/2021.

Seems like state after state is having some kind of data reporting issue these days.  Lumps of new COVID cases keep showing up here and there. As labeled above.

Recall that Virginia reported a modestly large jump in cases 1/17/2021.  They explained it when I emailed and asked (Post #964). Texas saw a big one-day increase just a couple of days ago (Post #988), well-explained on their dashboard at the time.

Today it’s North Carolina’s turn:

The number of new COVID-19 cases on the NCDHHS COVID-19 Data Dashboard for Feb. 3, 2021 includes a large number of cases from tests performed at FastMed Urgent Care clinics during December 2020 and January 2021 that had not been previously reported to NCDHHS. These delayed reports account for 7,912 of the 12,079 COVID-19 cases reported today. ...

With the latest anomaly, it has dawned on my why we’re now seeing this.  New case counts are finally slowing down enough that states are catching up on backlogs.  Seen that way, these aren’t really unique, unrelated events.  They are a consequence of the slowdown in new cases.

This series of catch-up incidents puts some “speed bumps” into the data for individual states, but I’m not sure whether or not it materially affects the national picture.  There will be some understatement of the true drop in new cases, but it’s not clear how much.  The three above are the ones I caught, based on the size and suddenness of them.  It’s a fair bet that others have occurred and escaped my notice.

That said, new COVID-19 cases / 100,000 / day (seven-day moving average) are now down 46% from the 1/8/2021 peak.

Source:  Same as first graph.

And maybe I’m seeing the first little glimpse of the rate of decline beginning to accelerate.  That should start happening, if the assumptions behind yesterday’s algebra exercise are approximately correct.  Dumping a whole bunch of immune people, into a situation where the pandemic was already shrinking, ought to make it shrink not just faster, but a whole lot faster.  All other things equal.

Chuck in a little seasonality, and maybe a pot of gold or two, and we really ought to be able to see a steeper slope.  Every recent meta-analysis of the seasonality of coronaviruses I have read suggests a peak Northern Hemisphere incidence will occur no later than February.   So in some sense, we are due for a break.

Source:  Same as first graph.

But sometimes you see what you want to see.  Obviously, two days’ worth of steeper downturn is not enough to draw a conclusion from.

For sure, we’re finally starting to see a little more reporting that acknowledges that new case counts are down.  It is always coupled with with mention of deaths, which have not (yet) fallen as much, as deaths lag cases by a couple of weeks.  It never mentions the absolute extent of the fall from the peak rate. But at least you can read the newspaper and see some reporting of the fact that new cases are falling.