Post #1201: COVID-19 trend to 8/2/2021: Too soon to say that growth in new cases is slowing

Posted on August 3, 2021


Most states other than Florida have reported new numbers for COVID-19 case counts.  With that, there was about a 50% increase in new cases over the last seven days.  The U.S. now averages 26.5 new cases / 100K /day.

Data source for this and other graphs of new case counts:  Calculated from The New York Times. (2021). Coronavirus (Covid-19) Data in the United States. Retrieved 8/3/2021, from”  The NY Times U.S. tracking page may be found at

I think I see a bit of a downward bow in that curve.  That is, some slowing of the rate of growth of new cases.  Maybe, maybe not.

On the one hand, it’s premature to say anything until Florida reports in, as they currently have something like one-fifth of U.S. new cases.  My gap-fill algorithm isn’t smart enough to mimic the upward trend in cases in Florida, so the rate you’re seeing assumes that Florida’s new cases rate leveled off over the weekend.  That’s probably an understatement of reality.

On the other hand, if we date the real start of this wave to roughly 6/29/2021, we’ve been in this ultra-high-growth scenario for five full weeks now.  Seems like we should be about due for some slowdown.  Even given the lag between infection and full reporting, at some point, the gravity of the situation has to start sinking in and people will start to protect themselves.

On the other, other hand, if history is a guide, a lot of people in authority won’t get serious until the ICUs are full.  So we haven’t seen a whole lot of razor-sharp guidance from (e.g.) states.  To the contrary, it seems like a lot of places, including Florida, are doing their best to make it seem like this is still no big deal.  Substituting spin for action while offering lukewarm guidance regarding COVID-19 hygiene.

On the bright side, at the rate things are going, it won’t be long before that strategy doesn’t work any more.  Once you start storing bodies in refrigerated trucks, it’s hard to pretend that the situation is under control.  So, as you see those stories proliferate, just realize that this is how public health policy works in the U.S. these days.  Each such story brings us closer to the point where states start to take action.

It’s just classic crisis management.  We wait until it’s a crisis.  Then we manage it.

Just to track how fast things are moving, this wave is now clearly visible as the second-worst U.S. wave on record.  That’s a change from just three days ago.

Here’s how it looked three days ago:

Here’s how it looks today.  No guide line needed.

There’s really not a lot else to say.

I’ll update my 50-states graph, just because.  That’s Louisiana at the top, and Florida close behind.

And, like clockwork, now that Louisiana’s hospitals are overflowing, the Governor had decided to act, reinstating their mask mandated yesterday.  By contrast, Florida is still being Florida.  They are led, after all, by a governor whose most profound policy response to COVID-19 so far was to propose a constitutionally-protected right to party.

By eye, it seems like a given that this wave is destined to be worse than the U.S. winter wave.  Particularly when I look at my “hysteresis” graph, to see how far the U.S. public’s reaction continues to lag behind reality.  This is updated to 8/1/2021:

Source:  Mask data from Carnegie-Mellon COVID Delphi project.  Case count data calculated from:  The New York Times. (2021), reference given above.

Consistent with that remarkable lack of response, here’s my God-as-cosmic-hairdresser graph.  As if some great power has combed out what was a tangle of state lines.  Even now, the only strand that’s clearly visibly out-of-alignment is Missouri — the orange line about sixth from the top.  Otherwise, it surely appears that case growth is more-or-less unconstrained everywhere.  That’s what makes them all line up.

And so, while we’re not at crisis levels of new cases in the majority of the U.S., it surely seems like we’ll be there in another couple of weeks.  And nothing much is changing to stop that from happening.

Formally, the projection looks like this today, given where we are and the rate of growth over the past seven days.  Just a bit over two weeks now until we top the peak new case rate for the U.S. third (winter) wave.