US Covid Continuities Disrupted

Over the past few months the press has repeatedly sounded alarms about covid spikes in one state or another. For the most part and on average, however, the situation has remained pretty stable. Until now.

After a long gradual decline, the US covid death rate has plateaued, while case counts and hospitalizations are rising rapidly. Since July Southern states have consistently experienced the highest infection rates in the US. Data from the past two weeks reveals a decided geographic shift: now most of the hot spots are in the Central states. The states with the highest 14-day death rates per hundred thousand population are, in descending order:

North Dakota = 17.4

South Dakota = 9.3

Arizona = 8.6

Missouri = 6.7

Kansas = 6.6

Florida = 6.3

Mississippi = 5.8

Montana = 5.6

Iowa = 5.1

Death counts remain the most accurate metric for tracking the pandemic, but death is a lagging indicator. Prior analyses have found positive but weak statistical associations between prior case counts and current death counts. As US testing rates have increased, have new case counts become more accurate proxies for new infections? The stats say yes: new case counts from the preceding month correlated strongly with death counts over the subsequent two weeks ( r = +.81). Based on their high case counts, several other mid-American states will likely join the high-body-count list over the next couple of weeks: Idaho, Nebraska, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Over the past two weeks, the average case count across states jumped 50 percent from the prior month. If the newly strengthened lagging correlation persists, with case counts predicting subsequent deaths, then the death count across all states will likely increase dramatically over the next two weeks.

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