California is now in Stage 2 of its reopening program from the coronavirus lockdown. The crowds at Los Angeles beaches and the rise in newly reported cases in California should give the governors of New York and New Jersey something to consider as pressure mounts to reopen Jones Beach in New York and the Jersey shore.
The rise in newly reported cases in California should give New York and New Jersey something to consider.
This will provide crucial information for decision makers at the policy and corporate level on the next phase in the reopening of the economy.
As the figure below shows, the trend in reported coronavirus cases in California has again accelerated after the partial reopening of some non-essential business on May 8. The increase is centered on Los Angeles County nursing homes and demographically among African-Americans and Latinos. (Not coincidently, agricultural counties of New York and New Jersey are also reporting outbreaks among migrant workers, who are housed in close quarters.)
Also disconcerting is the high incidence of infection among California health care workers. (A friend who is a doctor at New York-Presbyterian hospital in Manhattan and his physician son have both been infected. Another friend, who is a pediatric nurse and mother of three children in Newark, was also infected but has returned to work at her hospital. As states consider ways to reopen their economies, we cannot lose sight of those front-line caretakers who are risking their lives for our well-being.)
The number of deaths in California makes yet another point. Though the younger cohort has the highest rates of infection, it is the elderly who are dying at disproportionately higher rates.
Three-quarters of California cases are equally distributed among 18- to 65-year-olds, but deaths occur at a higher incidence as age increases; 35- to 49-year-olds account for about 5% of deaths from the coronavirus, while those 65 and older account for about 75% of deaths.
The policy implication is simple. Consider reopening for younger people who have tested negative for the virus. Keep the elderly and immune-deficient in quarantine until a vaccine is identified and universally distributed. We recognize that will result in given preference and privilege to the younger cohort professionally and economically. Unfortunately, it is one of the major trade-offs that may have to be considered to begin to dig out of what is now a deep recession.
Four states with 100,000 cases
Counting coronavirus cases and deaths is subject to all aspects of the human condition. For instance, there has been a pattern of fewer cases and deaths being reported on weekends, with Easter weekend a notable example. As such, we assess the trends in daily cases and deaths by looking at an overlay of their seven-day moving averages.
Four of the six states with major metropolitan areas (New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California) that were hardest hit by the initial wave of infection now have more than 100,000 cases.
Despite that grim statistic, the daily rate of infection in the six states (including Massachusetts and Pennsylvania) shows a downward trend as shown in the figure below. That downtrend is now six weeks old, having peaked around April 10.
Deaths in the major metropolitan areas have been in decline as well, beginning not surprisingly a week later, on April 18. As shown in the second figure below, spikes occur throughout the series, and there are noticeable two-day weekend dips.
All other states
As we’ve reported, the number of cases in states other than the six major metropolitan states moved higher as the infection moved into the center of the country, increasing rapidly to 12,000 cases per day on April 12 and then to a peak of 14,000 on May 7. New cases have since drifted to 13,000 per day in the latest week as shown in the first figure below.
The number of deaths in these non-metropolitan states has exhibited dramatic dips and spikes in reporting, but as shown in the second figure, there is a distinct, month-long downtrend since April 25.
On national level
On a national level, the number of cases continues to decline, as shown in the first figure below. You could point to that decline and declare victory, but as we noted above, cases have yet to decline in all states and in all workplaces. And the virus is still spreading at a rate of 21,000 per day or nearly 150,000 per week.
Our mathematical model of the coronavirus spread shown in the second figure indicates a still exponential spread, though at a diminishing rate as social distancing practices were adopted.
Given the current rate of spread — and unless social distancing remains in force among the public — we could anticipate the number of cases to approach 1.9 million in the first week of June. That’s a far cry from the 15 recovering cases touted just three months ago.
Finally, extrapolating the 5.8% mortality rate in the United States, we would expect 110,000 deaths to have occurred by the first week of June.
Tracking state by state
Of the six states with major metropolitan areas most affected by the spread of the virus, only California is reporting more cases than before the relaxation of social distancing policies that began on May 1. Otherwise, the 25 states that have reported increases in cases since reopening their economies are in the Southeast, Southwest and upper Midwest.
This was the fourth week of reopening of local economies by state governors and, as the table below suggests, there are mixed results. Hawaii has had no new cases in the past seven days. New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island have experienced 20% to 30% average weekly drops in the number of cases.
At the other end of the spectrum, Alabama, West Virginia and Minnesota have had 20% to 30% average weekly increases in the number of reported cases.
Based on the overall number of new cases, it’s safe to assume that the virus has not gone away. Absent a vaccine, the rate of its spread is still to be determined as people leave their homes to be outside in more pleasant weather, with the need to socialize overtaking the safety of social distancing.
For more information on how the coronavirus is affecting midsize businesses, please visit the RSM Coronavirus Resource Center.