Coronavirus infections in the United States have surged to new highs over the past week as the long-awaited third peak of its spread arrived well before the onset of winter. The resurgence spooked investors, who sent equity markets and the dollar tumbling on Monday.
RSM’s model implies that infections will surpass 9.4 million by the first week of November as hospitals become increasingly strained.
The numbers are hard to explain away. RSM’s model implies that infections will surpass 9.4 million by the first week of November as hospitals become increasingly strained. We are particularly concerned with the ability of rural and ex-urban communities across the South, Midwest and the Rocky Mountain states to handle the influx of patients.
As the data visualization shows, a new peak is forming. Infections approached 70,000 per day in the third week of October — levels not seen since the summer, when the virus made its way across the South and Southwest. This resurgence led us to reduce our forecast of fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth to 2.7%.
Now, the virus is spreading deeper into the Midwest and mountain states even as it reappears in the previously affected regions along the coasts. An unsettling picture of indifference and fatigue has emerged that threatens the steps taken to reopen businesses and schools and maintain normal levels of interaction.
Hospitalizations and deaths
The severity of the disease can be seen in hospitalizations. As shown in the first figure below, hospitalizations have followed infections — peaking in April and again in July, at 60,000 per day. Now they are threatening to exceed 42,000 per day.
We see the same pattern in deaths, which peaked in April and in early August, but now there are signs that they are trending higher once again, as shown in the second figure below. As is often cited by the medical officials, the decline in deaths — from 2,200 per day in April to 820 in October — is attributable to the spread of the virus among younger people, who have a higher survival rate, and as the medical community better understands how to treat infected patients.
A national crisis
This resurgence of the virus should be a reminder that this is truly a national epidemic. As we show in the figure below, there is a recurring pattern of the virus spreading to a million more people in less than a month.
RSM’s modeling is a matter of simple math: As more people are infected, the likelihood that healthy people will interact with infected people only grows, with the risks heightened by a lack of consistent adherence to social distancing practices.
The first figure below shows the spread of the infections among the six states with major metropolitan areas (Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California) where the initial outbreak peaked in April. The recent increase in those states can be attributed to increased social interaction as people tried to resume their daily routines and let down their guard.
The second chart shows the spread of the virus across all the other states, where infections peaked across the South and Southwest in the weeks after the July 4 weekend. Infections in the six states with major metropolitan centers are rising again at an average rate of 14,500 per day as of Oct. 25. Infections in all other states are rising at an average rate of 53,500 per day.
Average weekly growth rate
In the following table, we show the state-by-state weekly growth of infections since Sept. 12, which was the low point for infections in the days after Labor Day and which signaled the unofficial start of indoor activity and social interaction.
Note that because of the inconsistency of reporting by the various states, and because of the haphazard spread of the virus, we are looking at the average rate of infection in the several weeks since the onset of cooler weather.
The blue highlights indicate the six states with major metropolitan areas that were initially affected by the virus. After much progress over the summer, each of those states is reporting increasing numbers of cases since Labor Day.
Only four states are reporting lower levels of the infection since Labor Day.
For more information on how the coronavirus is affecting midsize businesses, please visit the RSM Coronavirus Resource Center.