There are now more new cases of COVID-19 infections in the South and Southwest and other less densely populated areas of the country than in the previously hard-hit metropolitan centers of the East Coast, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Cases per capita are exploding across the South and Southwest, with Texas and Arizona now at risk.
Cases per capita are exploding across the South and Southwest, with Texas now at major risk of a significant wave of infections and Arizona’s medical system at risk of being overwhelmed. We are now concerned that a wave of infections will carry a second round of economic implications.
The figure below shows that new cases of the coronavirus have decelerated in the six states with major metropolitan areas to 6,000 per day, while cases in all other states are growing by 15,000 per day. Neither figure is something to cheer about.
Trends in the spread of the virus began to diverge in the third week of April, with an acceleration of new cases in the non-metropolitan areas after the reopening of local economies on May 1 and again in the weeks after the Memorial Day weekend. We attribute that divergence to the abandonment or reluctance of people in the non-metropolitan areas to accept social distancing practices.
The figures below show the experience of two of the larger states with increases in infections. Cases in Texas have alternated between rising exponentially and flattening out before accelerating again, particularly since Memorial Day.
Cases in Arizona were relatively subdued through March and into April, perhaps because of the sprawl of the Phoenix area. But that has apparently changed since Memorial Day, with reports of increased hospitalizations and stressed health care capabilities.
The table below shows that cases in Arizona are increasing by 28% per week, South Carolina by nearly 23% per week and North Carolina by nearly 17% per week. Cases in Florida (14%) and Texas (12%) have accelerated as well. At the other end of the table, cases in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York have been declining on average by 25%-28% per week.
On a national level
We should start our discussion of the national trend with a reminder of the bifurcation of outcomes between the metropolitan areas — whose residents have gone through what is hopefully the worst of the outbreak – and all other states whose leadership and public response in many cases have been to ignore the lessons of areas like New York and Boston.
The first figure shows that newly reported cases of the coronavirus in the six states with major metropolitan centers are declining, even with the inclusion of California, where cases continue to rise. Cases in all the other states in aggregate are rising, as shown in the second figure.
Because of the rapid decline of infections in the Northeast metropolitan regions, the first figure below shows a decrease in the number of newly reported coronavirus cases on a national level. There were 21,000 reported cases per day of the virus in the latest week, which is substantially down from the 32,000 cases per day at the peak of infections in April.
Based on our model, the number of coronavirus cases is likely to approach 2.2 million in the third week of June.
Because of the success of social distancing in the metropolitan areas, our mathematical model of the spread of the coronavirus on a national level (shown in the second figure) indicates a no-longer exponential spread of the virus.
Still, and based on extrapolation of the current rate of infection, the number of cases is likely to approach 2.2 million in the third week of June.
Finally, extrapolating what is now a 5.6% mortality rate, we would expect the number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus to approach 125,000 within the next week, as shown in the third figure.
While the cost of closing the local economies is staggering, the loss of life and the long-run damage to the economy of having to shut down the economy a second time will be horrific. But that seems to be where we’re going (as reported by Bloomberg regarding Houston).
It’s ironic that because of the stay-at-home orders, the public has been able to attack the other pandemic afflicting our society. Demonstrations continue to draw people out of their homes, some wearing protective face masks, others not.
The ability and time to participate in these large demonstrations has been granted to those people by the presence of the virus. It would be unfortunate if the disease is spread among those who feel an obligation to the greater good.
For more information on how the coronavirus is affecting midsize businesses, please visit the RSM Coronavirus Resource Center.