There has been a 20% increase in the number of states reporting a rise in coronavirus cases since a week ago – an unfortunate but not unexpected trend.
We are entering the colder months – when infections are expected to rise as people move inside – and we have yet to lower the rate of infection to the insignificant levels that might allow for the return of normal activities. It is clear that the United States is moving toward an inflection point that will decisively affect the economy heading into 2021.
Newly reported coronavirus cases nationwide moved higher again to an average 41,000 per day.
The reason for the increase is not just because of motorcycle gatherings in Sturgis (South Dakota is averaging a 30% weekly increase in infections since Sept. 1) or Lake of the Ozarks (Missouri is averaging a 15% increase in new cases per week). It’s also because in New Jersey, a couple of counties have fueled a 25% weekly increase of new cases statewide. An increase in infections has also occurred among young people as universities and schools reopened and as potential super-spreader events like off-campus parties begin again.
The number of newly reported coronavirus cases nationwide moved higher again to an average of 41,000 per day in the latest week (see the first figure below, which is based on tracking from the Worldometer database).
Our RSM model underestimated last week’s exposure, extrapolating the rate of progress made in previous weeks. At the current rate of infection, and unless the public adheres to strict social-distancing practices, the model predicts that the total number of U.S. cases will reach 7.5 million in the first week of October (see the second figure).
The third figure shows that the total number of U.S. deaths attributed to the coronavirus is now 207,500, and averaging 760 per day.
There will be no recovery until a vaccine has been discovered and distributed universally. The latest estimates from the epidemiology community suggest that distribution to the public would begin a year from now, in the third quarter of 2021.
In the meantime, a recent paper published as part of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity finds the interventions “that target individual behavior (such as stay-at-home orders) were more effective at reducing [virus] transmission at lower economic cost than those that target businesses (shutdowns).”
The paper confirms what the increase in infections in South Dakota, Missouri and New Jersey tell us. Voluntary social distancing explains most of the reduction in infections, and public policy that requires social distancing reinforces that commitment.
State-by-state growth rates
The following two figures illustrate the spread of the infections, from the six states with major metropolitan areas (Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California) where infections peaked in April before spreading to all other states across the Sunbelt and Midwest. These states now account for the majority of new cases and deaths.
In the following table, we show the state-by-state weekly growth rate of infections since:
- The reopening of local economies around May 1, which was likely to increase the exposure to the public in commercial locations.
- The unofficial start of summer vacation on the Memorial Day weekend, which increased exposure as Americans looked for a respite from the isolation of economic shutdowns.
Of the six major states, only California, with a 3% average weekly growth rate, and Pennsylvania, with a 0.2% weekly growth rate, are reporting an increasing number of cases since Memorial Day. Cases in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts are decreasing at roughly 4% to 5% per week.
Nationally, 38 states are reporting increasing average weekly growth rates since the Memorial Day weekend, as listed in the table below.
For more information on how the coronavirus is affecting midsize businesses, please visit the RSM Coronavirus Resource Center.