Boring Numbers

The numbers are boring this week.  We’re plugging along at about the speed we have been with little to no detectable change.  Even the weekly cycle is about the same.  New York and New Jersey are still in decline and driving the national numbers down while other states drive them up.  We’re in a holding pattern while we wait to see the effects of the reopening in various state.  That should take at least another week, more likely two.  I don’t really expect to see any notable changes in the meantime.

While we wait, I would offer a word of caution about reading too much into the daily numbers.  There’s a significant amount of noise in how many cases and deaths get reported each day.  The more narrowly we focus, the noisier that data is.  So if you’re watching the numbers for a single state, say Georgia, to see if they go up as a result of reopening, you may have been tempted to see the rise in new cases over the last couple of days as evidence that it is.  But just as we shouldn’t look at just a few days of data to determine when reopening is safe, neither should we just look at a few days of data to determine that it has failed.  At the least, we want to see a week of data, two or more weeks would be even better.  This is, of course, one of the problems.  No state will know how its reopening is going for at least two weeks, and then it will take at least two weeks to assess any reaction to that data.  Any policy change is a commitment to at least a month of the effects of that change, whatever those effects may turn out to be.  There’s no doubt that reopening will increase transmission and ultimately deaths, but we don’t really know how much.  There are models that try to account for that, but since we don’t really know how much each area will reopen, it’s hard to predict.  Remember that just because a state opens up doesn’t mean that people will suddenly rush out to large gatherings.  Conversely, just because a state maintains restrictions doesn’t mean that everyone will stay isolated.  So even if we knew what policy changes would be, it would still be difficult to predict the reaction to them.

With all that said, here’s a national projection based on last night’s numbers.


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