Daily Status, August 17

Daily Status, August 17:

Summary/Situational Awareness

Today, across the commonwealth, there were only 734 new cases.  Overall, this is lower than recent data and but is consistent with Mondays having lower data.  Regionally, there is not indication that , Northern VA's slow increase is abating.   The rest of the state is trending down -- with the leader in the decrease being Hampton Roads/Eastern VA.  It is worth noting that, while Northern VA is trending up, our numbers per capita remain lower overall than much of the rest of the state.    The testing numbers across the state remain ok, but not great.

There is an interesting experiment going on in Blacksburg:  Virginia Tech is testing all students upon arrival at campus, and those results are being attributed to Blacksburg.  That means we can get realistic numbers on the % infected. I am aware of other schools requiring testing, but most of those are prior to arriving on campus.  At this time, I am seeing the surge in testing, but no evidence of additional cases.  This means the background caseload is low, probably on the order of 0.1% or less (at least among those students that have returned to date.  It also means that the increased testing is not the cause for the increased case loads. 


Overall, though in set state, North of I64 is doing better than south of I64, both in testing, number positive, and growth.  The brighter yellow regions are mostly south of I64.








Regions:

While the statewide numbers are decreasing, we see different patterns emerge regionally.

At this point the week-over-week numbers are still being impacted by a data glitch.  This week’s numbers appear lower, but that may be (emphasize may) an artifact of the data issues last week and before.   If I look at the three-week trends, they show continuing growth in much of state, (Hampton Roads is decreasing rapidly).  Yesterday, the sky was not falling and today, we are not doing great.  State wide, we are down to 734 new cases which is lower than we have been seeing, but is consistent with Mondayy (actually, 20% higher than last Monday).

 


Where the concern should be, though, is the location of the new cases.  Not so much for today, but over the last three weeks.  Growth rates  are:


NOVA: 1.006

Central VA: 0.987

Hampton Roads/Eastern VA:  0.967  

SW VA: 0.997

NW VA:  1.025

 

The state as a whole down 0.5%, being driven by Hampton Roads (down 3%).  The reason why VA is improving even though most of the geographic regions are increasing because the largest number of cases are where the case load is dropping.


The following charts are for the 5 regions/trends.  To me, what is most fascinating is each part, even though we are mostly part of the same guidelines, 








Northern VA:

As mentioned before, Northern VA is showing the highest growth rate in the state.  By county, it is:

Fairfax Co.: 1.027
Alrington Co.: 1.012
City of Alexandria: 1.012
Prince William Co.: 0.992
Loudoun Co.: 1.006

The trends show we are about 1/10th the peak in early May we reached a minimus around July 1, and have been increasing slowly.  Fortunately, our numbers are low enough that drastic steps are not really required to stop the increase.



If we look at the current status by zip code, we see that most areas are doing ok, though along the I95 corridor and US1 is doing worse.  Also, in general, for Fairfax and Arlington County, North of US50/I66 is doing better than south of I66/US50.

Locally, in Vienna, the uptick which had me concerned conitnues to have leveled off.  Hopefully, that continues.  We are not at a dangerous number of cases, even with the recent caseload doubling.  But, if the growth did not flatten out, it could become an issue.    

Elsewhere in Northern VA, Herndon/Sterling /Dulles is warm, as is the I95 corridor, and an area just north east of Warrenton.



Age Distribution:

The age distribution of cases shows growth (RT>1) among all age groups, but the working age people (young adults & middle age) are higher than younger and older groups.  And once again, the Teens and Tweens are showing the slowest growth rate (practically flat).  Once again, the teen bubble's social isolation from anyone not a teen is working for them.  It proves if one only associate with non-infected individuals, then the risk is low.  However, based on observed behaviors among that age group, if the disease expands at all, then there will be a problem.

Colleges:

Overall, I think we can feel confident sending our kids to college (assuming they are not stupid).  So far, the numbers for incoming students at Tech have been low – which is good.  I talked about that in my introduction.  I was able to look specifically at Tech because they are reporting the numbers locally for the school (to the Va Tech zip code).  I am not sure if other schools are.  I know W & M sent test kits to the students, who sent them back, so those will be reported as the home zip code I think.  In terms of the surrounding communities, ODU is now in line with UMW and VCU.  ODU is trending in the right direction whereas VCU and UMW are flat over two weeks.  W & M/ CNU are doing the best.  W & M is welcomed freshmen last week, as are some of the other schools.  The regional trends, which is good for W & M, CNU and ODU, but concerning for VT and GMU.  Also, JMU suddenly popped on the radar screen with positive grown, even though the students mostly have not returned.  


Commentary:

Note: this is a repeat from yesterday.


I want to get back to Vienna, locally.  Most of my readers are from Vienna.  I believe most of us are following protocols.  In, we are nearly 100% masked, and none of the nose exposed masks.  This is good.  Outside, while it is overall not crowded, people are generally not wearing masks.  The guidelines say 6-10 feet.  However, the virus follows physics not guidelines.  Two feet behind a person is safer (for me) than 10 feet in front.  Two people can probably stand safely back to back, at 1 foot, but not face to face at 6 feet.  The virus is carried with the breath.  The harder the breathing, the farther the breath will go (higher the velocity out of the mouth).  So, yelling at a sporting event is significantly riskier than sitting on a bench sipping coffee.  The mask mitigates the risk by capturing the larger particles, which is much more likely to contain the virus.    

 

Unfortunately, the state has not empowered the town to enforce the mask ordinance.  In commercial sites, the site manager can trespass a person and the police will enforce that.  However, particularly with the current social justice issues, I do not think the police enforcing mask wearing is optimal (Thank you Del. Keam for that perspective).  If you see a problem with a place that sells alcohol, The ABC office can enforce it.  Otherwise, the health department is in charge of mask enforcement, and that is a county organization, and they do not seem to follow up with calls.  Moreover, the problems observed at Waters field is not enforceable by the town, as the county owns the land and issues the permits.  I spoke with the person in charge of permitting and fields for the county, and there is no desire to enforce the governors mask ordinance; he was sympathetic to my concern and will send out reminders, but there is no desire to go beyond that.   If we want to change things, we need to look to the political leaders and not the county employees.  With that said, the town can only enforce the rules at, for example, Southside or Glyndon park.  But the offences that I have observed are at Waters field.  The funny thing is the leagues had to come up with a safe reopening plan (at least VGSL did), but that is not being followed.  

 

The best we can to is to focus on ourselves.  Wear the mask and be safe. This disease does not really discriminate. There is no shame in getting sick, but we all have an obligation to our community to stay healthy. Dr. Fauci says we may have a Vaccine by the end of the year, but it will probably not be until the second half of the year where the majority can be inoculated. Until that time, we are living with COVID. There are numerous studies that show there are potentially long-term effects for COVID (I say potentially because we are 8 months in to COVID-19 globally, and that is not long-term). Including neurological, cardiac, and respiratory issues. And that is with a mild case. Based on numbers from NYC, 1/34-1/40 people with antibodies end up hospitalized – which is presumably a life-threatening case. Some people say, but it only kills 0.5%, which does appear to be true. But 2.5-3.3% have life threatening cases. These are the numbers. If you do not believe me, look them up yourself: Total hospitalizations compared with total probable exposure based on Antibodies. 

 

THERE IS INCREASING EVIDENCE THAT MASKS ACTUALLY DO PROTECT THE WEARER. 

While the mask your mask may not prevent your exposure, it will limit the viral load, which gives your immune system a better chance, and statistically may lead to less severe cases. 

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-06067-8.

 

This has been a difficult 5 months so far, and we probably have at least another 5 months to go before a vaccine is available. But anyone reading this is still alive. 170000 Americans are not.  Some say wearing a mask is a sign of weakness – of being a sheep.  I would rather be free to roam while wearing a mask than cooped up inside.

Attribution:

1) You can repost / share in the entirety by forwarding the link, 2) If you want share partial content, you must receive my permission – I need to make sure you understand what I am saying. 3) Please tag me anywhere this is used so I can address any comments/concerns.  If anyone sees this work being used without attribution, please let me know as soon as possible. I am willing to have an informed discussion / debate on my approach, but I want to make sure the proper context is captured.

Links: 

Source data is from the Virginia Dept of Health COVID Site

Why I did this:  About the blog

State Actions: Impact on Growth:  TBD

Figure Descriptions:  TBD

Other Sites: TBD

Comments

  1. Thanks David for all of your work monitoring and informing us of daily COVID status in Virginia and NoVa.

    Have you stopped making the chart showing hospitalization trends? I always use smoothed hospitalization numbers as a sanity check to help confirm where the trends are actually going, my assumption being that a fairly consistent percentage of people who become infected will eventually show up at the hospital (based on age and other conditions of course). Even though hospitalization is more of a lagging indicator, it seems like on the one end reported case stats can be subject to various external factors such as when and where and how quickly testing occurs, and on the other end death rate trends are (thankfully!) impacted by our continually improving treatment protocols.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts about this.

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    Replies
    1. That plot was not the number currently hospitalized, but rather the number of admissions. I think not including it was more of an oversight of the transition to the new format: Now, I have the figures in line; before I would add all of that days figures. I will figure out to fit it in going forward. Thanks for the comment.

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    2. Thanks David, I appreciate it! Smoothed hospital admissions seems like an excellent (but laggy) proxy in for how the overall recent trend of infections has been going, except for the fact that the changing age mix can skew things.

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