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Covid Weather Report for Minnesota: 12 August 2020
Thanks for your patience. I was on vacation last week. We went up north to the Brainerd area to a cabin resort we favor. It was weird doing everything socially distanced and/or outdoors, but we got through the week with a lot of great outdoor times with old friends, and it seems that nobody at the 30-person resort caught the 'rona. And the kids enjoyed the lake. I'm back now.
Minnesota's covid epidemic is not getting better. But it is also not getting worse. Given what a good position we've been in for the past few months, "not getting worse" is really, really good. Continue enjoying your summer safely.
Our estimated case count over the past almost-month has been remarkably stable. It's not going down like in, say, Sweden. It's not going up like in, say, France. (Yeah, Sweden's getting better, France worse.) Our numbers are just holding steady. This data lags by (in this case) six days.
“LTC” is short for “long-term care” (basically, nursing homes). The above estimate is for non-LTC cases.
But nursing homes also remain stable, with covid nearly but not quite eradicated in LTCFs. (This estimate assumes test positivity rates between LTCFs and the general population are more or less the same.)
As I state every week, my daily estimate of “actual new cases” is derived by taking the current 7-day average positivity rate, dividing it by 2% to yield a multiplication factor (minimum 1.0), and multiplying the officially reported non-LTC cases by that factor. This is crude enough that, when positivity is significantly above 2%, the precise numbers may be way off… but it should be accurate enough for us to trust the trendline.
Here is the raw, official state data I use to build these estimates:
Some media has made some hay about this chart. They have observed that Minnesota is now registering its all-time highest daily case numbers. That is true! But a large portion of that (not all, but lots) is thanks to our expanded testing capacity, which is way, way, way above what we had during our first peak in April/May. You can see that expanded capacity doing its job here:
Lower positivity rates = fewer undetected cases = more accurate and higher official counts = lower actual cases.
As I noted at the top, all this data lags by 6 days. However, I've been eyeballing the preliminary data for this week (as I always do), and we seem to be on track for a continuing plateau.
How are the hospitals doing? They're working hard, but keeping their heads above water. This data is current as of yesterday at 4 PM:
The new hospitalizations seem to be reaching their own plateau after a steady rise -- exactly what we would expect to see a few weeks after new cases plateau. Critically, we are still far short of our emergency capacity, which I've added to the Total Hospitalized chart this week (thanks to the reader who suggested it). I've had to double the height of the chart just to fit the capacity lines:
I still don't really know quite what non-LTC deaths are doing, but they have definitely gone up since the start of August. That's not surprising, given the increased hospital demand. (It's actually surprising it's taken this long, as I've mentioned in previous reports.) Death counts are still not very high.
Why's this happening? Not sure. There still hasn't been time for Gov. Walz's mask mandate to have an impact on most of these figures.
I remain inclined to give some credit to the apparently spontaneous increase in Minnesotan social distancing (in terms of miles traveled per day) that started 4th of July weekend. That data lags by weeks, so we won't know for sure until September, but that decline in Minnesotan travel does seem to line up nicely with covid's slowing growth. I'll keep tabs.
How long will this plateau last? Not sure. As I've said before, covid outbreaks are part opportunity and part luck. It seems unlikely that this delicate stability can last for long, but it's difficult to predict whether the curve will bend upward or downward next.
IN CLOSING, SOME OTHER NUMBERS:
Some of these numbers have changed slightly from previous weeks. This is due to new data, mostly old tests that didn't get reported in a timely manner:
Average week-over-week growth in est. cases, June 25th-July 1st: 32%
Average week-over-week growth in estimated cases, July 2-8th: 32%
Average week-over-week growth in estimated cases, July 9-15th: 36%
Average week-over-week growth in estimated cases, July 16th-22nd: 18%
Average week-over-week growth in estimated cases, July 23rd-29th: -4%
Average week-over-week growth in estimated cases, July 30th-Aug 6th: 2%
Date I expect Minnesota’s second peak to surpass its first peak: [not currently trending in that direction].
Please note that predictions I have made about this pandemic have had some hits and some very notable misses.
All data is either directly from here or derived from data from here: Minnesota Department of Health: Situation Update for Covid-19 . I went into a little more detail on some of these data in my post Covid Takes A Breather a few months ago.
Reminder: I break these out between long-term care (LTC) and non-LTC residents where possible. Furthermore, I focus on non-LTC because most of the people reading this are not LTC residents, and most of my advice is not applicable to them.