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Covid Weather Report for Minnesota: 19 September 2020
As we enter a third straight month of a stable, low plateau in covid cases, it seems safe to say that what Minnesotans are doing to combat covid-19 is working, and we should continue doing it. We should also use this period of stability to experiment with reopening the state in more ways -- starting with the return to school.
THE RETURN TO SCHOOL:
It is not clear to me why schools in my county have not resumed in-person instruction for at least elementary students, given the overall stability of the state's case counts and the success other school systems have had with reopening (including our own local Catholic schools, now open for three weeks without disaster). Believe it or not, my six-year-old's class has been really good about masking responsibly.
The fluctuations from two weeks ago did, indeed, revert to the average. Case levels are stable. 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. (This estimate assumes test positivity rates between LTCFs and the general population are more or less the same.) And here is the flip side. (Note that daily figures are sometimes negative, as the state occasionally reclassifies LTC cases as non-LTC cases.)
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 makes hay whenever Minnesota registers its "all-time highest" daily case numbers. However, a large portion of that is thanks to our expanded testing capacity, which is way, way, way above what we had during our first peak in April/May. That means that while we may be detecting as many — or even more! — cases than we detected during the first wave, there are almost certainly far fewer actual cases around the state. You can see that expanded testing 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.
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:
For our part, we aren’t exactly filling up hospital beds with new patients, either, which is consistent with my estimate that our overall case numbers are holding pretty steady.
Deaths are my least favorite indicator right now, but still pretty flat:
Statewide voluntary social distancing levels remain stable, and our masking compliance seems okay. (However, I still don't see any movement in the data that seems directly attributable to the mask mandate.)
I will be doing a blog post at some point here revisiting the lockdowns in light of what we know now, but, as a little teaser: I think the principal error we made during the lockdown was overestimating the size of the role government policy can play in social distancing. Solidarity and (largely appropriate) fear appear to have provided most of the benefits of the lockdown period, not the lockdown itself, and misunderstanding this distorted the debate over the lockdownon all sides.
I GOT TESTED
I had a cough last week, so, in accordance with MDH guidelines, I got myself a covid test.
I can now strongly recommend that you not try to get a test from the so-called Urgency Room. I went there because their website promised a 20-minute wait time, whereas my more local clinic said it would be 90 minutes and my local CVS had no appointments until the following day. The Urgency Room's "20 minute wait time" actually meant that it took 45 minutes to check me in, then they sent me to my car to wait for another 45 minutes to be seen, all while the website still reported a 20-minute wait time. Heck with that.
I got tested at CVS the next day instead. It was relatively straightforward, although I had to give the test to myself, which made me nervous, because I am not good at doing things correctly with my hands. Pretty sure I did it right, though.
My results were negative, so I lowered the state's testing positivity rate that day. You're welcome!
SELECTED GROWTH RATES
Average week-over-week growth in estimated cases, July 30th-Aug 6th: 3%
Aug 7th-13th: -3%
Aug 14th-20th: -6%
Aug 21st-27th: -2%
Aug 28th-Sep 3rd: 18% (that brief surge I talked about last time did turn out to be real!)
Sep 4th-10th: -9%
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.