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Covid Weather Report for Minnesota: 28 July 2020
For about the last month, Minnesota's covid epidemic has been trending in the direction of a "second peak". However, this week, that trend stalled out. By any measure, cases this week climbed much less than they did in recent weeks.
This could be just a short blip, but it could also be the start of a second decline. Either way, it's very welcome news, because it means Minnesota will remain in a covid "valley" for at least a little while longer. Continue enjoying your summer safely.
As you can see, Minnesota's case counts plateaued this week. That could be just a "pause" like the one we had in late May, but it could plausibly be the summit of our "second peak"... which would be great news, because this "second peak" was barely anything. This data lags by (in this case) six days.
“LTC” is short for “long-term care” (basically, nursing homes). These are 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 accurate enough for us to trust the trendline.
Good news continues in nursing homes. My estimates show the same thing the state data shows: that new cases have nearly vanished from long-term care facilities. (This estimate assumes test positivity rates between LTCFs and the general population are more or less the same.)
Here is the raw, official state data I use to build these estimates:
Test positivity rates (higher rates = more undetected cases = higher case estimates) have also plateaued, which is good news. For a while there, it looked like they were just going to keep climbing at 1% per week, but, instead, it has frozen up for the past... almost two weeks! Here, let's zoom in on this:
Test positivity rates for this week aren't final yet, but preliminary data shows they're stable, maybe going down a little. We're not yet streets ahead, but neither are we streets behind.
Back to bad news: hospitalizations are going up. This data is current as of yesterday at 4 PM:
...but this is to be expected. Cases went up for weeks. Hospitalizations go up a week or two after cases go up, and deaths go up a week or two after hospitalizations go up. If cases remain stable or start to decline, then I would expect hospitalizations to do the same in a week or two... and, happily, we have plenty of hospital bed capacity at this point, because our second wave is nowhere near the Red Zone.
Wait, did I say that deaths go up a week or two after hospitalizations go up? Am I sure about that?
Last week, I thought the jump in non-LTC deaths was the leading edge of the expected increase in death toll after a month of increasing cases. So far, that hasn't panned out. Indeed, as you can see, the non-LTC death toll jumped down this week just as aggressively as it jumped up last week.
Can we thank Gov. Walz's new mask mandate for this? Absolutely not. I think a mask mandate is probably good, but the mandate was imposed on July 25th. We don't even have full data from July 25th yet. Even if it were immediately adopted perfectly by everyone, the mask mandate would take a few weeks to have any visible effect on our numbers. (Besides, remember, we still don't know how effective cloth face coverings really are, so I'm not getting my hopes up.)
A slightly more promising explanation for this week's covid stall-out is an increase in social distancing statewide. We're still waiting for complete data, and it may not pan out... but there was an apparently spontaneous increase in Minnesotan social distancing (in terms of miles traveled per day) starting 4th of July weekend. The timing is just about right to explain a slowdown today. My reservation is that it's not a very big increase, nor do I see it in other data, but I'll keep tabs.
So covid growth stalled this week. Why? Not clear. Hopefully it keeps doing that, though.
IN CLOSING, SOME OTHER NUMBERS:
Average week-over-week growth in est. cases, June 25th-July 1st: 32%
Average week-over-week growth in estimated cases, July 2-8th: 31%
Average week-over-week growth in estimated cases, July 9-15th: 32%
Average week-over-week growth in estimated cases, July 16th-22nd: 14%
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 weeks 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.
UPDATE 13 August 2020: This post originally posted the week-over-week growth rates incorrectly. Instead of 32%, 31%, etc., the post said case growth was 132%, 131%, etc.. This incorrectly implied that cases were more than doubling every week! Cases in the last week of June were indeed 132% the size of the cases the week before, on average... but that means they only actually grew by 32%. Sorry. Dumb error.