2020 COVID Close Out #1

How quickly did states adapt to COVID & sustain measures?

For my own benefit, and to properly chronicle the state of the COVID pandemic, I’m going to create a couple of posts focused on the progression of COVID over 2020. At a future point, I’d like to think I’d write a book for the benefit of future generations. Collectively we’ve all forgotten the historical lessons of 1918 – and we simply can’t allow that to happen for this pandemic,

This post is focused on how quickly each state responded to the COVID threat and enacted controls to reduce transmission and deaths. To do that I created a few simple measures.

Measure 1: what percentage of deaths does the 1st half of the year account for. A high number indicates that, after the initial surge of the pandemic in April, states quickly enacted controls and thereafter the deaths were relatively contained.

Measure 2: what percentage of deaths does Q4 account for. A high number indicates that these states did not take adequate measures to prevent the spread.

Measure 3: what percentage of deaths occurred in December. A refinement on #2 to indicate those states that are now largely out of control.

The premise is simple. We know we can prevent the spread of COVID with some simple measures. My own view is that many of the deaths since June 30th could have been prevented if social distancing measures were taken seriously and effectively. We’ll see that in subsequent posts when I dive into the data. But for now here are the data sets.

Measure 1: States which experienced deaths early

No surprises with State #1. NY experienced the highest levels of deaths in the early stages of the pandemic. Monthly deaths peaked at 21,687 in April. Controls were quickly enacted and strong leadership, combined with the will of the people kept a lid on COVID for most of the rest of the year. As a result Q4 deaths were only 13% of the yearly total.

Its the same story formost of the North Eastern States. Those very badly hit seemed to have the best containment efforts.

Let’s look at the last entry on the ‘good’ list. Louisana got hit with Mardi Gras and had 1665 deaths in April. It then reopened too early and got hit with 1,001 deaths in August. That said, post summer it kept a reasonable lid on things – although December again recorded just over 1,000 deaths. It seems that Louisiana just doesn’t like to be left our of the COVID party. That said – its not the worst performer as we’ll see.

Measure 2: What percentage of deaths does Q4 account for?

Now we start to get into the list of ‘bad boys’. Those states that effectively, and simply, let it rip. For this list we really have to wonder what the point of early lock downs was. There’s virtually no effort to effectively contain the virus. The result, far too many preventable deaths. In case I’m not being direct enough – I’m appauled!

States with more than 50% of 2020’s deaths in Q4

What’s truly shocking about many of these states is that they were so far away from the initial outbreak and early deaths. Take a look at Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota. Their level of deaths in the 1st half of the year is less than 10% of their total deaths for the year.

South Dakota’s turning point was in August when cases doubled from the prior month. September doubled that (approximately) and October more than doubled that. You can see some of my posts related to South Dakota and North Dakota. A complete and total failure of leadership, and the will of the people to contain COVID.

But, not to dwell on South Dakota alone, every one of the states on this list has shown a poor ability to contain the virus.

Measure 3: What percentage of deaths occurred in December?

Honestly I had a really hard time limiting this table to the states listed here. My cut off was 30%. All of these states recorded 30% of their total deaths for 2020 in the SINGLE MONTH of DECEMBER. Think about how tragic and, at the same time, avoidable that was.

Lets take my home state as an example. Tennessee had 2,300 deaths in December alone. That was almost double the number of November. 65% of the deaths in the year occured from July 1st. The peak daily deaths date for TN was December 17th – when 173 people died. Think about that for a second… NY’s peak daily death date was April 7th.

TN’s peak death date was 254 days after that of NY.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on my home state. Lets look at the state with the highest number of deaths on this list in December:

Pennsylvania.

How on earth does Pennsylvania record 5,581 deaths in December alone? That’s more than double their prior peak level of monthly deaths in May 2020.

South Dakota – Getting Less Bad? Herd Immunity anyone?

Did you spot South Dakota’s improvement in table 3? South Dakota had fully 85% of all deaths in Q4 – but only 36% of the deaths for the year were in December. Cases actually fell in December. However before I give any credit here I’d like to explore the notion as to whether South Dakota has achieved herd immunity?

Population 870,000. Fully 100,000 people have been confirmed tested positive by year end. But we know that large numbers of people quite likely have been asymptomatic spreaders. So in all likelihood the actual number of people infected could be 3 or 4 x that number. At this point that could well mean that over 50% of the people in South Dakota have had the virus… so maybe that’s driving the reduction in new cases.

So is the December dip in cases due to good management or good response from the people, or simply potentially emerging herd immunity. I’m going with the latter.

Conclusion: 2020 COVID Adaptability

All of the states listed in Table 1 – get good results for adaptability and sustainability of control measures. Mostly the North East States, plus Louisiana

All of the states listed in Table 3 – get the worst results possible for adapatability and sustainability for COVID measures. Its likely the case that the initial lock down was essentially wasted.

What about California?

I really wanted to heap praise on the California Governor who in my view has done a great job getting in front of COVID with ‘on point’ messaging and the courage to take tough decisions early. Unfortunately California falls between the gaps of these analytical views. Its not good enough to be on the good list; but also not bad enough to be on the bad list. For that, though, it still deserves an honorable mention. In my view its the people, not the leadership that’s the problem – and there’s no doubt an explosion of cases and deaths during the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas

What are your conclusions on 2020?

More insights to come from me soon! Stay safe and wear a mask!

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