Here is the update through yesterday (March 23)
In order to succeed in containing the pandemic, I believe that the US needs 2 weeks of China (nearly complete lockdown) followed by at least a month of South Korea (very aggressive and widespread testing). At minimum, that means at least 50% of the US population under lockdown and a ratio of 15:1 in tests to results showing infection. The recent exponential growth of about 35% per day must be stopped. Those three most important metrics are starred (***) below.
Number and rate of increase of Reported Infections (from Johns Hopkins via arcgis.com)
- Number: up +11,226 to 46,450 (vs. +8,477 on March 23)
- ***Rate of increase: day/day: 32% (vs. 34.6% baseline and vs. 32% on March 22)
I am using Jim Bianco’s excellent exponential projection of 34.5% growth from March 10 as my baseline. Hopefully “social distancing” strategies as well as State-mandated partial and total lockdowns will begin to put a dent in this by the end of this week; the deceleration to 32% d/d for the past 2 days may mark the beginning of this.
- Number: 65,840, up +21,772 vs. March 23 day/day
- Rate: increase of 49% vs. number of tests previous day
Comparison of rates of increase in documented infections vs. testing
- Infections +32% vs. Tests +49% day/day
Result: for the first time, testing has increased at a faster rate than infections. Testing is beginning to catch up.
Ratio of tests to positives for infection (from COVID Tracking Project)
- Number: 65,840 new tests vs. 10,296 new diagnosed infections
- ***Ratio: 6.4:1
In South Korea, where aggressive testing has led to a near-total disappearance of new cases, the inflection point where the number of new daily cases plateaued was reached when the ratio of tests to new cases found reached 15:1. Any ratio less than that suggests that not enough testing is being done. Yesterday’s ratio of 6.4:1 is poor. We remain way behind in the number of tests we are administering.
Number of States (+DC and Puerto Rico) in total lockdown, business lockdown, and partial restrictions
- Total lockdown (personal + business): 16 (CA, CT, DE, IL, IN, LA, NM, MC, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PR, WA, WI, WV)
- Business lockdown: 4 (MA, MD, NV, PA)
- Partial restrictions on business: 15 (CO, DC, FL, GA, HI, IA, KY, ME, MN, NH, NC, RI, SC, VA, VT)
- School closure only: 13 (AK, AL, AZ, AR, KS, MI, MO, ND, OK, SD, TN, UT, WY)
- No mandatory restrictions: 4 (ID, MI, NE, TX)
Almost all of the States with no restrictions or only school closures are “red” States, and mainly rural with the notable exceptions of Texas, Florida, and Tennessee. These States will learn the hard way about the meaning of “exponential growth.”
Number and percent of US population in total lockdown, business lockdown, and partial restrictions
- ***Total lockdown: 134.0 million, 40.4%
- ***Business lockdown: 28.8 million, 8.7%
- Partial restrictions on business (bars, restaurants): 83.6 million, 25.2%
- School closure only: 39.2 million, 11.8%
- No mandatory restrictions: 38.8 million, 11.7%
In the past 48 hours, there has been a decisive move towards business and total lockdowns, as 11 States join the list (local jurisdictions in Tennessee and Texas, including Nashville, Dallas, Houston, and Austin do have lockdowns). Even so, less than half the population is on total lockdown, and even in those States I am not sure how inbound travel by air, ship, train, or vehicle is being controlled. AT MINIMUM, I think we need at least half of the total US population under almost total lockdown to have a chance of following China’s successful strategy for beating back the pandemic.
Bottom line: as of March 23, a lot of progress has been made on the State level, as well as the number of tests administered. The first benefits of “social distancing” may be beginning to show up. But it is still not enough. More States need to follow suit with lockdowns, well over 100,000 tests a day need to be administered. Those States which have gone to lockdowns need to cooperate regionally in quarantining incoming visitors.