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Today we’ll look at three Southern states that opened around the same time and compare how they are doing.

Re-Opening

Tennessee is now 17 days into re-opening, as is Texas. Georgia got the jump on us and began their re-opening on April 24th, a week earlier. Of those three states, Texas probably had the most conservative plan, Tennessee right behind it, while Georgia’s plan was… ambitious.

So, this far in what does the data say?

We’re going to start with one giant caveat, in many ways a post like this ought to way until a full three or four week have passed to make judgements. However, our belief is that in each of these three states the data is consistent enough in its trends to start making calls, even if its early.

[Edit: 5/18/20] A thoughtful reader (thanks Rob!) points out the charts below could be misread. To be clear, even though we have highlighted the entire opening period, only the most few recent days would have cases that began during the re-opening period.

Tennessee Re-Opens

Tennessee began a trend up at the beginning of the re-opening period, on that cannot be attributed to re-opening and is most likely from targeted testing that began at correctional facilities. Last week’s bump is attributable to the same thing.

Overall, it’s remarkably unremarkable. We are, essentially holding stead since mid-April in community cases. Our testing remains high enough that we are testing roughly twice the target. And even as we target populations where we expect to see more cases (prisons, nursing homes) the testing ratio remains great.

Source: Data from the COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

The cases that we do have remain around Nashville and Memphis. This map, which you won’t find elsewhere, shows cases for just the last 2 weeks by county in Tennessee. The one part that isn’t clear is that Davidson and Shelbyville are much higher than the surrounding counties, even though they come out in similar colors.

Source: Data from TN Department of Health; Map by JM Addington

This map matters because if you look at total cases, ever, then much more of the state looks awful.

For the local situation we are going to introduce another new chart, new cases by county by day. And in short, the Knox County region is just steady. We peaked in mid-April but just never had an awful spike. In fact, in the last 7 days Knox County has only seen a new of 28 new cases.

Source: Data from TN Department of Health; Chart by JM Addington

To prognosticate: we don’t believe that anywhere in the US can or will see a caseload lower than Knox County’s for any sustained period while COVID-19 is still circulating widely. We really think that this is as good as it gets.

So, Tennessee seems to be doing really well on re-opening.

Georgia Re-Opens

Until Wisconsin threw out their entire stay-at-home order and filled up the bars in a single night Georgia really held the title of most ambitious re-opening plan. Candidly, even “plan” seems like too kind of a word to use. So, how has Georgia done, with a one week head start?

Quite well. Like Tennessee, Georgia shows stability more than anything. not a sharp decrease but no explosive outbreak here either. Their testing continues to ramp up and Georgia also does about twice as many tests as is targeted. Note that their new cases per day is roughly double Tennessee’s.

Source: Data from the COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

Their primary outbreak is constrained to a single geography: around Atlanta, with 36% of all cases:

Source: Georgia Department of Public Health

Those five counties are also showing a decrease in cases over the last two weeks. Incredibly, that decrease becomes much more pronounced the longer Georgia has been opened up.

Source: Georgia Department of Public Health

Georgia has been critiqued for having data lags that last up to a couple of weeks, so it is possible that we’ll see the data for early May change. However, the data we have now shows that Georgia also is opening up alright.

Texas Reopens

So, the South is two for two so far, what about Texas? Their stay at home order expired the same date as Tennessee’s and their business capacity was held to 25%, half of Tennessee’s. Although Texas also allowed for some more industries to re-open.

Texas is where the successful re-opening story goes to die. They went from a downward trend in Late April to an uptick in new cases that began at least a week before opening up even took place, and that hasn’t abated since. Their new cases per day (average) are roughly triple Tennessee’s (with about 4x the population). And this is even though Texas is also testing about double the testing target.

Source: Data from the COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

Not shown are deaths, which are ticking up in Texas since last April as well. If there is a mitigating factor is it that Texas has nearly 30 million people. Also, to keep things in perspective their peak is still over 30% lower than New York’s lowest point post-peak, and New York state has less than two thirds as many people.

It’s possible that there are specific factors driving the outbreak that we’re unaware of — we haven’t been tracking Texas at JM Addington — but regardless it’s clear that they are having a tougher time of it than Tennessee & Georgia.

What does this mean more broadly?

  1. There is not a single narrative that explains how the US is handling COVID-19. We’re declining at a nation, with some states holding steady of quickly declining while others move the opposite direction. New York’s best day is still worse than most state’s worst day.
  2. Opening up has more than one potential outcome: A lot of us are looking at Wisconsin now after their supreme court struck down the statewide stay-at-home order and Wisconsinites quickly filled the bars. However, from our brief analysis here it’s clear that doesn’t determine which was Wisconsin will swing.
  3. There is more we don’t know than what we do know: it’s hard to lay claim to victory where things are going well when it’s not clear what causes them to go so well in one place and move in the opposite direction in another.

By the way, if you want to see the same graphs for your state click here, we pull nearly all of our own visuals from this report. Typically updated at the same time the evening’s post goes up.

Here are GA new cases from about a month ago.

Also, you can do it on your phone but it is much easier to navigate on a bigger screen.

These posts helpful?

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Thanks to those that have shared kind words or liked these posts. We’re doing out best to put out data-driven analysis, each one of these takes about 2 hours. It’s helpful to know that they are being read.

If you want copies of the Excel sheet and PowerBI Reports we use to put these together email us, info@jmaddington.com. Right now, our PowerBI combines data from NYT, COVID Tracking Project, IMHE and the TN Department of Health. Most sets are updated daily

Today we will hit the numbers, briefly, they look the same as yesterday. We will hit the same core numbers for GA that we hit for Tennessee, today. Then we’re going to hit a scattershot of news items.

Numbers

The US as a whole is just flat. The US positivity rate dropped, a sign that, maybe, national testing capacity is going to where it needs to be.

Click on any image to see it larger.

US COVID-19 Cases and 7 Day Rolling Average, April 22nd, 2020 by JM Addington Technology Solutions
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington
US COVID-19 7-Day Average Positivity Rate, April 22nd, 2020 by JM Addington Technology Solutions
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

To add some subtly to this data, if we take out NY & NJ where we are probably post-peak the US new cases are going up and new deaths are mostly up, not peaked. Without digging in too far, it looks like MA, CA, IL, PA & CT are pushing up the cases. CA, CT, IL, MA, PA and LA are pushing up on deaths.

US 7-Day Averages of New COVID-19 Deaths and Cases by Day
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington
US 7-Day Averages of New COVID-19 Deaths and Cases by Day without NY & NJ
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

Tennessee continues to look a lot like the US a whole, more flat than really down. We make up such a small sliver of deaths that you can’t find us on the last chart.

You’ll see a spike in cases today (and corresponding the positivity rate), Dr. Piercy indicated that this was expected and a result of testing a correctional facility.

TN New Cases

TN COVID-19 Cases and 7 Day Rolling Average, April 22nd, 2020 by JM Addington Technology Solutions
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

TN Positivity Rate (about 7%)

TN COVID-19 Positivity Rate, April 21st, 2020 by JM Addington Technology Solutions
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

Deaths by State

April 22nd, Total US Daeths of COVID-19 by State; Chart by JM Addington Technology Solutions
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

Georgia looks a lot different than Tennessee. New cases are barely down from the peak and currently headed up. Deaths are sharply up since cases peak, and the positivity rate is over 20%. We haven’t been following GA closely or watching their briefings so maybe there are great reasons for all of this. This is why you see polite scientists puzzled over GA opening up in two days and rude ones incredulous.

The opening plan is also quite different than Tennessee’s.

Gyms, nail salons, bowling alleys, hair solans, tattoo parlors. It feels like they collected a list of the businesses that were most risky and opened those first.

Dr. Scott Gottleib, co-author of AEI paper on opening up US

So what? The national media don’t always report on Tennessee and Georgia differently; it is important that regionally we understand the stark differences in the data and plans of each state. Additionally, if this goes poorly for Georgia it could affect neighboring states in the same way we see the New York outbreak affecting the entire New England region.

GA New Cases

GA COVID-19 Cases and 7 Day Rolling Average, April 22nd, 2020 by JM Addington Technology Solutions
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

GA Positivity Rate (almost 20%)

GA COVID-19 7-Day Average Positivity Rate, April 22nd, 2020 by JM Addington Technology Solutions
Source: Data from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart by JM Addington

By the way, if you want to see the same graphs for your state click here, we pull nearly all of our own visuals from this report. Typically updated at the same time the evening’s post goes up.

Here are GA new cases.

Also, you can do it on your phone but it is much easier to navigate on a bigger screen.

The Knoxville area continues to see a slow growth in cases. That’s actually Anderson County pushing up the regional graph. Again, one day is not a trend.

Knox County total cases by day

Nine county cases by day.

April 22nd, 2020 COVID-19 cases for Anderson County, Blount County, Grainger County, Jefferson County, Knox County, Loudon County, Roane County, Scott County, Sevier County and Union County
Source: Data from the New York Times; Chart by JM Addington

National/International News

Today is a lot of small and important things.

A Boston physician wrote in The Washington Post about how it is nearly impossible to quarantine at home and not infect your family.

The SBA had a data breach and leaked data of at least 8,000 loan applicants. Typically, in the IT world, we see those estimates rise, not fall. Our director of operations got a text message on his personal cell purporting to be from the bank we got the EIDL processed at.

The IT industry has also seen a steep rise in COVID-19 scams: we personally know people that have lost nearly $2,000 in gift card scams. Typically, an spoofed acquaintance or supervisor texts or emails a friend or colleague and asks them to buy gifts at a retail store, scratch off the codes and send photos of the back of the cards. This is a scam every single time.

President Trump announced that National Parks will be re-opening. We hope that this means the Smokies are open again soon.

Tyson is closing its largest pork planet, in Waterloo, IA in response to an outbreak there. They will be closing a second pork plant in Indiana by end of week. A different Tyson plan in IA came back online after being shut down earlier this month.

We probably won’t keep reporting on meat plants every day. Like the state shuts down in late March we expect the biggest news to be when they get a handle on COVID-19, not when another one shuts down. And yes, expect shortages (pork, beef, then poultry) but not an apocalypse.

There are reports of COVID-19 causing blood clotting in patients, and strokes among people in their 30’s and 40’s. First, signs of a stroke are something you should always take seriously, COVID or no COVID. Second, don’t draw conclusions until the scientists have done so. The widespread nature of COVID-19 means that lots of other issues are going to naturally be present in the infected population.

The CDC director warned that a second wave of COVID-19 may be coming. We really dislike headlines with “may,” however, another leading scientist, Dr. Osterholm, made the same point on a webinar today. He cautioned that of the last ten pandemics, all of them had a second wave about six months after the first wave regardless of when they first were introduced.

Multiple sources are reporting that Santa Clara County in the Bay area had its first COVID-19 death on February 6th. This is a full 21 days earlier than what was though to be the earliest death from COVID-19. Given that death lags initial exposure by 2-3 weeks, COVID-19 may been circulating in the US mid January.

Knox County News

The Mayors of Knox County and each county that adjoins it held a press conference today to speak about opening up. The mayors of Knoxville and Faragutt were also in attendance. Only the Grainger County was missing, unable to attend.

Each mayor spoke off of the same set of talking points:

  • We can’t let social distancing
  • It’s time to get back to work
  • We support Governor Lee

Other than their work on presenting a unified front no news came out of the press conference.

“We are under no illusions COVID-19. It is here and is something we will have to deal with for the foreseeable future. We encourage everyone to adhere to the prescribed health guidelines and to act responsibly to keep yourselves, your loved ones, and your community healthy.”

Knox County Mayor Jacobs

“I basically just want to get up here and say ‘ditto.'”

Union County Mayor Jason Bailey
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs speaks at press conference on regionally opening-up

“We define that as prolong contact with a confirmed case. Or being less than six feet [apart] for more than ten minutes… Exposure is not just walking by someone in a grocery store or stopping by and staying 6 feet away and saying hello. That does not count as an exposure.”

Charity Menefee, Director, Communicable and Environmental Disease and Emergency Preparedness, Knox County

We would like to prioritize testing for people with COVID symptoms. Those are really people that have cough, fever, shortness of breath. They may have bodyaches, headaches, sore throat. They may have loss of taste or smell… we also want to talk about people who have been in close contact to confirmed cases of COVID-19 and healthcare workers.

Charity Menefee, Director, Communicable and Environmental Disease and Emergency Preparedness, Knox County

Likewise, the KCHD daily briefing had few new insights, other than a concise definition of exposure by Director Menefee.

KCHD has identified ZIP code 37915 as having the fewest tests by ZIP code in Knox County. We note that is it is mostly black, with a $12,000 per capita income. KCHD will be holding a free walk-in or drive through testing event Saturday, 10 AM – 2PM at The Colosium.

Yesterday the state announced a task force to focus on racial and ethnic discrepancies in health care in the face of COVID-19.

The Tennessee briefing, likewise, was light on new news. TDH will begin releasing numbers on cases and deaths in long term care facilities. Governor Lee took the first several minutes to go over how Tennessee stands in regards to the White House’s Gating Criteria.

We think it was great for Lee to address this directly. Our detailed post yesterday holds up well, with Lee adding some numbers to criterion #3 regarding hospitals.

Again, both Lee & Piercy talk about Tennessee’s slow growth rate of new cases which isn’t actually one of the criteria. However, as we noted on our live post on the topic, we don’t think that Dr. Piercy and Governor Lee are looking up the opening criteria on the White House website when they have a direct line to VP Pence. It’s not an issue that they chose to use a different criterion, it would be clearer if that just said as much.

Here is our live post on the briefing if you want more details, or watch it on YouTube here.

“For the past three weeks both flu like symptoms and COVID symptoms have steadily declined within the vast majority of our hospitals.”

Governor Lee, explaing that Tennessee clears criterion #1

“Over the last 19 days we have had a steady decline in the growth rate of new COVID-19 cases in Tennessee.”

Governor Lee, explaing that Tennessee clears a proxy value for criterion #2

“Here we look at the ability of our hospitals to both treat all patients without crisis care or relying on surge capacity. To date, we’ve had 775 of our 7840 hospitalized. Through these hospitalizations, we’ve kept a close watch on the capacity of every one of our hospitals and they continue to deliver on care without a change in their normal operations.”

Governor Lee, explaing that Tennessee clears criterion #3

Finally, a friend of mine posted a story her battle with COVID-19 on Facebook. Her case was not typical of someone her age. Neither is it uncommon.

It’s a long post, sharing some of my story. This may be difficult for some to read, so please hide this post if it’s too…

Posted by Lexie Goertzen on Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Get In Touch

Need help thinking this through? Access to more data? Help getting your technology in order to handle what’s here and what’s coming? Contact us today.

Other

Thanks to those that have shared kind words or liked these posts. We’re doing out best to put out data-driven analysis, each one of these takes about 2 hours. It’s helpful to know that they are being read.

If you want copies of the Excel sheet and PowerBI Reports we use to put these together email us, info@jmaddington.com. Right now, our PowerBI combines data from JHU, NYT, COVID Tracking Project, IMHE and the TN Department of Health. Most sets are updated daily.