The Data Went Down to Georgia …

For anyone seriously trying to figure out what is going on with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still hard to get a handle on what is going on.  It’s clearly not at the “people dropping dead in the streets” stage, and given what we know about the disease isn’t likely to get that bad.  But it also continues to do a slow burn through the population, and in many states like Georgia the trends are hard to figure out.

The testing data is still a mess.  Maybe someone has better data sets (although there was a scandal over one of the commercial data sets, so I have my doubts), but from what I have seen various types of tests are being convolved, and the wide range of accuracy/sensitivity between tests on the market means even when tests are grouped appropriately (viral vs antibody), there is a lot of noise.  Reported deaths are still subject to state-by-state (and even county-by-county) criteria differences.  I can’t rant enough that our public health reporting system in the US is just broken.  Individual practitioners are, of course, trying to do their best for individual patients; but the data when aggregated it seems inconsistent so we don’t really know what is going on with the required degree of certainty.

It does seem that the virus continues to spread in Georgia.  The hospitalization trends appear slightly upward this week after a solid downward trend over the previous two or three weeks …

If you break it down by day of week (there is a clear bias in reporting and operations on the weekends), the trend is consistent in that every day the last week the totals were higher than one week prior.  Reported positive viral tests, normalized for testing penetration, are also at ratios similar to early May.  But that’s not really all that much of a “trend”.  Hospitalization rates for those testing positive, along with serious complication rates and mortality rates, appears to be consistent.  I could deluge you with plots and analysis (including a really cool set of linear algebra equations looking at the hospitalization data), but the short version is within the noise levels, it looks like it’s not better, but it’s not getting rapidly worse, either.

So what does it all mean?  Well, it looks like the reopening hasn’t cause a distinct spike in cases or complications.  How much of that is due to the virus not being as deadly for the general population as feared, and now much of that is due to the fact lots of people are paranoid and still taking precautions, is unknown.  In any event, the guidance really hasn’t changed that much, so continue to use good hand hygiene (even though it increasingly looks like surface spread isn’t a major transmission mode with this thing), use masks, and just stay home if you don’t feel good.  If you are in the vulnerable population (over 65, health issues), be paranoid and isolate to the degree you can.  Wish it was better news.  But at least it’s not worse news.  If you want that, we can talk about the economy. Or social unrest.  Or … politics (shudder)?

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