Is COVID-19 Peaking in the US?

Published by Scott Duncan on April 15, 2020

In my last blog on April 1st, I projected that the Daily New Cases in the US would peak around April 11th at about 40,000 cases. I am glad to say that looks to have been pessimistic.  The latest data shows a peak on April 10th at 35,098 new cases. The worst hit state, New York, looks to have peaked on April 8th at 11,186 new cases.

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* Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Operations Dashboard data

Figure 1: US Daily New Cases for COVID-19: March 15th to April 13th 2020

HOWEVER, we’ve only had 3 days of improvement so far, and there is no guarantee that there won’t be a relapse.  For example, on April 4th the US had 33,267 new cases followed by five days of lower numbers, but that proved to be a false peak.  This could also be a false peak due to less testing over the weekend, etc.  Certainly, we are still a long way from the sustained controlled levels seen in other countries such as China, Australia, South Korea & Austria, all below 100 daily new cases. If we ‘fall’ as quickly as we ‘rose’, we are still 4 to 6 weeks from that controlled, stable level. Also, because the US is really 50 different states with different governors, other parts of the country could still grow dramatically like New York did. So, how about the rest of the US?  Focusing on the states with the largest number of cases, it is clear that some of them have turned the corner.  In particular, New Jersey, Michigan, Louisiana & California all appear to have peaked more than a week ago:

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Figure 2: Smoothed Daily New Cases for COVID-19 in 4 states: Mar 15th to April 13th 2020

For many others, particularly Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas, it is too early to tell:

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* Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Operations Dashboard data

Figure 3: Smoothed Daily New Cases for COVID-19 in six states: Mar 15th to April 13th 2020

I am cautiously optimistic that we are on the back side of the curve, but it really is too early to tell. And, if we relax our guard before we have good safeguards in place (a vaccine, or wide-spread testing), COVID-19 will bounce right back. We will need to keep up some level of vigilance for quite a while still.

Finally, a follow-up comment on my first blog about mortality numbers.  I mentioned in that blog in March 29th that the US Mortality Ratio (Deaths/Diagnosed Cases) was about 1.6%, but certain to climb to about 4.4% simply because Deaths lag Diagnosis by a week or two. Since then, the Mortality Ratio for the US has risen to 3.9% and does indeed look to be headed towards 4.4% or so.  It is also important to understand that ‘hitting the peak’ on the growth curve simply means we are maybe half-way done; for China, 70% of their cases occurred after their peak. On April 10th the total cases in the US was about 500,000 and 20,000 deaths. Today we are at 600,000 cases and 25,000 deaths. It is very likely that we will reach 1 million cases and 45,000 deaths before the end of May.  I hope I’m wrong.

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