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What Is the U.S.’s COVID-19 Color?

June 29, 2020 Coronavirus (Covid-19) No Comments Email Email

In the U.S., COVID-19 has reached a point where the states hardest-hit by the pandemic early in the outbreak are seeing dramatically reduced new cases, while some other states have experienced recent huge increases.  Overall, the result is that we saw a new cases peak about eight weeks ago, then a slight decline, then a sudden increase in the last couple of weeks.  Underlying that pattern was a strong regional distinction – the states clobbered first were all in the Northeast and the industrial Midwest, and the most significant recent increases are states in the South and the Southwest.  So where are we going from here?

To appreciate that question, let’s compare the U.S.’s progression of new cases to ten other countries.  Some of these countries were among the countries seeing the highest growth early in the pandemic, and others were late to the party but are making up for lost time.  To get a complete look at North America, we’ll include Mexico and Canada.

Below is a graph of how new cases have progressed in the U.S. and those ten countries.  Real life can be messy, so we’ll use color-coding to make the graph easier to read.  The countries hit earliest are shown in blue, and the more recent entries are shown in red.  The U.S.’s curve is of course red, white, and blue:

The color-coding makes it much easier to distinguish the pandemic’s progress between blue countries and the red countries.  Now, ask yourself two questions:

  1. When it comes to COVID-19, would you rather be a blue country or a red country right now?
  2. As you look out several weeks, what do you think the U.S.’s curve will look like?

In a country like the U.S., how the individual states respond makes a huge difference.  Will those responses turn us into a blue country or a red country?

Here’s another version of the above graph, with Chile instead of Sweden, so the vertical axis scale has to be different.  The advantage of adding Chile is that it shows that even the country with the highest rate that any country has seen can start seeing declines in the rate of new cases – which we haven’t seen yet.  The advantage of excluding Chile is that the rest of the countries have graphs spread out over a larger vertical space, so they’re a little easier to distinguish.  Plus, Sweden is better known as a COVID-19 victim than Chile – at least for now.  Either one could make sense:

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