Here are 5 images that show why the COVID-19 picture seems to be looking better, but why most public health officials still see the pandemic as a serious threat...

1. The CDC relies partly on data for all 'flu-like' illnesses to track COVID-19. In late March, doctors' offices and urgent care clinics all over the country were reporting moderate or severe levels of activity.

2. By the week ending April 25, most states were a bright, healthy green, meaning that they had low levels of flu-like illnesses in doctor's offices and outpatient clinics.

3. The latest map, for the week ending May 2, shows even more healthy green states. But Wisconsin is stuck on orange, and activity levels rose in Minnesota and Vermont.

4. This chart shows that the percentage all deaths caused by COVID-like illnesses started to soar in March. The percentage has fallen but is still at epidemic levels.

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5. This chart, for New York City, shows what COVID-19 does when it spreads: it pushed the ratio of actual deaths expected to 265% in late March, and almost 700% in early April.

The new government COVID-19 tracking report shows that most states are now a nice, healthy green.

That means their doctors’ offices, urgent care clinics and emergency rooms are handling few patients with COVID-19, or anything that looks like COVID-19.

But many of the people who were getting sick a few weeks ago are still in the hospital, and some of those people are dying.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put the numbers in the latest edition of its weekly COVIDView newsletter. The CDC includes many maps, tables and charts in the newsletter.

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Because testing for a new viral disease is difficult, the CDC bases much of the newsletter on reports on all kinds of conditions that look like COVID-19, including influenza and pneumonia.

The map appears to show that number of new cases of COVID-19 and of COVID-19 look-alike illnesses is falling in most of the country, other than Minnesota, Wisconsin and Vermont.

Although COVID-19 and COVID-19 look-alike illnesses continue to cause a very high percentage of all U.S. deaths, the percentage is falling back closer to normal epidemic levels.

But a look at the weekly statistics for New York City shows why public health officials continue to see severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) — the virus that causes COVID-19  — as a formidable foe: In New York City, it caused the number of deaths per week to rise to almost three times the expected level for the week ending March 28, and almost seven times the expected level for the week ending April 11.

The CDC bases the “expected levels” on the average number of deaths for the comparable weeks in the year in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The ratio of actual deaths to expected deaths seems to have started falling in New York City in the week ending April 18, but it was still over 300% for the week ending April 25, which is the most recent week for which the CDC has reasonably complete state-level data.

The extremely high number of deaths in an especially hard-hit area may explain some of the delays in life insurance claim filing that some life insurers have been talking about in their first-quarter earnings calls.

New York City is the only city with its own line in the CDC’s provisional mortality tables.

Massachusetts and New Jersey are the two states with the highest ratios of actual to expected deaths. In both states, the number of deaths per week is about twice as high as the expected level.

One common question about the data is what effect efforts to ease shelter-in-place restrictions might have on the number of new infections.

Another is question is  how complete and accurate the numbers are, given the difficulties with testing, and the pressures jurisdictions may have to report positive rates that are higher and lower than they really are.

Executives at Voya Financial Inc.have said that they might be seeing a noticeable lag in the filing of COVID-19-related life insurance claims.

 

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Deaths by Week

Week  Ending Date COVID-19 Deaths Pneumonia Deaths Flu Deaths Pneumonia, Flu, and COVID-19 Deaths Total Deaths Percent of Expected Deaths
Feb. 1 0 3,700 471 4,171 57,444 97%
Feb. 8 1 3,686 499 4,186 57,766 97%
Feb. 15 0 3,710 521 4,231 57,077 97%
Feb. 22 1 3,573 541 4,115 57,041 98%
Feb. 29 7 3,663 623 4,288 57,252 99%
March 7 29 3,766 594 4,372 56,850 98%
March 14 50 3,726 590 4,340 54,895 96%
March 21 504 4,229 504 5,001 54,997 97%
March 28 2,771 5,722 416 7,596 58,379 104%
April 4 8,437 8,994 441 13,614 65,937 118%
April 11 13,261 10,539 444 18,005 70,404 127%
April 18 12,556 9,105 234 16,341 64,003 118%
April 25 7,875 6,106 116 10,706 49,968 92%
May 2 1,636 1,936 25 2,949 25,168 39%
Total 45,492 70,519 5,994 100,966 762,013 103%

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Deaths by State* (Week ending April 25)

State COVID Deaths Pneumonia Deaths Total Deaths Percent of Expected Deaths
Alabama 28 48 731 73%
Arizona 46 80 1,077 92%
Arkansas 11 29 500 85%
California 274 458 4,681 91%
Colorado 137 108 873 118%
Delaware 24 13 131 35%
District of Columbia 20 25 107 84%
Florida 204 317 3,910 98%
Georgia 78 91 1,109 67%
Idaho 11 15 242 93%
Illinois 333 282 2,348 117%
Indiana 160 179 1,221 98%
Iowa 38 34 463 80%
Kansas 12 35 482 100%
Kentucky 34 65 573 61%
Louisiana 94 69 605 67%
Maine 17 16 278 94%
Maryland 281 155 1,277 136%
Massachusetts 892 436 2,102 189%
Michigan 357 273 2,040 109%
Minnesota 108 85 869 105%
Mississippi 39 60 606 102%
Missouri 46 72 915 75%
Nebraska 0 12 185 59%
Nevada 39 52 413 80%
New Hampshire 17 30 267 108%
New Jersey 921 636 2,589 190%
New Mexico 22 20 228 64%
New York 1,003 676 2,986 157%
New York City 1,797 791 3,126 317%
Ohio 68 93 1,451 63%
Oklahoma 15 33 496 67%
Oregon 13 22 433 62%
Pennsylvania 403 213 1,696 66%
Rhode Island 13 * 66 33%
South Carolina 22 52 718 78%
Tennessee 10 80 1,169 80%
Texas 63 177 2,756 73%
Utah 13 16 391 110%
Vermont 11 * 117 103%
Virginia 117 94 1,317 103%
Washington 35 59 912 88%
Wisconsin 36 48 892 89%
United States 7,875 6,106 49,968 92%
* This table leaves out some rows that appear to contain especially incomplete data.

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Deaths by Week in New York City

Week, Ending Date COVID-19 Deaths Pneumonia Deaths Flu Deaths Pneumonia, Influenza, and COVID-19 Deaths Total Deaths Percent of Expected Deaths
Feb. 1 0 95 19 114 1,168 102%
Feb. 8 0 95 18 113 1,169 97%
Feb. 15 0 86 13 99 1,130 99%
Feb. 22 0 75 * 84 1,092 101%
Feb. 29 0 83 * 89 1,105 101%
Marc h 7 0 92 * 100 1,111 101%
March 14 * 103 * 112 1,124 103%
March 21 112 153 14 240 1,390 133%
March 28 875 584 45 1,134 2,725 265%
April 4 2,828 1,649 208 3,303 5,878 571%
April 11 4,175 1,929 320 4,591 7,302 685%
April 18 3,172 1,265 162 3,351 5,134 505%
April 25 1,797 791 72 1,926 3,126 317%
May 2 456 217 * 507 1,259 105%
TOTAL 13,415 7,217 871 15,763 34,713 235%

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