The CDC uses 'influenza-like illness' activity to track what's happening with COVID-19 and similar-looking illnesses in doctors' offices. Here's how the latest map looks, and...

...here's last week's map.

Doctors’ offices, urgent care centers and emergency rooms seem to be seeing few new COVID-19-like illnesses in most states — but Wisconsin looks worse, and what’s happening in Idaho is a mystery.

That’s the picture public health specialists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are giving in their new “influenza-like illness” activity map for the week ending May 23, based on reports received up through today.

The CDC’s latest influenza-like illness activity map shows that most states are at the healthiest, darkest green level of activity.

But Wisconsin has moved one rung up the CDC’s color scale, to a high level of activity, from a moderately high level of activity for the week ending May 16.

The CDC showed Idaho moving up to a yellow, moderate level of activity for the week ending May 16. For the week ending May 23, the CDC colored Idaho white on the activity map. That means the CDC has no new activity data for Idaho.

The CDC uses reports on influenza-like illness activity to track the intensity of outbreaks of COVID-19, and other, similar illnesses, because it knows that doctors treat many patients with influenza-like illnesses without bothering to test them, and because doctors may have little or no access to reliable tests for unusual diseases, or for new diseases, like COVID-19.

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The statistics on cases of influenza-like illness activity “out in the community” come from primary care providers and other providers out in the community.

Some activists have suggested that state public health agencies or other agencies could be manipulating data to ease reopening efforts.

Another factor affecting completeness and accuracy of data reporting could be people going on vacation for Memorial Day.

CDC officials themselves say, in introductory notes, that still another factor affecting the data is changes in the way people are getting care during the COVID-19 crisis. Some people may be using telemedicine providers, and they may be less likely to go to doctors’ offices and other community-based providers for what appear to be relatively minor illnesses.

The CDC is also providing on deaths attributed to COVID-19, and on deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza-like illnesses, and all causes, for comparison purposes.

Because may people with COVID-19 spend weeks in the hospital before dying, many of the deaths reported now may represent infections contracted in April, or earlier, rather than the current spread of severe acquired respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19.

The CDC preliminary death statistics for the weeks ending May 16 and May 23 show that COVID-19, and similar illnesses, appear to be causing a lower percentage of all deaths in the United States than in earlier weeks.

The death statistics for a given week take at least a month to firm up. But early indicators are that the percentage of all deaths caused by COVID-19 and similar-looking illnesses may still be a lot lower in Idaho and Wisconsin than in the country as a whole, in spite of the high level of community-level illness activity in Idaho and Wisconsin. That could be a sign that people in Idaho and Wisconsin are more likely to seek care for mild cases of COVID-19, or that some other factor is throwing off comparisons. Or, it could be a sign that the outbreak is heating up in Idaho and Wisconsin, and that the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths in those states is on track to increase in coming weeks.

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COVID-19 and COVID-19-Like Illness Snapshot (for the week ending May 23)

United States

Week ending COVID-19 Deaths Pneumonia Deaths Pneumonia, Influenza, or COVID-19 Deaths Total Deaths Total Deaths as a Percent of Expected Deaths COVID-19 Deaths As a Percentage of Total Deaths Pneumonia, Influenza and COVID-19 Deaths As a Percentage of Total Death
2/1/2020 0 3,721 4,196 57,632 97% 0% 7%
2/8/2020 1 3,716 4,228 58,283 98% 0% 7%
2/15/2020 0 3,750 4,293 57,623 98% 0% 7%
2/22/2020 2 3,619 4,175 57,699 99% 0% 7%
2/29/2020 5 3,740 4,373 58,038 101% 0% 8%
3/7/2020 32 3,835 4,465 57,850 100% 0% 8%
3/14/2020 51 3,833 4,458 56,646 99% 0% 8%
3/21/2020 540 4,380 5,201 57,120 101% 1% 9%
3/28/2020 3,000 5,939 7,967 60,845 109% 5% 13%
4/4/2020 9,362 9,440 14,541 69,037 124% 14% 21%
4/11/2020 15,347 11,383 19,971 74,632 135% 21% 27%
4/18/2020 15,787 10,555 19,637 71,292 132% 22% 28%
4/25/2020 13,208 9,129 16,672 66,480 124% 20% 25%
5/2/2020 10,327 7,490 13,398 60,483 112% 17% 22%
5/9/2020 8,930 6,368 11,548 55,698 105% 16% 21%
5/16/2020 5,370 4,195 7,370 44,208 84% 12% 17%
5/23/2020 1,180 1,386 2,114 20,987 40% 6% 10%

Idaho

Week ending COVID-19 Deaths Pneumonia Deaths Pneumonia, Influenza, or COVID-19 Deaths Total Deaths Total Deaths as a Percent of Expected Deaths COVID-19 Deaths As a Percentage of Total Deaths Pneumonia, Influenza and COVID-19 Deaths As a Percentage of Total Death
2/1/2020 0 11 12 249 88% 0% 5%
2/8/2020 0 18 20 293 104% 0% 7%
2/15/2020 0 11 12 279 89% 0% 4%
2/22/2020 0 17 21 318 110% 0% 7%
2/29/2020 0 17 20 289 99% 0% 7%
3/7/2020 0 17 20 278 96% 0% 7%
3/14/2020 0 18 21 284 104% 0% 7%
3/21/2020 0 22 26 308 103% 0% 8%
3/28/2020 NA 14 20 332 127% NA 6%
4/4/2020 NA 15 22 271 94% NA 8%
4/11/2020 22 17 34 305 107% 7% 11%
4/18/2020 11 13 19 282 101% 4% 7%
4/25/2020 12 15 24 261 100% 5% 9%
5/2/2020 NA 13 15 246 94% NA 6%
5/9/2020 NA NA 13 298 115% NA 4%
5/16/2020 NA 10 14 227 83% NA 6%
5/23/2020 NA NA NA 102 38% NA NA

Wisconsin

Week ending COVID-19 Deaths Pneumonia Deaths Pneumonia, Influenza, or COVID-19 Deaths Total Deaths Total Deaths as a Percent of Expected Deaths COVID-19 Deaths As a Percentage of Total Deaths Pneumonia, Influenza and COVID-19 Deaths As a Percentage of Total Death
2/1/2020 0 64 67 1,175 105% 0% 6%
2/8/2020 0 53 58 1,050 94% 0% 6%
2/15/2020 0 75 87 1,123 104% 0% 8%
2/22/2020 0 57 71 1,158 112% 0% 6%
2/29/2020 0 54 70 1,135 109% 0% 6%
3/7/2020 0 62 78 1,114 105% 0% 7%
3/14/2020 0 56 88 1,103 105% 0% 8%
3/21/2020 NA 72 95 1,109 103% NA 9%
3/28/2020 18 73 103 1,143 111% 2% 9%
4/4/2020 75 89 161 1,214 115% 6% 13%
4/11/2020 76 75 143 1,167 112% 7% 12%
4/18/2020 72 52 114 1,136 113% 6% 10%
4/25/2020 47 55 99 1,016 102% 5% 10%
5/2/2020 65 55 114 1,130 112% 6% 10%
5/9/2020 54 50 89 1,028 100% 5% 9%
5/16/2020 36 44 73 838 86% 4% 9%
5/23/2020 NA 12 16 456 46% NA 4%

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— Read The New COVID-19 Death Snapshoton ThinkAdvisor.

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