The U.S. COVID-19 picture looks similar this week to how it looked last week, with a big, bold, italicized footnote: What, if anything, will the start of the school year do to the numbers.
Many schools at all levels are adopting all-online strategies, at least for the first few weeks, but some are trying to bring some or all students back on campus, at least for one day per week.
Two private, for-profit organizations with copyrighted data appear to have the best crystal balls for answering those questions.
- The Dynata COVID-19 symptom maps and charts are available here.
- The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic is available here.
- The CDC’s weekly COVID-19 report is available here.
- The HHS hospital capacity data is available here.
- An overview article about the COVID-19 data for the previous week is available here.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have maps and charts showing that the current daily numbers of deaths are only about half as they were at the peak, in April, but that pandemic still much more deadly than any flu outbreak that has hit the United States in many years.
One epidemic severity indicator is the percentage of all U.S. deaths caused by COVID-19 and illnesses that look like COVID-19, such as flu and pneumonia.
The latest number for COVID-19-like deaths as a percentage of all deaths— which is based on incomplete figures for the period ending Aug. 22 — is 7.9%. That’s up from 7.8% a week ago.
One concern is that in-person classes at colleges and K-12 schools could lead to new or bigger outbreaks, and, possibly, infect older people, who are more likely to suffer severe consequences as a result of suffering from COVID-19.
For life insurers and disability insurers, the biggest threat could come from a sharp increase in the infection rate for working-age people, who are more likely to have life insurance and disability insurance than people who are under 18, or are already retired from the workforce.
The Regions: The COVID Tracking Project
The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic has regional case count charts that summarize what’s happening to new case counts at the regional level.
The regional charts confirm that the United States is a big, varied country, and that the pandemic looks a lot different in each region.
The number of new pandemic cases reported each day spiked early and fell early in the Northeast, and continues to simmer at low levels there.
The number of new daily cases climbed slowly up a low hill in the West and is gradually come back down the hill.
In the Midwest, the number of new daily cases has been simmering at low levels since early June and keeps creeping higher
The number of new daily cases spiked in the South in July. The new number of new daily cases then began to fall sharply, as people in the South began to take social distancing seriously. But the number fell to a level that’s still very high. The South is reporting more than 15,000 new cases per day,. It’s now accounting for about half of all new U.S. daily cases.
The College Students: Dynata
Dynata, a data and data analysis firm, collects huge volumes of data on COVID-19- like symptoms by giving website visitors short surveys.
Dynata offers a free, public web tool that can slice and dice the survey data in many different ways.
The percentage of Dynata survey participants ages 18 to 24 who said they had a dry cough with loss of the sense of smell or taste was 3.2% for the two-week period ending Aug. 30, That’s up from 2.9% two weeks earlier, before most college students with in-person classes started heading to campus.
But the number of states where 3.5% or more of the college-age Dynata survey takers said they had COVID-19-like symptoms was six both for the two-week period ending Aug. 30 and the two-week period ending Aug. 14.
The concerning-looking states were Kentucky, Illinois Maryland, Tennessee, Utah and Washington state for the two-week period ending Aug. 30, and Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico and Oklahoma for the two-week period ending Aug. 16.
The maps suggest that new cases may peak in certain areas, then come down as some students develop immunity, and other students see the consequences of getting COVID-19 and begin to take social distancing more seriously.
One potential challenge for the insurers and life insurers wanting to use the Dynata data is that, unlike HHS and CDC data, Dynata’s tables are copyrighted.
— Read COVID-19 Might Have Caused $2 Billion in U.S. Life Claims So Far, on ThinkAdvisor.