The latest COVID-19 testing, hospitalization and death figures suggest that the summer wave of COVID-19 has ended, and that communities with successful contagion-control efforts may still have a chance to prevent a fall wave.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its parent, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), continue to face allegations that political interference has skewed government COVID-19 tracking data.
CDC death count numbers now seem to be taking about six weeks to become complete. The national death count numbers from six weeks ago, for the week ending Aug. 15, show that the total number of deaths for that week as 16% higher than expected.
The United States has been averaging about 2.7 million deaths per year. If mortality stayed 16% higher than expected for an entire 12-month period, that would imply that the United States could end up with about 450,000 extra deaths due to COVID-19, COVID-19-related conditions, and the effects of COVID-19 on care for other health care conditions.
- 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 CDC uses the percentage of all reported deaths resulting from COVID-19, influenza, pneumonia, and other COVID-19-like illnesses as an early indicator of pandemic severity. The percentage for the week ending Sept. 12 — which is subject to big revisions as more state death numbers come in — was 8.3%, which is well above the epidemic threshold number of 6.3% for the week.
One question has been whether the start of the school year will lead to a big surge in COVID-19 cases, as students return to K-12 schools, colleges and universities.
Some U.S. life insurers said when they reported second-quarter earnings that the number of COVID-19 deaths had been greater than or equal to what they had projected, but that the impact on claims had been much lower, because a high percentage of the deaths had affected older people living in nursing homes, who were relatively less likely than other U.S. adults to have large amounts of life insurance still in force.
In theory, a large COVID-19 outbreak in schools could change that math, by leading to students bringing the virus that causes COVID-19 home to their parents. Even if the COVID-19 death rate for patients under 65 is relatively low, an outbreak wave that led to a very large number of infections among adults ages 18 to 65 could cause a large number of deaths among people with life insurance.
Most colleges and universities that post daily COVID-19 test results on online dashboards appear to be getting COVID-19 under control, according to a sampling of dashboards reviewed by ThinkAdvisor.
But one of those universities had enough cases to cancel in-person classes for two weeks.
Only a small percentage of schools post daily test data, and it’s possible that the campuses with weaker test data reporting programs also have weaker COVID-19 control efforts.
The Dynata Data
Dynata, a data collection and analysis firm, collects huge volumes of information about COVID-19- like symptoms by giving website visitors short surveys.
Dynata posts a free, public — but copyrighted — web tool that can filter the symptoms data.
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 3.1% for the two-week period ending Sept. 18, That’s down from 3.2% for the two-week period ending Aug. 30, as many college students with in-person classes started heading to campus.
The number of states where 3.5% or more of the college-age Dynata survey takers said they had COVID-19-like symptoms fell to five, from six for the two-week period ending Aug. 30.
College-age survey taker symptom rates were highest in Arkansas and South Dakota.
The positivity rate for college-age survey takers increased to 8.4% for the two-week period ending Sept. 18 for Arkansas, from 2.1% for the two-week period ending Sept. 11, and to 14.1%, from 5.3%, for South Dakota.
The ThinkAdvisor Campus COVID-19 Dashboard Tracker
Some colleges and universities have created their own COVID-19 test results reporting web pages, or dashboards.
We looked for ones that provided one-day test counts and positive results counts for Sept. 18, or, in some cases, Sept. 17, and put the test counts and positive results counts in a table.
Some campus report separate totals for general “surveillance testing” and for testing of people who went to campus clinics with COVID-19 symptoms. When both types of data were available, we added the test numbers and positive report numbers together, to create a single set of numbers for that campus.
We increased the number of dashboards in our table to 17 this week, from seven last week. The table for last week included one-day data for Sept. 11.
For the seven colleges and universities that were in the table both weeks, the total number of tests reported increased to 7,697, from 5,669. The number of samples found to show signs of COVID-19 fell to 191, from 307.
The percentage of test samples found to show signs of COVID-19 fell to 2.5% for the Sept. 18 test data, from 5.4% for the Sept. 11 test data.
The median positive percentage fell to 0.6%, from 7%.
The three schools that had positive percentages over 5% on Sept. 18 were Michigan Technological University, with a 5.2% positivity rate; the University of Colorado, with a 10.2% positivity rate; and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with a small number of tests but a 12.6% positivity rate.
The positivity rate at the University of Colorado was up from 8.7% a week earlier. The university responded to its test results by shutting in-person classes down for two weeks.
The University of Nebraska hasn’t reported plans to close. Although a high percentage of the people it’s testing have COVID-19, the actual number of positive test results is low, and its positivity percentage is down from 16.3% a week earlier.
But the Lincoln Journal-Star is reporting that Bryan Hospital, a hospital in Lincoln, has seen the number of patients with COVID-19 increase to 31 today, from 18 Friday, and that the number of patients in the intensive care unit has also increased sharply.
One weakness in our tracking table is that, generally, only the largest universities post testing dashboards, and many fail to provide daily data.
Another weakness is that news reports suggest that campus COVID-19 cases may be surging in the Upper Midwest. The number of universities in the Upper Midwest that post daily testing data on public dashboards appears to be low.
U.S. University COVID-19 Case Tracker (Results for Sept. 18)
|Arizona, University of||Tucson, Arizona||1,299||79||6.1%|
|California at Berkeley, University of||Berkeley, California||926||2||0.2%|
|Colorado, University of||Boulder, Colorado||1,392||142||10.2%|
|George Washington University||District of Columbia||458||0||0.0%|
|Illinois, University of||Urbana-Champaign||10,564||27||0.3%|
|Lasell University||Newton, Massachusetts||441||0||0.0%|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Cambridge, Massachusetts||3,088||2||0.1%|
|Miami, University of||Coral Gables, Florida||683||5||0.7%|
|Michigan Technological University||Houghton, Michigan||96||5||5.2%|
|Nebraska-Lincoln, University of||Lincoln, Nebraska||111||14||12.6%|
|Ohio State University||Columbus, Ohio||2,953||66||2.2%|
|Rhode Island School of Design||Providence, Rhode Island||31||0||0.0%|
|State University of New York system||Various||2,233||14||0.6%|
|Tulane University||New Orleans||1,738||20||1.2%|
|Wisconsin, University of||Madison, Wisconsin||1,545||75||4.9%|
|Yale University||New Haven, Connecticut||1,907||0||0.0%|
— Read Club Vita Forms COVID-19 Lifespan Impact Research Panel, on ThinkAdvisor.