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COVID-19 Looks Like It's About to Spike: Hospital Researchers

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If a wave of COVID-19 cases were a hurricane, maybe this would be a good time to stock up on water, and to put the lawn furniture inside.

Public health researchers at the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia say a spike is already occurring in the Upper Midwest and in the Mountain States, and that it looks as if cold weather is helping the spike roll toward New York and other parts of the Northeast.


  • A collection of CHOP PolicyLab COVID-19 resources is available here.
  • An article about how the 1918 flu pandemic affected U.S. gross domestic product is available here.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is a major teaching hospital.

The PolicyLab researchers say that one way to gauge the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak is to look at the percentage of people tested for the virus that causes the disease who actually have the virus.

Positivity rates have been increasing rapidly, the researchers say.

The increase could be due partly to cooler temperatures, and partly due to “community fatigue with mitigation strategies such as masking and distancing.”

Forecasts for New England are stable, but forecasts for Seattle and the entire Midwest look worse, and new outbreaks in places like central Pennsylvania and Ocean City, New Jersey, appear to be likely to lead to widespread community transmission, the researchers say.

Some have suggested that U.S. positivity rates could rise, due to students returning to in-person learning at K-12 schools and colleges, but that, given that younger people tend to ward off COVID-19 better, the increase in infection rates might not have much effect on hospitalization rates or death rates.

But hospitalization rates are now rising in the Upper Midwest and the Mountain States, researchers say.

The researchers base their forecasts on county-level COVID-19 positivity rate data, other county-level COVID-19 tracking data, and a model that includes many other variables, such as a county’s population, demographics and uninsurance levels.

Dr. David Rubin, PolicyLab at CHOP’s director, said, in a comment included in the announcement of the COVID-19 fall wave forecasts, that the new COVID-19 wave forecasts are the most concerning the PolicyLab has put out since Memorial Day.

“Our projections are just that — projections — and we should not accept them as fate,” Rubin said. “There is still time for communities experiencing heightened transmission risk to turn their trajectories around with strong mitigation policies, and for those areas not yet seeing resurgence, to commit to proven prevention practices, such as masking and distancing.”

— Read 50 States of New Summer COVID-19 Wave Death Data, Plus D.C.on ThinkAdvisor.

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