Source:James G. Robertson
Covid19 has already passed through all 50 states as a single major contagious wave in each state. There were 33 early states where the epidemic was over by June, and 14 late states where the epidemic now is ending.
Every week in America about 51,000 people die from all causes. This number rises and falls during the winter due to flu-like illnesses and goes back to baseline in the summer. No one panics about it, and most people don’t even realize that it happens. This year was worse than normal, but we’ve almost returned to baseline.
But this year — everyone panicked! William Briggs has documented this in his Coronavirus Update series, and this article adds to his analysis by examining state level data.
As Briggs has argued, the most important data is the data for deaths from all causes. Covid19 attributed deaths are subject to interpretation as either died from or died with Covid19, and death certificates can be misleading because of the attribution of cause (here and here.) The bubble burst his week when the CDC reported that only 6% of the total Covid19 attributed deaths were from the virus alone.
In contrast to the Covid19 attributed deaths, the number for deaths from all causes is a hard number. The deaths from all causes number exposes the current mass panic as an historical aberration and confirms the evidence that the mass panic has been engineered by politicians and a biased medical establishment.
The 11 year weekly deaths from all causes graph (here and below,) shows that the 2020 flu season was about normal until it spiked for eight weeks in April and May due to Covid19 (CDC data here and here). The April high of 78,000 was significantly higher than the previous multi-year high of 67,000 in 2018, but just as in previous years, the temporary spike rapidly declined toward baseline.
The 11 year baseline increased from about 45,000 in 2009 to about 51,000 in 2019, generally as a result of increasing population. After this year’s April spike to 78,000, the current weekly all causes deaths number is down to 55,000, about 4,000 higher than the projected baseline. We are at week 32 of the year, and flu season is about to kick in. What does this mean regarding the Covid19 epidemic?
The national number for Covid19 attributed deaths has two peaks of weekly deaths, as illustrated in the graph for Weekly Covid19 Attributed Deaths below (CDC data here.) Since it takes about three weeks for incoming data at the CDC to stabilize at a final value, the last three weeks of data in panel A of the graph will increase. This has stoked fears that the epidemic is still raging across the country, and that a second wave of contagion is beginning.
That’s not what’s happening.
The Covid19 attributed deaths can be divided into two groups: early epidemic states, and late epidemic states. There were 33 early epidemic states where the majority of deaths occurred before June 1, and where the epidemic peaked in April and May. There were 14 late states where the majority of deaths occurred after June 1, and where the peaks were in July and August.
Among the 33 early states, seven states in the northeastern region of the country contributed 71% of the early states deaths: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Michigan.
The majority of the 14 late states were southern coastal states: South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas. California was the other coastal state where the main epidemic peak occurred after June 1. Nevada and Arizona are contiguous with California and also peaked after June and were included in the coastal group. The three non-coastal states in the 14 late states group only contributed 1.3% of the deaths.
Geographically, the coastal late states group makes up the southern rim of the country: California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, and South Carolina. The obvious suggestion from these data is that the virus spread out as a single shock wave through the northeastern states first, where the largest death toll was mostly in areas of high population density.
There was a dramatic decline in deaths as the viral shock wave pushed through the less populous interior states. Then, as the viral shock wave began penetrating the more southerly, warmer, coastal states about two months later, the deaths began to increase again as the virus hit more densely populated areas.
Briggs also has argued in his Coronavirus Updates that massive public testing has contributed to panic about the virus. Nationally, we are performing about 5 million tests per week.
However, the following two graphs break down the testing data at the state level, and show that the early states epidemic is over, and that the late states epidemic has peaked and is declining. The state level testing data are from the Covid Tracking Project and can be found here.
Testing in the 33 early states is currently at three million tests per week. In July, the absolute number of positives more than doubled from 64,000 per week to 148,000 per week, but the rise in absolute numbers of positive tests had little to no effect on the deaths per week. This indicates that much healthier people were being tested, and that many of the truly vulnerable had already died in April and May.
The percent positive tests and total positives have been declining for the last 3 weeks, and the total deaths are likely to follow this trend. All of this indicates that the Covid19 epidemic in the 33 early states is over.
In the 14 Late States Testing and Deaths figure, total tests per week peaked at 2.5 million, and then began to decline. In contrast to the numbers for the 33 early states, the percent positive and positive tests per week in the late states began to spike at the beginning of June. Percent positives went from 4% to 13%, and absolute positives went from a low of 40,000 per week to 330,000 per week.
After a four week lag relative to the increase in positives, the Covid19 attributed deaths also began to rise in July, which is what you might expect if the positives are in a truly vulnerable population. However, the percent positives, absolute weekly positives, and weekly deaths peaked in July, and now are declining. This is a strong indication that the epidemic is ending in the 14 late states.
To summarize, the Covid19 epidemic was like the shock wave from a bomb that went off in New York. The shock wave spread throughout the country and finally hit the coastal regions where it is now dissipating. The coastal regions were the last densely populated areas to be hit by the viral shock wave, so that’s where the weekly deaths number increased last, and that’s where the epidemic is ending.
If the late states death rate drops to below 1,000 per week in September, the yearly deaths from all causes will be about back to the 11 year projected baseline. It will have been a bad year, but not as bad as the 1968 Hong Kong Flu or the 1957 Asian Flu. No one panicked then, and no one should be panicking now.
Nevertheless, the hysteria and panic over Covid19 has not abated. And you can expect it to get worse. We are at the beginning of flu season. Deaths from all causes will begin to increase, and you can expect all deaths to be conflated with Covid19. Former CDC director Tom Frieden was leading the way when he recently was quoted as saying,
The second wave is a misconception: It’s the omnipresent risk of explosive spread … That’s what we’re facing.
This is ignorant fear mongering of the most vicious kind. As the data show, the virus is not omnipresent and ready to explode everywhere. The virus faces natural barriers, just like all infectious pathogens, and dies out as it crashes into each successive barrier. The virus has hit its final barrier, the oceans, and is dying out there.
For the whole cycle to start over again, the virus will have to find a new susceptible population of elderly, and then attempt to repeat its first exponential expansion. But this time, we know who the most vulnerable are, there will be immunity in the larger population, and we know how to stop the spread. Quarantine the sick. If we act rationally, there is no reason to expect a repeat of this past April.
Nature controls the virus, not the politicians. The ignorant will always be with us, just like the virus. But the virus is not that hard to figure out. Don’t panic. Keep the big picture in mind. Quarantine the sick. Protect the elderly. Let the rest of us free breathing Americans live our lives.
James G. Robertson is a biochemist who resides in Charlottesville, VA.