There are actually good things in the COVID-19 data

(© Fabian –

You can get yourself shouted down by various social media mobs for trying to report positive trends on COVID-19. So be it. Because there are good things in the numbers.

First, to the national numbers, which are starting to come back into line, after the July spike in the Sunbelt.

From our analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project, the three-day average of new reported cases is 40,453, down more than 70 percent from the mid-July peaks in the 70,000 new reported cases per day range.

More significant in the national numbers is the continued descent of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Per the COVID Tracking Project, the number yesterday was 43,747, down 26.7 percent from the July 23 peak of 59,718.

This is objectively good.

Also objectively good: what we continue to see in the Virginia-specific numbers.

This is where I need to say that the Virginia Department of Health has done a great job since the outset of the public health response to COVID-19 in mid-March in terms of data transparency.

Which is good, because it means you can better glean trends in terms of what is happening real-time.

The real-time trend in the here and now is very positive. The seven-day average of new reported cases as of today’s VDH update is 928, down 22.5 percent from the recent peak of 1,198 back on Aug. 8.

The three-day average – for the period Monday-Wednesday this week – is even better: 777.3.

The improvement has largely come in the Hampton Roads area, which last month was the focus of actions from Gov. Ralph Northam aimed at putting limits on restaurants and social gatherings.

The recent peak in the seven-day average of new reported cases per day in Hampton Roads was back on July 25: 483.3.

The seven-day average as of today: 264.3.

That’s a 45.3 percent drop.

And the recent three-day average is better: 199.7.

Hampton Roads is back in line with Northern Virginia, which had its own bout with temporary local restrictions back in May, before Northam allowed a slow reopen at the height of the new case load in late May, ahead of the steady decline in cases that has the seven-day moving average there at 235.3 as of this morning.

Again, this is objectively good.

One last bit of objectively good numbers from the VDH: what I call the survival rate.

If you try to read up on the data, you often get terms like case fatality rate and infection fatality rate – CFR is a simple deaths divided by number of cases; IFR is deaths divided by presumed number of those infected, including cases and some multiple assumed to have contracted COVID-19 without having been confirmed through testing.

What I call survival rate takes the IFR and flips it around, because the IFR, which the CDC estimates for all ages at .65 percent, can be hard to relate to, in the sense of, what does it mean, .65 percent of those who contract COVID-19 dying?

Well, one, for starters, that is, again, an all-age IFR, and looking specifically at the Virginia numbers, 74.5 percent of the deaths associated with COVID-19 have come among those ages 70+.

This you could call the vulnerable population – and they’re vulnerable not just to COVID-19, but to any number of viruses in circulation.

The IFR for those 60 and under in Virginia might shock you: .04 percent.

There have been 244 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia among those 60 and under, as of today’s VDH reporting.

There have been 88,516 cases reported as of today by VDH.

This works out to a CFR of .28 percent for that age subset.

The UVA Biocomplexity Institute has been assuming seven unconfirmed cases for every confirmed case, so you divide that CFR by seven to get IFR.

Ergo, our IFR at .04 percent.

Or, my survival rate, for those 60 and under who contract COVID-19, of 99.96 percent.

The clickbait has you thinking COVID-19 is an all-age death sentence.

It’s not. It’s not even necessarily something that will guaranteed send you to the hospital.

Again, from the VDH numbers, what we could call the case hospitalization rate – hospitalizations in the numerator, total cases in the denominator – is at 4.8 percent for those ages 60 and under, and even for the 70+ group, it’s 28.6 percent, less than a third of cases.

An infection hospitalization rate for those groups would come to roughly .7 percent for the 60 and unders and 4.1 percent for 70+.

This isn’t even just good news; it’s great news.

Back when we knew nothing about COVID-19 in mid-March, we feared for the worst, that our hospitals would be overrun, that people would die in hospital hallways.

Fortunately, that never happened, and as life has slowly returned to normal, our hospitals have maintained more than adequate capacity – as of today’s VDH update, 21.2 percent of the beds in Virginia hospitals were unused, a number that has stayed relatively stable dating back to the beginning of the public health response.

Good things!

Saying good things out loud in this environment gets you pilloried. I guess I’m ready.

Story by Chris Graham

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